Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Secrets: Keep Going

If you're going through hell, keep going
~Winston Churchill

With book 39 on the shelves and books 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44 written, I am tired. Lupus sucks, but book 45 will not write itself.

Saturday secret number 1. Keep going. Even if it's just a step. Because moving forward is better than staying in the same place, and writing one page is better than writing none.

Early morning routine. Read, write, swallow pills. Repeat.

Words of wisdom that I chant to myself : No one can do this except you (so get your head off the desk and get on with it). 

A Pilates instructor once told me that motion is lotion. Stay in one position for too long and we freeze-up and limit our ability to move. So...I'm looking very rough on this fine Saturday morning, but I'm moving. 

That's what you do when you've got a chronic illness, a great family, a good career and a sovereign God. You just keep moving.  Blessings for the day, my friends! May you find your motivation and your joy and your will to keep on going through whatever mucky mess you might find yourself in! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Time Flies, So I May as Well Be Writing (Lupus Life)


Today is release day for Sweet Haven.

This is book number 39 for me.

That's a lot of books. It's also a lot of words and sentences and paragraphs. One of my kids calculated that I have written 2.6 million words during my twelve-year writing career. It's a good estimate, but I figure I've far exceeded it. All those words that I've written and deleted, the books I started and then scrapped, the journal entries that will never see the light of day, the blog post and unpublished books and secret beginnings of secret stories that may or may not ever be finished, they add up to a lot more words and sentences and paragraphs.

You might wonder if book number 39 is as special to me as book number 1. Maybe you wonder if I will get the same thrill from seeing Sweet Haven on the shelves as I did when this one was released:

Trust me when I say that it is and that I will.

Sweet Haven is not just book number 39. It is proof of the fact that I am still alive and kicking. It is evidence that the thing that could have stolen my career has not. Lupus is no joke, friends. It steals a lot of things - energy, joy, creativity. If we let it, it will steal so much more.

It is a silent disease, but it is loud for the person who is living with it.

Pass me on the street, and you will never know that I am ill.

Truth? This year, I finally reached a healthy weight. My friends and family tell me how wonderful I look. I guess I can understand why. In our culture, weight is indicative of health, and lupus has graciously helped me lose a lot of it.  You can see the progression here. The first picture is summer 2014 when I was just beginning to suspect something was very wrong. The next picture is this past summer. I'd lost 35 pounds by then, and I knew I had lupus. The last picture is from my birthday in December. At that point, I'd lost 45. I've lost a little more since then.

For the record, I am not trying to lose weight. I am losing weight because it is difficult for me to enjoy food. Which is really not fun, but maybe I'll share more about that another time. Today is not for mourning what isn't. Today, is about celebrations, so I'll simply say that all the medicine in the world can't completely mask the symptoms of lupus. Today, my fingers ache and my feet have pins and needles. My stomach hurts from the medicine I take to keep my immune system from attacking healthy tissue, but I woke to hear rain pattering on the window and a bird singing a joyful song. It was 6 a.m, and my body was stiff and my back ached, and I thought I could lie in bed forever and still not feel like I'd rested.

But, you are alive, a voice whispered, so get up and live.

And, so I did.

I opened up a manuscript that I am working on, and I started writing, because I am alive and time is flying by, so I may as well be writing and loving and living and celebrating.

Today, is release day for my 39th book, and I can still hear the rain dripping from the eaves and feel my heart thumping in my chest and my fingers throbbing as they tap the keyboard.  I can still hear all the words from all the stories that I have yet to write, scratching like fingers on a chalkboard in my brain, demanding my attention.

Time is flying, and we all have to choose what we will do with it.

Today, I choose to love and be loved, to write and to read, to bake some bread and make some whoopie pies with my girls, because the rain is still falling and the day is calling, and I may as well live it joyfully.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;

    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy.
Psalm 65:8

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Ordinary Miracle (Byron's Peanut-buttery Fudge)

The world is a series of miracles. But we're so used to them, we call them ordinary things. Hans Christian Andersen

The fact that I’m shoulder deep in the third book in my HOME SWEET HOME series has made me think about fudge, chocolate and candy more than I ever have in my life.

I’m not keen on chocolate or candy, by the way. I don’t like fudge. I knew just about nothing about making any of those things when I began writing SWEET HAVEN. I still don’t know why I decided to write a series about a family that owns a chocolate shop. Except that, maybe, I just wanted to write about family and heritage and tradition. Whatever the case, I love the little town of Benevolence, Washington, and all the disparate people who live there. I love the Lamont family, and the three sisters who are desperate to find what they don’t even realize they’ve lost.

As is always the case, art imitates life.

In the process of learning about chocolate and tasting fudge and creating recipes, I found a lot of things I didn’t realize that I’d lost.

Which is the funny (or not) thing about life.

You can be traveling along, doing your thing, thinking that you’ve got everything you started the journey with. Then, all of the sudden, you hit a roadblock and realize that somewhere along the way you dropped your climbing gear or your shovel or your life vest or some other very important tool that you’re going to need to A) scale the mountain that’s in your way B) Dig under the concrete wall that’s blocking your path C) Forge the raging river that’s swallowed the road D) somehow someway provide what is necessary to get past the thing that is keeping you from moving forward.

Let’s say…just for the sake of conversation…you happen to hit the roadblock, and you look at this thing that has stopped you cold, and you start thinking, “It’s going to take superhuman effort to move that thing. It looks too tall and too steep and too wide, and I’m just this puny little person who’s been plunked down on this path and told to walk it, and suddenly God has just dumped this GIANT thing in front of me, and I will never ever ever get past it.”

So you decide that what you lack is strength, that that’s what you’ve dropped somewhere along way. If only you can find it, you'll surely be able to overcome the obstacle. 

Off you go, searching and hunting and trying to find what you’ve lost.

Again, for the sake of conversation alone, let’s just say that you begin to panic, because no matter how hard you look, no matter how desperately you hunt, you can’t find it. Your strength? It is well and truly gone

At this point, you may begin to despair. You may also decide that somehow someway, you’ve made a terrible error, that you’re actually not even on the right path, because this one is just too difficult. And, maybe you’ll be peeking behind trees and searching ravines, and calling out for the strength you lost, and you’ll suddenly realize that strength isn’t really what you need. Because there…like a pretty little penny glinting in the sunlight, like a shiny drop of dew on the velvety pedal of a rose, like a beautiful chocolate bonbon…


Just sitting on the side of the road where you dropped it, you’ll see the tattered remnant of the faith you didn’t even realize you were missing.  You will recognize it immediately, of course. You will look at it and you will wonder, “How is it that I didn’t know that I dropped this? How is it that I ever thought that all I was missing was strength?”

Because, suddenly, you will know the truth.

That mountain? It is bigger than your ability to climb it.

That river? Your stamina is no match for it.

That concrete wall? It will never be dug beneath, climbed over, plowed through.

Not by you.

It simply is not possible – even with all the strength you’ve misplaced, all the power you seemed to have dropped along the way. Even if you could gather all those things up, it still would not ever be enough.

And, maybe, as you look at that crumbled tattered bit of your faith, you’ll have this moment of absolute clarity, and you will finally understand - the heaviness of the task before you? It isn’t yours to carry. It is being carried for you.

So, you will march your butt back to the thing that’s standing in your way, and you will do the only thing you can. You will wait in its shadow, knowing that it will be moved. 

Trust me when I say it can happen.

Trust me when I say that it did happen.

The little ordinary miracle of faith.

We take it for granted, don’t we?

We forget how important it is to keep believing and trusting and hoping.

We get bogged down by the darkness and the despair and the pain and the heartache, and we start looking to ourselves for solace and rest.

Only, we will never be enough.

Not on our own.

And, maybe that is the real reason I wrote the HOME SWEET HOME series, because I needed to be reminded that the impossible is made possible by faith.  That mountains can be moved.  Rivers will be forged. Cement walls will fall. 

And a bunch of ordinary ingredients will make something extraordinary. If we let them. 

Byron's Peanut-Buttery Fudge

2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Combine sugar, butter, milk and cream in  sauce pan. Cook over low heat until mixture reaches soft-ball stage. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and chopped peanuts. Pour into a pan and cool. Cut into squares and share with someone you love. 

Full disclosure - My father is eating homemade bread. Not fudge. We did share the fudge, though. We just don't have a picture of anyone eating it!