Torn in Two

Tonight is our local writing group’s monthly night to meet. I decided halfway through my work day that I wasn’t sure I would make it. I was sick Monday night and yesterday. Today, I went back to work, but I still wasn’t feeling quite up to par. At the end of the day, I knew I didn’t have it in me to attend. I’ve not eaten much and I haven’t slept well the last two nights. My spirit wanted to go, but my body just didn’t allow it.

I can’t help wondering what they’re doing tonight. Are they reading the latest chapters on their works in progress? Maybe brainstorming ideas for turning the journal pages of one member’s mother into a fictional story? Or they could be participating in one of the great writing exercises Brenda, our host, comes up with to challenge us and get our creative juices flowing. I love those writing exercises.

It’s amazing to me how we can all take the same assignment and turn out completely different results. It gives a lot of insight into our writing styles and personalities. I have to admit a couple of us may tend to take a darker turn with our assignments. They tend toward the serious or mysterious. One writer is almost always rainbows and sunshine. I love sharing what we’ve come up with. It’s encouraging that we can all go different directions and all still be writing well.

Because of this camaraderie and sharpening of each other’s abilities, I find myself sitting here wishing I could be there. At the same time, my eyes are drooping and I can’t keep from yawning. I have no energy. The last remnants of being sick. I know I could not have made it through the evening. But I miss it nonetheless.

We all face those times at points in our lives. We’ve been sick or crazy busy or stressed by whatever happens to stress us out at that particular point in our lives. Whatever is going on, we just can’t do one more thing. The desire is there, but our bodies betray us.

It reminds me of a spiritual problem we too often face. Paul wrote in Romans 7, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” We find out why he battled if we look back to the words of Jesus in Matthew 26. “Watch and pray, let you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Jesus was speaking to the disciples about their inability to stay awake and pray with him in his time of need, but it was a lesson much greater than that. Jesus was reminding them, reminding us, of the battle that rages between the natural, sinful man and the new creation that takes place when we accept His work on the cross for the redemption of our sins.

Scripture tells us as believers we are no longer slaves to our sinful nature. We have the power to resist because of the Holy Spirit living inside us. But Jesus’ message and Paul’s reiteration of the same message is a warning that it is not easy. We may be made new in Christ, but the world we live and operate in is still mired in the old sinful ways. We are hounded by them. We are tempted by them. And though no believer would start off the day thinking, “I think I’ll spit in the face of my Savior today by choosing sin over His sacrifice”, we find ourselves doing exactly that.

Our spirits want to do what is right, but in our humanness we find we are entirely weak. But even weak we are not without hope. Jesus reminds us to be watchful and prayerful to avoid the trap of temptation. Scripture tells us a way out is always provided if we will only take it. The armor of God is ours to pick up and use faithfully. And the more we exercise it, the better we get at using it for our spiritual protection. But more than these things, we have forgiveness for the times we fail. God is faithful to forgive the repentant heart. He wipes the spiritual slate clean and allows us to start again.

This isn’t a license to sin without thought. By definition a repentant heart desires to turn away from sin. But there is a battle between what our spirit wants to do and what our sinful nature tempts us to do. It’s a battle that even the “greats” of faith like Paul faced. Knowing these things can help us learn to accept the forgiveness God offers with grace when what we want to do and what we end up doing are two very different things.

Write Stuff Wednesday with Micki Clark

Welcome Micki Clark to Write Stuff Wednesday. I had the opportunity to read Micki’s book, Don’t Ask Me to Leave. I’ve reviewed it, and you can find that review in my archives. I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and I even bought it for my mother-in-law for her birthday. (Who later told me she really enjoyed it too.) Here’s what Micki Clark has to say about a quote that’s inspired her in her writing journey:

MRP-Micki-Clark-Dont-Ask-Me-to-Leave-360x570 Ernest Hemingway once said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

            I think for many writers that’s absolutely true. I can still remember when I first wanted to be a writer. It was more of wanting to be a journalist, you see, than a creative writer. I would make up these fantastical newspapers and sell them to people at my church. One of my best “clients” was a blind man and his wife who paid me a quarter for all the best news.

            In elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher. I would get old teacher’s edition textbooks from the school where my mother worked and give my poor little brother lessons in our playroom (however, you can all thank me now that he’s such a brilliant computer scientist, ha ha).

            I’m not sure when it was exactly that I first decided I wanted to be an author. I think it was more of a vague dream than a concrete belief, mostly because I realized that it was a lot more difficult than most people said it was. First there was the fact that you had to have an idea (ugh) and then be able to say three hundred pages’ worth of things about it. And then, horror of horrors, you had to find someone ELSE willing to read those three hundred pages and say they liked it!

            As I write this, it’s been two years to the day since the cover of my debut novel, Don’t Ask Me to Leave was written. I’m still at times in shock that it happened, but I’d love to share with you the story of how (and why) that book came to be.

            Several years ago, in 2012, a friend of mine and I challenged each other to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. I had this nugget of an idea to write a story based on Ruth and Naomi, since my husband and I had used their words as our wedding vows in 2002. I faithfully sat down at the keyboard and banged out a manuscript.

            When I finished, I felt a sense of release–I mean, it was done, after all–but not a sense of accomplishment.

            And that’s where I realized that I had misunderstood Hemingway.

            In 2012, I had “bled” out my manuscript in the sense that I spent hours working on it. But I hadn’t really poured out my soul. When I went back five years later and revised the manuscript, I realized that was the thing that was missing–soul.

            I’ll also admit that soul is why I haven’t thrown myself into a second writing project. I’m too busy in my professional and personal life to give something that passion again at the moment. However, I can’t wait until that day, one day soon hopefully, when I’m able to sit down at the keyboard and bleed.

Micki Clark is the author of Don’t Ask Me to Leave (2017), published by Mantle Rock Publishing. She lives in western Kentucky with her husband and three children, and she teaches high school English.

Don’t Ask Me to Leave is available from Amazon and other major booksellers. (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X6J7QLZ)

Roads and Choices

path“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who attended high school in the United States that has never read “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Students across the nation and through the years have written essays on the poem and its meaning. Experts have written the same, likely with more finesse and insight. But whatever Frost’s deeper meaning, the actual incident of choosing a path found me and my husband on our way to a local Mexican restaurant to meet friends. It went something like this:

Our car zipped through the intersection heading north.

“What are you doing?” It was time for passenger seat driving.

“I’m going to the restaurant.”

“But you didn’t turn. You’re supposed to turn right at the light. Turn onto Wall, then Grand, then you’re at the restaurant.”

“Or I could go straight up to Grand and turn right. Go down the road a little bit, and I get there just the same.”

“Yes, but that’s not the way we get there.”

“Maybe it’s not the way you get there. But it’s how I get there.”

“But it isn’t right. You went the wrong way.”

You’re right. It’s not as poetic as Frost’s choice of roads, but we, of course, made it to the restaurant. I don’t think it was any quicker to go my husband’s way, but I don’t think it took longer either. There were pluses to his way. There were merits to my way. Contrary to what I indicated in our discussion, there was no right way to get there. There wasn’t even a best way. There were just multiple paths to reach our destination.

And isn’t that what Frost’s poem is really all about? Isn’t that what writing is about?

In March my first book, Faith’s Journey, was published. It was something I’d worked years to accomplish. I published with a traditional publisher, Mantle Rock Publishing. I wrote my manuscript in the evenings after working a full-time job and getting dinner for my family. I wrote on the weekends when I didn’t have to work my day job. I sent out query letters to multiple publishers. I didn’t use an agent, though I queried some of them as well.

In November, my friend Brenda Gates published her first book, Anna’s Song. She wrote it while caring for her elderly father and taking care of her family. She considered traditional publishing, but chose instead to self-publish. She went through all the necessary, professional steps to assure the highest quality book, and the result is a wonderful book I loved from page one.

Other authors work only on their writing. Some work only through agents. A few began writing and ended up with publishing companies. Some authors self-publish while others go the traditional route. Our paths are different, but the destination is the same. As with anything, what the end results look like will vary greatly depending on what went into the journey. But however different our basic paths to reach it, the basic destination is the same.

We all belong to that unique group of people known as authors. We’re all moving at different speeds. We all have personal messages and styles. But we can still come together and support each other because we have one thing in common. We are authors. It’s great to have a group of like-minded people to belong to.

And it’s wonderful to know that our writing isn’t the only place to find it. As believers, we are all part of the body of Christ. We have been given different talents and gifts. God put s a passion for different ministries into our hearts. We all have the gifts of scripture and prayer to help us grow in our faith. But we don’t all grow in the same way or at the same speed.

I have heard God speak clearly to me through Christian musicians. Others seem to draw more from listening to the messages of great theologians. Hearing God’s voice comes easier for some when they’re sitting silently in nature. Whatever way God speaks to you, it’s okay. As long as the message is supported by scripture, it’s still God’s message for you.

I have a heart to see women grow in the faith they already have. My mom’s passion is for spreading the gospel to the lost. I know some who have a heart for the little ones in our lives and others who serve the teenagers. It’s okay. There’s a need for each of these things, and God uses our different personalities and interests to fill those needs.

There are multiple roads in our wood of faith. There is one out there that is uniquely yours. You aren’t meant to walk down mine. God didn’t design me to go down yours. Our individual paths may look different, but we are still called to come together in support and encouragement of each other. We have something greater than our differences holding us together as one. We are Christians, and our faith brings us together.

By the Book: If you have one, what does your writing path look like? What about your path of faith?

Courage to Be

I may have used this quote in the past. If so, I apologize. It seemed fitting for this second day of 2019. It’s something I definitely want to get better at this year. I hope you will too.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  e.e. cummings

For a long time I had trouble accepting the title of author or even writer. Mother was no problem. Wife was easy. I never stumbled over the title of daughter, sister, or even receptionist. Though I have to admit I never really aspired to earn that last one. Life simply took me there. But writer was another story.

Writer was, and still is, the dream. But dreams are full of unknowns. Dreams hold the possibility of failure. What happens if you reach for the dream, accept the title, and then fail? You’ve become associated with the name only to lose it again. For an introvert who doesn’t like attention, especially negative attention, this would be a humiliation hard to live down.

I didn’t run from the action of putting words on paper. Reading and writing have been part of who I am from the beginning. I think it must be in my DNA like my height or my green eyes. I cannot imagine not writing. But the act of writing is very different from accepting the title writer or author.

Like any dream that tries to define us in life, it brings with it the fear of failure. It is this fear that causes us to hem and haw when confronted with the innocent question, “What do you do?” It’s much easier to spout the easy answers, wife, mother, and even receptionist. The first two cannot be denied. The fact that I am married and have given birth means I belong to those clubs. The last one is easy to admit because it’s what I spend most of my time doing and it’s secure. But the thing I want most? That thing that is so deeply a part of me? To try and to fail at that would be like losing part of who I am.

This is why it takes courage to accept the title. This is why it takes courage to answer the questions with, “I am an author.” To live beyond the fear and not only accept that part of myself (accepting is easy) but to make it known to the rest of the world, this is what it means to grow up and be who I am.

You may not be an author. That’s the dream God gave me. That’s the passion He planted inside my heart. It doesn’t matter. What passion did He give you? What do you feel He is calling you to do? What do you feel if you couldn’t do it part of yourself would be missing?

Are you going after it? Are you praying about how and when God would like to use it in your life and the lives of others? I hope you are. But I also hope this coming year you find the courage to live out loud what you know God has called you to. I hope you find freedom from fears that hold you back and find yourself able to answer the question, “What do you do?” with whatever dream  God has blessed you with.

Crooked Calendars in 2019

calendarChristmas gifts added several things to my writing space this year. I got a new lap desk to use with my lap top, almost a necessity since I refuse to write at an actual desk. Although it arrived a few days after Christmas, I received the latest edition of The Christian Writers Market Guide. And even though it couldn’t be wrapped up in a shiny box under the tree, I was also given membership in ACFW. Now, if I can just find time to use the site to its fullest potential, it will help me in my writing journey.

I asked for all of these things because I believe they will be beneficial to me as an author. But there is one gift, or maybe four depending on how you look at it, that has already started helping me in more ways than I originally hoped it would. I spent part of the day after Christmas hanging four dry-erase wall calendars on my office wall behind my writing chair. Four? Yes, four. If I wanted to track that many months at a time, why didn’t I simply get a planner? I’m horrible with using planners. I start off with great intentions, but I fail before I’m out of January. Dry erase boards are different.

These four calendars help me track a quarter of the year at a time. And I put them up for a specific purpose. One of my goals for 2019 is to improve in my marketing ability. With a full-time non-writing job, it’s hard to keep on top of things. With purple representing people scheduled to be guests on my blog and orange showing times I’m scheduled to appear on other people’s blogs, a quick look at my calendars can give me all the information I need to determine where I need to step up my game and where I’m doing alright.

I also don’t have to find my calendar every time I want to record something. I grab a marker out of the marker basket hanging on the wall and fill in as much or as little detail as I want. A planner is always a bit inconvenient. You have to carry it with you at all times or go find it every time you need it. I don’t have time for that. Besides, I’m notorious for losing things. I can’t count the number of times in a week I have to grab my spare keys because my main set is not where I thought I left it.

I asked for these four calendar boards for these reasons, but they’ve also proved useful in an unexpected way. If you actually look at the boards hanging on the wall, you can see the boards on the right are about ¼ of an inch away from being level. I purposely hung the bottom right one that way so it matched the top right one. I figured it would bother me less that way! But originally, all four boards were meant to be straight and level. I measured each one with a tape measure and pencil. I even measured multiple times before drilling the holes I needed in the wall. My first attempt left me feeling pretty good about my abilities. I placed the calendar on the hooks, and it lined up perfectly. The second one deflated my ego a bit as I realized I’d miscalculated somewhere. Maybe I stepped on the end of the tape measure with more pressure and forced it further into the carpet? I don’t know. But it’s a little off.

Why didn’t I use a laser level to project a beautifully, perfectly straight line on my wall to mark my drilling spots? It makes sense. It would have been nice. My calendars would all be straight. There was just one problem. I don’t own a level. The tool I needed to do my job efficiently and completely successfully was missing from my tool box. The result is a functional wall of calendars that would drive some people crazy due to ¼ of an inch.

When I look at my calendar, I’m reminded how important the proper tools can be. In writing this doesn’t mean I can’t write without the physical tools like my wall calendars or my lap desk. These are frills that make things easier, but they aren’t the tools that will improve me as an author. Taking time to learn from and network with other authors who are farther into their writing journey can help tremendously. Reading books on the craft of writing and the marketing side of writing will help equip me to be more proficient and efficient in what I do. Taking part in local writing groups, interacting on ACFW boards, and attending conferences are all tools authors have available to do their job and do it well.

As we come into a new year, I want to become better about using the tools I have as a writer. But more important than that, I want to apply the lesson to my faith walk. I’ve been given all the tools I need to live a life of faith that will add up to hearing “well done good and faithful servant” when my time on earth is done. There are churches on every corner, apps let us take the Bible with us everywhere, devotions and Christian living books are easily found on every topic, Christian radio can fill our cars and homes with praise, and guided journals provide easy ways to track our ups and downs. But all of these are just the extras. They aren’t the tools we have to have. They are the tools we use to make the journey a more pleasant experience. They help us, but just like my tape measure and pencil were not the perfect tools for hanging my calendars, these tools alone are not the perfect tools for growing my faith. When Jesus went back to heaven, He promised help in the form of the Holy Spirit to live in the heart of each believer. The Holy Spirit teaches and corrects us. I need to commit to listening to His quiet voice with more consistency. God gave us prayer as the way to communicate directly with Him.  It’s a powerful tool that too often gets relegated to the equivalent of rubbing a genie’s lamp and making a wish. I need to be vigilant to fashion my prayers and my reasons for them after the examples given in scripture. And that’s the final tool I need in my toolbox of faith, God’s word. Without scripture we can’t get the full picture of who God is. Scripture is able to cut to the heart of the matter and show us where our motivations fall short of our loving God. It is God’s word to us about how to live like Jesus lived. It gives us encouragement, strength, comfort, and correction. It doesn’t stop at leading us to salvation. It provides the instruction we need to live a life of faith and walk in close communion with God.

Have I been using these tools the way God intended when He gifted them to me? Do I study His word, listen to the Holy Spirit, and pray with the motives of His will being done? I have all the right tools. I need to use them. What about you?

By the Book: Read the following scriptures referenced in this devotion. Matthew 25:14-23, Luke 22:41-42, John 15:26, Acts 1:8, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16

Traditions and Recipes #5

There are hundreds of great Christmas traditions to choose from. Just the act of gift giving consists of more traditions than a single family could incorporate into their Christmas celebration. Some people let their children make huge lists and attempt to give them everything on it. Others choose the three gift method. One gift they need, one gift they want, and one gift to read or wear. Some open one gift on Christmas Eve, and some families open all their gifts that night. There is also the tradition of secret siblings enjoyed by many families.

Each of these traditions is wonderful. They bring their own special twist to the Christmas season. But the tradition that works for my family may not fit your family. That’s okay. We have to incorporate the things that work without allowing ourselves to feel guilty for leaving the ones that don’t to other families. Our celebrations don’t have to be just like everyone else’s.

It’s with this in mind that I chose today’s recipe. It’s a traditional gingerbread cookie recipe. I used to make it every year, but I found my family didn’t enjoy them. The ones I left for my own family would go stale before they could be eaten. It’s a great recipe, and they always turned out like they were supposed to. My family just didn’t like gingerbread. Maybe yours does.gingerbread

TBR . . . Later

IMG_4635Just when I think I have it under control, my TBR pile inexplicably grows. Well, I say inexplicably, but that’s not entirely true. I know why it grows. There’s a plethora of interesting looking books out there, and I lack self-control. But it’s more than that.

With the Thanksgiving holiday I found myself looking forward to four precious days off work. Four whole days to read, write, and get caught up on writing projects. I wanted to be honest with myself so I lowered it to three days. After all, Thanksgiving Day would put my focus on my family not my to-do list. I was blessed to spend the day listening to laughter and conversation with my entire family. It was more than a fair trade off with not being able to get work done.

Friday, I managed to complete a blog post and remind people on my social media feeds to check out the Literary Feast Facebook Fiction Party I’m participating in on Monday. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can do so at https://www.facebook.com/events/283923535583862/.) I also responded to some commenters on a guest blog post I did this week. And even though I refuse to Black Friday shop in town, I managed to finish over half my Christmas list through online shopping.  However, I struggled with a headache all day which left me unable to focus for actual writing or reading.  That’s day two.

Today, I admit I got distracted. I’ve never been a fan of cleaning, but I do want to decorate for Christmas in the coming weeks. I can’t do that if my house is a mess. So, I dusted and vacuumed and organized the front room in my house in preparation for our Christmas tree. I’m not putting it up today, but I did get my snowmen set out. And because we need to eat, I did my grocery shopping. I have to say I’m a fan of online shopping with same day pick-up. I shopped this morning and will go pick everything up this afternoon. Day three is half-way over, and I’ve not accomplished much.

Tomorrow I have church and an anniversary lunch for my in-laws. That will take a huge chunk out of the day. I know there won’t be a lot accomplished in the writing or reading departments. Then, it’s back to work on Monday. Four precious days off work, and I’m not going to have a lot to show for it.

Part of me is frustrated at myself for taking it so easy these last few days. I had a lot to accomplish. I’m working on book three and waiting for new edits from the publisher on book two. I’ve written a Christmas devotional and memory journal, and I’m planning a Christmas get-together as a trial run of how it will work as a women’s ministry tool. I needed to get things in order for that next weekend. I’m part of a group planning a women’s retreat as a ministry and fundraiser for our local church camp. I needed to get some work done on that as well. My posts for Monday’s Facebook party should already be written and scheduled. They aren’t. My list doesn’t even include reading the next book to review, but it should.

Then I think of the story of Mary and Martha. I know it related more specifically to giving ourselves so fully to preparing for Jesus that we miss our chance to really be with Him. But I think there’s an everyday message too.

I spent time with my husband, children, and grandson these last few days in addition to my parents and in-laws. We laughed a lot, and I watched my sons play with their nephew. His face lights up when his uncles are around. I spent a normal afternoon taking a walk at the mall with my mom and my grandmother. Her struggles with age and dementia left her needing a change of atmosphere yesterday, and I needed to get out of my house for a bit too. I decided to go with them, and knowing Granny’s days are diminishing, I’m glad for that memory of an ordinary afternoon with her.

I could have spent my time on my to-do list. I could have spent it on doing things. Those things need done, and they’re good things. Instead, I chose to spend it with the people I care about. And I think it’s like Jesus told Martha. Choosing the people is choosing “the good part”.  Everything on my to-do list and my TBR pile can be taken care of later.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Learing from Stanley Lieber

“The only advice anybody can give is, if you wanna be a writer, keep writing. And read all you can, read everything.” Stan Lee

Stanley Martin Lieber wanted to be a serious writer. So when he started writing comic books, he chose a new name, Stan Lee. Only the die-hard fans are likely to recognize Stanley Martin Lieber. But millions can tell you who Stan Lee was. With the influx of superhero movies Marvel has put out in recent years, I’d be willing to bet most people could even recognize Stan Lee even if they couldn’t tell you his name. He’d be “that old guy who shows up in every Marvel movie”, but they’d still recognize him.

Stan Lee created some of the most loved comic book characters of all time. You might scoff at considering comics in a discussion about writing. That attitude is part of the reason Stanley became Stan Lee. It’s also part of the reason Stan Lee wanted to make his comic book stories different. He wanted to give the characters and story lines depth. He wanted the heroes to have flaws and internal issues to overcome. He wanted the plots to appeal to more than just children.

Stan Lee accomplished that in his life. Some would even argue that comics have evolved to a point where they aren’t for children at all any more. I don’t think that’s true. As with any media, whether book, movie, television, music, or video game, comics have to be taken on a case by case basis. There are some that I don’t believe should be read by either children or adults due to the content. But that doesn’t mean comics as a whole are bad.

There are some very well-written comics with complex characters and stories. They rival the complexity of traditional books. I think Stan Lee did what he set out to do. He wrote and he kept writing. In the end, I think his work succeeded in elevating comics beyond what they’d previously been.  Stan Lee’s writing has influenced and inspired many, and I believe it will for years to come.

Stan Lee may have worried about the need to become a “serious” writer, but there are millions who are happy he wrote what he enjoyed writing about and in the way he chose to do it. And so my own lesson from Stan Lee doesn’t come from one of his comics but from his life. As a writer, I don’t need to worry about whether I’m a serious enough writer. I don’t need to worry about what the world will think of my stories. I need to write what I’m inspired to write. As a Christian I need to write what I feel God would have me write and in a way that brings Him honor.  There are people who may not think what I offer is worth a lot, but it doesn’t matter. I’m a writer and whatever that looks like, be it comic books, movie scripts, or novels, I simply need to “keep writing”.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Hidden Stories

old-farmhouse-2535919__340“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” Orson Scott

There’s a small dilapidated house down the road from my grandmother’s house. The wood siding has long since faded and worked loose from the house. Shutters hang in crooked lines refusing to give up their final hold on the window and plunge to the ground. The porch is in shambles, and the yard is overgrown. I wonder why the owners don’t tear it down. It doesn’t serve a purpose.

Still. It draws and keeps my attention. The dark windows pull me in to find the house’s story. It’s the story of an old farming couple, shriveled through years of manual labor in the hot southern Illinois sun. It’s the story of disappointment, a childless couple with no one to care for the home they worked so hard to create once they’re gone. It’s a melancholy story that is as beautiful as it is sad.

It’s a very different story from the one birthed by the abandoned farmhouse near my in-laws house. The simple white house is newer in style. White siding is dingy but still intact. Large, glass windows stare out at me without shutters framing their dark depths. Another farming family lived here. They worked the land but with more modern conveniences. They shared meals with their children around a large kitchen table. There was laughter and love, but there was also discontent.

As the children grew, the life of the farm didn’t offer enough to satisfy. Though it left their parents with no one to carry on the family legacy, each child chose to leave for more lucrative lives in the city. The couple worked their farm, selling off bits and pieces to make up for the bad years, until their bodies could take no more. The home was reduced to a house after their deaths, and the land waits for a time when the children can agree on the proper way to dispose of it. It’s the story of the loss of a way of life and a lack of appreciation for all it held.

Two empty houses. Two different stories. But they’re each only one of many that could be told. Who knows where the truth lies? These are simply the stories I see first when I look at the two houses. What do others see? Two empty houses.

This is why I write.

The stories I see are different from the stories anyone else may see. And some people may not see them at all. That’s why writing is important. We can share stories others can relate to but not otherwise get to hear. We can put life back into empty houses.

But it doesn’t end with story-telling or houses. As believers, we each have a different story. We also have unique ways of approaching life. Just as writers need to see stories in the world around them, believers need to see the lives of the people around them.

We’re called to be salt and light to the world. We’re called to reach into the lives of others and change them through practically showing them the love of God. To do this, we must see their story. With empty houses and a laptop, I can imagine a story and shape it to fit my desires. With people, we need to dig deeper and find the truth. What do they need? How are they hurting?

When we see these things, we can act on their story. We can give love in an unlimited number of ways that will speak to their need. We can show them God through joining them in their story for a time.

And the beauty of it is, the people in need aren’t the only ones like empty houses. Each of us is a unique house on our own. When I step into someone else’s story, I bring my unique perspective, my own story into theirs. I can minister to their needs in a way that is different than anyone else.

This carrying of each other’s burdens, sharing in their joys, and showing them God’s love in practical ways is a believer’s calling from God. Not everyone may look at an empty house and come away with a story like a writer does. But seeing and responding to the stories of others is a trait every believer should cultivate in order to live their faith each day.

Traditions and Recipes #2

recipe2I started collecting the yearly holiday baking books in the mid to late nineties. I would occasionally buy the regular magazine type, but my favorites have always been the little ones that feel more like paper back books. They don’t take up much room, and they’re sturdy.

At first these were put out by Land O Lands, Pillsbury, and Gold Medal Flour. Then, as cooking magazines gained popularity Taste of Home added to the yearly offerings. I’ve weeded out a few magazines through the years, but only the ones I didn’t use as many recipes from.

Today’s recipe comes from a book I no longer have, but the cookie has remained on my yearly baking list since the first year I made it in the late nineties or early 2000s. I’ve had people request these many times, and one did so even after she got the recipe from me. She said she couldn’t get hers to turn out like mine. I think, maybe, she just didn’t want to put the work into it when someone else could do it!

I hope you enjoy this one as much as I have! Happy Baking!

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