Friday, October 28, 2016

Goodbye (to the me I used to be)


So, here I am.



Thinking about how quickly summer passed and how swiftly winter is approaching.

The last time I blogged, I'd just had a book released.



About a week after that, I had a run in with a bug. He left me with this (can you even see it?):


Which (over the course of a couple of weeks) turned into this bit of loveliness:





It's been a Lupie couple of months since then. I've had a lot of appointments and blood tests, and I've found myself waking up in the morning wondering where the me I used to be went.

I look in the mirror and I see someone I don't know. She's this oddly disjointed version of the person I was. Thinner and sallow-looking, haggard and worn. At times, I feel like a shadow of myself, and I miss the person who could jump out of bed and race through the day, who could stay up late into the night writing and wake up in the morning refreshed. I miss the person who didn't get tired out from conversations, who didn't spend half of her day wondering if she had time to take a nap. The person who didn't spend the first fifteen minutes of every morning hobbling around on stiff feet and painful ankles.



I miss her, but I don't want her back.

Don't get me wrong. I want my health. I crave that more than just about anything. I want to wake up one morning and feel great. It hasn't happened yet, but I'm holding out hope. My primary doctor and I had a nice long chat about how insidious lupus is and how difficult to treat. It effects everyone in different ways and until there is a cure, all the doctors can really hope to do is keep the immune system under control and prevent destruction of healthy organs and tissue.

"I'm waiting," she said. "For the cure."

So, am I.

But, even if a cure were to happen tomorrow, I will have been changed by this disease.

And, while I mourn who I was, I can't be sorry for who I've become.

I find myself much more gentle as I go about this thing called living. Mostly,  I have realized that my journey does not have to be a mad dash to the finish line. It can be a slow waltz at midnight, a rambling stroll at dusk. It can be standing in the shelter of an old sweet gum tree and finding a luna moth there.








The world is filled with so many wondrous things.

And, I have no choice but to walk slowly and see them.

I can't be sorry about that.

I think as you read my newer books you will see what I have seen - the velveteen sheen of twilight roses, the soft golden glow of dandelions at dawn, and the gently sloping road that leads us all toward home.

This month, my Apple Valley Novella was released as part of a Fern Michaels anthology. Next month, the sixth book in my Mission:Rescue series will be released.




I am so blessed to continue to do what I love. As much as I despise Lupus for what it has taken from me, I must acknowledge what it has given: a clear sense of time and mortality, a pristine view of the miraculous hidden in the stillness of a foggy fall morning, and a deep desire to share what I have seen in the only way I can. I hope that when you read my books, you will hear the spring rain pattering on the windows, you will smell chocolate and wood-burning fires, you will see through my eyes how the world could be if we loved a little more and griped a little less.

Peace to you on your journey. Wherever it may lead!


God made my life complete

    when I placed all the pieces before him.
When I got my act together,
    he gave me a fresh start.
Now I’m alert to God’s ways;
    I don’t take God for granted.
Every day I review the ways he works;
    I try not to miss a trick.
I feel put back together,
    and I’m watching my step.
God rewrote the text of my life
    when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.

Psalm 18:20-24










Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Release Day!


It's release day for SWEET SURPRISES.


Another book written during the toughest times of my illness, this book was produced through sheer grit and determination. It seems appropriate that the heroine of the book is also filled with grit and determination. She's had some tough turns of fortune, and she's returning home to gain perspective and come up with a plan to begin again.

In some ways, her character is a grown-up version of my oldest daughter - tough and strong on the outside with a soft sweet spirit that always longs for home and family.



Brenna doesn't plan to stay in the tiny little town of Benevolence, Washington, but family and love are calling her back. What she finds there? It's something she didn't even realize she was missing.

I have said before that we should write what we know, and when it comes to the Home Sweet Home series, I am living that trite advice.

Last summer, family called me home.

After being diagnosed with an incurable and chronic disease, I realized how far away  from home I really was. My husband, kids and I had moved to Spokane, Washington eight years before. I had friends, a nice group of church family, and (of course) Marge.



But, when I realized how sick I was, I knew that I wanted to go home. And, so, my family and I moved back across the country to the DC suburbs. I found myself wrapped in the comfort of the familiar, drawn deep into that tender dance that family does - the one that involves so many disparate people, moving around each other with grace and understanding, frustration and acceptance.

I discovered in those first weeks and months that everything had changed and nothing had. I was still my parents' daughter.  My mother still love to feed me great food, and my father still loved to eat my homemade bread. They still liked to give me advice, and I still liked to do my own thing.







My siblings were still my staunchest supporters, my greatest allies. The people I had grown up with who had seen me at my worst and at my best.


We could still laugh together, tease each other, support each other.

It seems so strange now, but it it is the truth: While I wrote about Brenna Lamont, I lived a very small part of her story, learning to fit back into the rhythm of my family.

If you want to understand what I value and what I believe, you can find my world-view woven into every book that I write. The Home Sweet Home series gave me the opportunity to go deeper than that, to explore what family means, how it defines and shapes and changes us. We are -whether we want to admit it or not - created by our family experiences. Good or bad, they mold who we are. As we grow and mature and change,  it isn't a bad thing to revisit that.  Perhaps we need to heal from old wounds. Perhaps we need a place to hide from new ones. Perhaps we just need to understand a little more about who we are and why we are.

As SWEET SURPRISES hits the shelves, I'm beginning my newest project for Kensington. A trilogy about three brothers who return home to care for their six orphaned nieces and nephews, it's also set in Benevolence. It is about creating something strong and lasting out of the ashes of a very traumatic past. It is about binding family together with the frayed chords of childhood memories. Like every other book I write, it is - at its core- about love and belonging and acceptance. It is about hope and faith. It is about family and home.

It is about the things I know best and love most.

I'm looking forward to the new writing adventure.

I'm also looking forward to seeing the cover for the third book in the Home Sweet Home series. BITTERSWEET will be out next summer!

It has been a hard year, but it has been a good one.

Happy release day to me!

Happy Tuesday to you!

Whatever else this week brings, I hope it leads you closer to the place you call home.

For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings, I sing for joy. 
Psalm 63:7













Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Just One Step

I woke up this morning needing a nap.  When I say I needed  nap, I mean that everything inside of me was tired. Every muscle. Every cell. Every nerve.

I got out of bed and stood in the 6 o'clock gloom, and I knew it wasn't going to happen today: Driving kids back and forth to work. Writing. Cleaning. 10K steps. Conversations. Life.

This is my reality:



In the past 18 months, I have seen 3 rheumatologists. I have had countless blood tests. I have been diagnosed with lupus three times, at three separate offices, in three different ways. Not once did I hear the words I wanted to: Actually, you don't have lupus. You have (fill in the blank). It's completely curable. Pop these pills three times a day for a week, and you'll be good as new. 

No matter how much I wanted it to be different, all those doctor visits led me to the same door - the one that opened into this new reality: I am in a constant battle against myself. And, it is exhausting. 

I had big goals for today. Big plans. Huge amounts of work I wanted to get done.

And, I woke up this morning and I knew that I couldn't accomplish them.

But, then....

Then, I thought about what is expected of me. Not to finish first. Not to keep up with the sprinters, the marathon runners, the medal wearers. But, simply, to keep on.  

Even if that means walking, limping, crawling to the finish line. 

I have discovered this past year and a half, that life is not about the big dreams, the huge goals, the end results. It's about giving everything we have even when all we have is just a tiny bit of what is needed. I can't write the way I used to, but I can write. Not six-thousand words at  a sitting, but one word and then another until what I want to write and need to write has been written. It is amazing what being faithful in the small things will bring: 







And, so, today.....

Today, I told myself I only had to write one word, walk one step, sweep one floor. I told myself that I didn't have to do it all, I just had to do something. Because a little bit of something eventually adds up to a lot, but a lot of nothing is still nothing.

I sat down and wrote my word and was surprised to see it become one thousand. 

I walked one step and was surprised to see that one step turn into six thousand. 



I swept one floor and was amazed to vacuum three more. 

And, now, I am here. Writing to you, because I told myself that I would do this, too. One sentence, but you can see it is much more. 

This has been the story of my life this year. It has been the truth I have had to learn to embrace. I can't do what I used to, but I can do something. More importantly, no matter how small, how painful, how insignificant my faltering steps might be, if they are carrying me along the path God has set, they will be enough. 

After all, He is the one who fed five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish.

He is the one who praised the widow who gave her all even though her all was just two coins.

He is the one who sacrificed Himself once for all. 

And in Him, our small gifts and meager accomplishments stretch beyond the limitations of our abilities and become more than what they should be, more than what we thought they could be.  

I hope you remember that when your days are hard. I hope you think about it when you feel like nothing you do matters. When every step seems to lead to another dead-end or another closed door, I hope you know that as broken and wounded and hurt as we are, what we have in Him is always enough for the task ahead of us. 

Blessings for your day, my friend. 



He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 
Isaiah 40:29










































Wednesday, July 06, 2016

What I've Learned From Marjorie Mae (Life Goes On)

I agree. But no one is asking us.

~Marjorie Mae Garrison 



I have a few favorite people in my life, and Marjorie Mae is one of them.


We’re nearly 5 decades apart in age, but the moment I met her, I knew we were cut from the same cloth. We are both strong and pragmatic about our faith. We are both driven by our need to serve. We both love our families and our church. We are both very stubborn, quietly opinionated, and prone to think a lot of things that we’d never say (except to each other and our closest friends and family). We have a fondness for IHOP pancakes, hash browns and sausage. She likes coffee. I drink tea. But we forgive each other for that.

I’ve known Marjorie Mae for nearly eight years, and I’ve learned a lot from her.

How could I not?

She lived through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, WWII, Korea, Vietnam. She attended college, married, taught school, raised children. She planted churches, spread the gospel, sang in the choir and ran her home. She witnessed Hitler’s attempt to take over world and communism’s success in taking over China.  She was alive when the bomb dropped on Hiroshima and when man took his first step on the moon. She lived through the Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassination of a president, race riots, gas shortages, Gulf War, 911. She’s seen it all – days when good triumphs and days when evil seems to win and times when what is right is called wrong and what is wrong is called right.

She has perspective born of experience and time. Those two things can’t be artificially created. Only someone who has lived long and seen lots can really grasp the expansiveness of the human spirit and the fleeting breath of a person's life. 




Knowing Marge has taught me a lot about pressing on during hard times and being grateful and content during good ones. Being around her has taught me that pain is only a thing we must put up with while we focus on the bright and beautiful lives we’ve been given.There are many weeks when I sprint through my days, forgetting how quickly time is passing. I sit at my desk writing my stories, or I drive my kids here there and everywhere. I obsess on my pains and my illness and my fatigue, and I worry that my life won’t be the beautiful story I want it to be. 

And, then Monday comes and Marge calls me or I call her, and she catches me up on the lives of all the people she cares about. She tells me that her back hurts and her knees bother her, but why complain? 

When I talk to her, I am reminded that on the other side of every problem is a solution, that there is a peak to every mountain and a sweet down-hill slope on the other side that will always bring us home. For every moment of ugliness there is a moment of stunning beauty, and for every aching beat of our broken hearts there is a pulse-pounding moment of pure joy. 

That is life, my friends, and we are meant to live it. To hook deep into the eternal while we move through the temporary, to understand that it is not the daily battle that is important, but the tapestry that is being woven by the threads of every broken dream, every crushed hope, every deep sorrow, every pain, every extraordinary passion, every glorious victory, every moment of faith, of joy, of hope and of love. Our lives are not made of individual moments. They are made of every moment. 

So, wherever you are, whatever hurdle you are jumping, whatever pit you are trying to climb out of, whatever sorrow or sickness or trial you face, I hope that you remember what Marjorie Mae has taught me. If there is faith in the darkest hour, there will always be joy when the light returns. 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 
Psalm 90:12


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Write What You Know (Trite Advice That is Totally True)

I still chase the ladies. I just don't know what to do with them once I catch them anymore. 
~ Bob




So...I got some great news. Which, I am not sharing (yet). Ha!

However, in the course of giving me the good news, Melissa Jeglinski (my wonderful literary agent who is the best thing to ever happen to my writing career) said something along the lines of, "I can see this leading to blog posts about writing what you know."

Writing what you know: A sage piece of advice handed out to aspiring authors everywhere.

Years ago, before Still Waters was published, I heard that advice all the time. It seemed so commonsense-ical  that I paid almost no attention to the words or the meaning behind them. As an elementary school teacher and homeschooling mother, I had no plans to write about drug runners, mob families or, even, murder. Interestingly enough, I've written about all of those things.

Fact #1 about me: I have a good and very vivid imagination.

Fact #2: I have friends and family who have careers that give them insight into things that I know nothing about it.

So, yes, I've written about many things that I know almost nothing about, and, frankly, I have no desire to write about teaching or homeschooling. It's my life. Why would I want to write fiction about it? Honestly, I've never thought the write-what-you-know thing worked for me, because I write about things I don't know.

But, today....

Today, I met Bob.


Bob and I have run into each other before. Once in November, when I dropped a few dollars in his bucket and he handed me a red poppy. I know he doesn't remember that, but I do. When he appeared again a few weeks back, I dropped a couple more dollars in the bucket and took another red poppy. As I walked away, that little voice I should never ever ignore whispered that I needed to get to know the guy.

I ignored it.

Life is busy. I am busy. I am tired. I am sick.

I have many excuses for ignoring the voice.

Last week, I saw the guy again, and I put another couple of dollars in and I took another poppy and I walked away wondering who he was and what his story was and why I thought I was too tired and busy to find out.

Today, I ran to the store for some medicine. There he was again, and when I came out, I tossed a couple of dollars in the bucket, that little voice whispering frantically that this was my chance and I shouldn't blow it.

For once, I listened.

I asked him where he'd served. He told me Korea and Vietnam. He was a pilot, and he showed me a photo to prove it. I saw his name and a date scrawled across the black and white picture, and I was hooked.



And, so, Bob and I met. A forty-something writer and an eighty-something vet. He asked if I knew who Debbie Reynolds was.



I did.

He'd flown her to Korea during the war. According to him, she wanted to learn how to fly, and he let her sit in the cockpit. I learned a lot of things in a very short amount of time, today. I learned that Bob once had a German girlfriend who got him a fake passport on the black market (for the price of a pack of cigarettes). I learned that he snuck into the Russian part of Germany to meet his girlfriend's parents. When he was stopped, he showed the fake passport and pretended to be a deaf mute. I learned that Bob's uncle served during WWII, and that he passed away last year at the ripe old age of 101. Bob's other uncle is currently going strong at 99. Bob is hoping to do the same, but he says that if I don't see him in the same spot in the fall,  I can look for him in the obituaries.

I don't plan to find him there.

I plan to see him in November when he's collecting for VFW again. I want to hear more about Bob and his ordinary extraordinary life. Now that we've met, I won't forget him, and I won't let him be forgotten.

If you read my books, you'll get  a chance to meet Bob. He'll be written into the pages as a secondary character. Look for him, and you'll find him, wearing his VFW cap and his grin. He'll tell his story in his own way. I'll just be the narrator, writing what his hat and his grin and his words have told me.

So, maybe I do write what I know, because what I know are people. I'm not good at many things, but I am good at being a friend. I am good at listening. I am good at hearing what people say and what they don't. Maybe it's because I am an introvert. Maybe because I was always a little awkward, a little shy, a little quiet when I was a kid. Maybe it is because I find people fascinating, their stories beautiful and ugly and wonderful and horrible and everything in between.

If you read my books, you will see them. You will learn their names and their gestures, their personalities. You will learn what drives them and what scares them and what their deepest beliefs are. In every word I write, there are hints of the people I love, of the relationships I have, of the sorrows and joys and friendships I've shared. Often, there are people who I have run into just once- men and women who, like Bob, need their stories told- woven into the fabric of my books.

The truth is, if I don't write Bob and Marge and Radley and Raina and Gertrude and Byron and Old Zimmerman Beck, if I don't put down on paper the story of the strange sad woman in Silver Spring who screams for hours as the sun sets, who will?

How will the world know, in a hundred years, that they existed?

Will their names be forgotten or will they live on, written into books that might, one day, be discovered on dusty shelves or in dimly lit attics? Will someone, many many years from now, read about Bob or Marge or Radley or Gertrude, and wonder if their characters were based off of real people, living real lives, doing real things?

Write what you know....

It has more meaning than I thought, and a lot more depth than I imagined. It's not just about careers or hobbies or knowledge. It's about heart, about soul, about values and connections. It is about putting down on paper what lives inside us.

That is a scary thing, but it is also wonderful, because when we truly write what we know, we spell out the messages of our hearts in words and sentences and paragraphs. In black and white, we describe the world as only we can see it.

So, my friend, write what you know, because what you know should be shared.

Write what you know, because what you know is valuable.

Write what you know because you must, and then be happy with what you've written. No matter what the critics say or the world says or your friends say. Be happy, because you've done what only you can do: Written pieces of your heart into the world and left them there for someone else to find.


As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart.
 Proverbs 27:19













Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Beauty of My Emptiness

Lupus life is hard. I'm not going to lie. 

Still, I've completed two books since my last blog post, and I've written two proposals. I've seen cover art for two projects and copy edited two others.


I've dutifully walked ten-thousand steps every day, driven kids all over creation, corrected school work, vacuumed floors, dusted furniture, washed clothes. 

I've had conversations with people I love, and I've had conversations with people I don't know.

I've met a stranger and learned his name, and now I call him Ricardo when I pass him on the street. He calls me Sweetie, and we smile. 

I've been living my life while you've been living yours. Some days are good and some days are hard, and some days it seems like too much effort to even stand. 

Today is Sunday. 

I have been to church. I have sung the songs. I have listened to the sermon, and I have heard the word of God spoken with reverence, but now I am sitting, because my feet hurt, my knees ache, my fingers throb when I type. My inner ear inflammation is back and I list to the right when I walk. I feel as if I'm staggering around like a drunken sailor. 

Truth? I am at the crossroads of self-pity and faith, and only I can choose which direction to turn.

So, I sit and listen to the silence and find the stunning beauty of my emptiness. 

Empty things can be filled, I tell myself. Broken vessels can be mended.  Beauty can be found in the ugliness, if we look hard enough

Even when I am so tired I cannot stand, I know these things are true. It is in our very imperfection and incompleteness that God meets us. It is in our emptiness, in our silence, in our deep need for connection, that He makes Himself known. 

He is the God of the broken.

And, we are all broken vessels waiting to be mended and filled. 

That is good to remember on a day like today.

It is good to remember always.



How exquisite your love, O God!

    How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
    as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
    and you open our eyes to light. ~Psalm 36:7-9

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Thursday's Thoughts: Sometimes We Have to Lose to Win

It is the last day of March, and it is my daughter's birthday.



She is fourteen. We have shared 7 birthdays together. She spent 3 birthdays in an orphanage and 4 birthdays with her foster family in China. 

7 without.

7 with. 

She lost a lot to become ours. 

I am never more aware of that than I am on the day of her birth. 

I think it could be a sad story, this one that she has to tell. It could be about losing and about mourning and about knowing that you have a biological family somewhere in the world that you have not met and, maybe, never will. It could also be a happy story. One about being found and being loved and settling into a family that will last forever.  

But, it's her story to share. At fourteen, she may not be quite sure how she wants it told. 

And, while it is true that the books of our lives are now intricately connected, that ours and hers has become simply and beautifully ours, there is still the prologue, the set-up, the beginning that came before our beginning. The time when we were only six, and she was only one. 

This is the first glimpse we had of our daughter:



And, the first glimpse she had of her siblings. 

We sent the picture to China along with a few others. We sent her a book and we sent her a cake, and she celebrated her 7th birthday with her China family, eating cake and being told that someday soon she would leave everything she loved to be with another family. 


An incomprehensible thing for a child who'd started life here:


to have to lose everything to gain something else. It is not surprising that she didn't want to come. 

Today, I mentioned that this was her seventh birthday with our family. She had now had the same numbers of birthdays with us that she had had without. The discussion meandered along as it usually does, and I mentioned her first official birthday cake. The one we'd sent. I asked if she remembered telling her China mom that she didn't want to come to America. 



She laughed. Just like she always does when I mention it. 

Of course she remembers. Just like she remembers that she thought I'd be skinny and blond with fancy clothes and lots of money. 

Yeah. That's not quite the person who went to China to get her!


"You lost out on that one, kid," I said, laughing.

She grabbed my hand, and she looked into my eyes.

"You know what, Mom?" she said. "Sometimes we have to lose to win." 

Today is the last day of March.

It's my daughter's fourteenth birthday, and she thinks she won when she met me. 

I think we both did. 









Happy birthday, Cheeky girl! I would lose a million times over if it meant getting to be your mom!