I'm going to hold myself accountable in 2010 by blogging about my resolutions. No need to be legalistic, but here's what I'd like to do:
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Putting up the Christmas tree at my house is a very special event. I relish the ritual of hanging the ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Each one holds a memory. The shiny silver bell engraved with our wedding date. The brightly painted teddy bear with the year of my daughter’s birth painted on his hat. The skiing Santa I bought on our first ski trip. As I lift each treasure carefully out of the box where it has lain hidden from view all year, a precious memory emerges from deep within my heart and finds a place on my tree.
I imagine stories are like those ornaments, each one a treasure nestled within the heart of a writer, waiting to be brought out and displayed. Perhaps that’s how we first recognize that we are writers: fictitious people walk and talk and breathe within us, and we burn with the desire to show them to others. A story unfolds with startling clarity in our minds, and we know—just know—that we won’t have a moment’s peace until we’ve set it down on paper and shared it.
That burning desire is exactly what enables us to tell a story that stirs the imaginations of others. It is our passion for the story and the characters that causes us to spend hours striving for the precise word or the perfect phrase to relay the vivid images in our heads. For some, the stories conceived in our hearts burst from us full-grown; others hold a story inside, nurturing it in the deep places until it ripens into the thing of beauty we’ve envisioned.
Many years ago, a story bloomed in my heart. It was full of adventure and love, and infused with hope—truly, a thing of beauty. I wrote the first draft feverishly, the words pouring onto the page as the plot unfolded in my mind. The characters were so real, their struggles painful and vivid. I studied the craft, intent on telling my tale with artistry. With each new skill I learned, I revised and polished until the story sparkled. If ever a story was born from the heart, it was that one.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an editor who shared my passion. Whether due to my lack of skill or the uncertainties of the market for that genre, the story of my heart was rejected over and over. I mourned. I raged. I cried out to God, “Why did You give me this story if You don’t intend me to tell it?” After my rage died, I revised and polished the manuscript again. Finally, when there was not a single word that hadn’t been scrubbed until it shone, I gave up. After all, if there was no place for the story of my heart in the publishing world, maybe there was no place for me there either.
That’s when I heard God’s whisper: Do you think I have only one story to give?
A few days later, a character waltzed into my mind and began telling me about her life. She became real to me, as real as the characters in my first story. I discovered that there was room in my heart for her, too. In fact, this new tale took on a glimmer and shine all its own. I employed the skills I’d honed on my first, and eventually, God placed a published book in my hands.
And then He said: I have more stories to give you.
Can you imagine anything sadder than a Christmas tree with only a single ornament? Or a life with only a single precious memory? Or a heart with only a single story?
I am convinced that good stories are born in the heart of God, a heart immense and overflowing with creativity. He carefully selects an author for each one and bestows a precious gift – straight from His heart to ours. We write it and polish it and, when the story has become as beautiful as we can make it, we must hang it on the tree and reach into the box for another treasure.
Virginia Smith is the author of a dozen Christian novels including Stuck in the Middle, a finalist for the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year award, and A Taste of Murder, a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her newest,Third Time’s a Charm, the third and final book in her Sister-to-Sister Series, will hit bookstore shelves in January. Learn more about Ginny and her books atwww.VirginiaSmith.org.
Check Out Ginny's Big Prize Bonanza Giveaway, Going On Now!
Posted by Karen at Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Posted by Karen at Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Posted by Karen at Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Thursday, October 01, 2009
Posted by Karen at Thursday, October 01, 2009
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Over the Labor Day weekend we helped our daughter move to another city, to her first apartment and career job. We were proud, happy for her, and a bit sad for us.
- Emily goes to the door of each neighbor's house selling candy for elementary school. Her broad smile and friendly chatter make it impossible to refuse her.
- She hesitates to sign up for the swim team at age seven, though she took to the water at two and a half. Seven years later, as she ends her swimming career to take up high school volleyball, basketball, and tennis, she has a box full of ribbons and medals from local, regional, and state meets. She's still in touch with some of her former teammates.
- Around kindergarten or first grade, our little runaway packs a suitcase and flees to the neighbors who are grandparental to her. She's home by dinnertime.
- In fifth grade she wins the Good Citizen Award, because the teacher alone noticed how she befriended a child whom no one else would.
- In middle school, she cries and grieves, as we do, over the loss of her friend Hannah.
- On road trips, battles ensue between Emily and her brother, but the sweet moments in between make it all worthwhile. They get along well these days.
- Freshman year of college is nightmarish, at best. We feel like ogres driving away from the dorm. I purposely save my tears for later. Emily begrudgingly returns her sophomore year, engaging in campus life and embracing every worthwhile activity she can squeeze in. She graduates with an early childhood education degree.
- After a summer of prayer, interviews, and agonizing, a job offer presents itself. Everything happens fast, from the Monday interview, the Thursday job offer and acceptance, the Friday-Saturday apartment hunt, the following Friday lease-signing, to the Sunday afternoon move.
- More fun vacations together
- First house
- More mother and daughter time
Posted by Karen at Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
As I witnessed Euna Lee and Laura Ling's tearful reunions with their families today, I couldn't help but think of those left behind--the North Koreans who are persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and executed for their political and religious beliefs and actions. Lee and Ling and their families are a mini-portrait of the heartbreak that occurs daily in countries where freedoms, including religious freedom, are restricted by the government.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Cecil Murphey is many things to many people--Bible teacher, counselor, ghost-writer, author, mentor, friend. Now he shares from a deeply personal
When Someone You Love Has Cancer
Author: Cecil Murphey
Harvest House Publishers
(Enter a drawing to win this book by leaving a comment--see sidebar of blog for details)
A Word from The Man Behind the Words
When Shirley walked in from the garage, she didn't have to say a word: I read the diagnosis in her eyes. I grabbed her and held her tightly for several seconds. When I released her, she didn't cry. The unshed tears glistened, but that was all.
I felt emotionally paralyzed and helpless, and I couldn't understand my reaction. After all, I was a professional. As a former pastor and volunteer hospital chaplain I had been around many cancer patients. I'd seen people at their lowest and most vulnerable. As a writing instructor, I helped one woman write her cancer-survival book. Shirley and I had been caregivers for Shirley's older sister for months before she died of colon cancer.
All of that happened before cancer became personal to me--before my wife learned she needed a mastectomy. To make it worse, Shirley was in the high-risk category because most of her blood relatives had died of some form of cancer. Years earlier, she had jokingly said, "In our family we grow things."
In the days after the diagnosis and before her surgery, I went to a local bookstore and to the public library. I found dozens of accounts, usually by women, about their battle and survival. I pushed aside the novels that ended in a person's death. A few books contained medical or technical information. I searched on-line and garnered useful information--but I found nothing that spoke to me on how to cope with the possible loss of the person I loved most in this world.
Our story ends happily: Shirley has started her tenth year as a cancer survivor. Not only am I grateful, but I remember my pain and confusion during those days. That concerns me enough to reach out to others who also feel helpless as they watch a loved one face the serious diagnosis of cancer.
That's why I wrote When Someone You Love Has Cancer. I want to encourage relatives and friends and also to offer practical suggestions as they stay at the side of those they love.
The appendix offers specific things for them to do and not to do--and much of that information came about because of the way people reacted around us.
It's a terrible situation for anyone to have cancer; it's a heavy burden for us who deeply love those with cancer.
by Cecil Murphey
About the Book: The World Health Organization reported that by the year 2010 cancer will be the number one killer worldwide. More than 12.4 million people in the world suffer from cancer. 7.6 million people are expected to die from some form of cancer. That's a lot of people, but the number of loved ones of cancer sufferers is far greater. What do they do when a special person in their life is diagnosed with this devastating disease? Murphey brings his experiences as a loved one and many years of wisdom gained from being a pastor and hospital chaplain to his newest book When Someone You Love Has Cancer: Comfort and Encouragement for Caregivers and Loved Ones (Harvest House Publishers). His honest I've-been-there admissions and practical helps are combined with artist Michal Sparks' soothing watercolor paintings. Readers of When Someone You Love Has Cancer will receive: Murphey explains why this is a much-needed book: "Most books about cancer address survivors. I want to speak to the mates, families, and friends who love those with cancer. I offer a number of simple, practical things people can do for those with cancer." Interview Questions Be available to talk when the other person needs it--and be even more willing to be silent if your loved one doesn't want to talk. Don't ask what you can do; do what you see needs doing. To express loving support in your own way (and we all express love differently) is the best gift you can offer.
1. The first sentence of your book reads, "I felt helpless." Tell us about that feeling.
Because her doctor put Shirley into the high-risk category, I felt helpless. To me, helpless means hating the situation, wanting to make it better, but admitting there was nothing I could do for her.
2. On that same page you also write, "One thing welearned: God was with us and strengthened us through the many weeks of uncertainty and pain." How did you get from feeling helpless to that assurance?
Shirley and I sat down one day and I put my arm around her. "The only way I know how I can handle this," I said, "is to talk about it." Shirley knows that's my way of working through puzzling issues. "Let's consider every possibility." If her surgeon decided she did not have breast cancer, how would we react? We talked of our reaction if he said, "There is a tumor and it's obviously benign. Finally, I was able to say, with tears in my eyes, "How do we react if he says the cancer is advanced and you have only a short time to live?" By the time we talked answered that question, I was crying. Shirley had tears in her eyes, but remained quite calm. "I'm ready to go whenever God wants to take me," she said. She is too honest not to have meant those words. As I searched her face, I saw calmness and peace. I held her tightly and we prayed together. After that I felt calm. Since then, one of the first things I do when I awaken is to thank God that Shirley and I have at least one more day together.
3. When most people hear the word cancer applied to someone they love, they have strong emotional reactions. What are some of them? What was your reaction when your wife was diagnosed with breast cancer?
As a pastor, a volunteer chaplain, and a friend I've encountered virtually every emotional reaction. Some refuse to accept what they hear. Some go inward and are unable to talk. Others start making telephone calls to talk to friends.
Me? I went numb, absolutely numb. That was my old way of dealing with overwhelming emotions. I heard everything but I couldn't feel anything. It took me almost two weeks before I was able to feel--and to face the possibility that the person I loved most in the world might die.
4. "What can I do for my loved one with cancer?" That's a good question for us to ask ourselves. How can we be supportive and helpful?
Many think they need to do big things; they don't. Express your concern and your love.
5. Why do you urge people not to say, "I know exactly how you feel"?
No one knows how you feel. They may remember how they felt at a certain time. Even if they did know, what help is that to the person with cancer? It's like saying, "Stop feeling sorry for yourself. I know what it's like and I'm fine now."
Instead, focus on how the loved one feels. Let him or her tell you.
6. Those with cancer suffer physically and spiritually. You mention God's silence as a form of spiritual suffering. They pray and don't seem to sense God. What can you do to help them?
God is sometimes silent but that doesn't mean God is absent. In my upcoming book, When God Turns off the Lights, I tell what it was like for me when God stopped communicating for about 18 months.
I didn't like it and I was angry. I didn't doubt God's existence, but I didn't understand the silence. I read Psalms and Lamentations in various translations. I prayed and I did everything I could, but nothing changed.
After a couple of months, I realized that I needed to accept the situation and wait for God to turn on the lights again. Each day I quoted Psalm 13:1: "O Lord,how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?" (NLT)
I learned many invaluable lessons about myself--and I could have learned them only in the darkness. When God turns off the lights (and the sounds) I finally realized that instead of God being angry, it was God's loving way to draw me closer.
7. Guilt troubles many friends and loved ones of caregivers because they feel they failed or didn't do enough. What can you say to help them?
We probably fail our loved ones in some ways. No one is perfect. If you feel that kind of guilt, I suggest 3 things:
(1) Tell the loved one and ask forgiveness.
(2) Talk to God and ask God to forgive you and give you strength not to repeat your failures.
(3) Forgive yourself. And one way to do that is to say, "At the time, I thought I did the right thing. I was wrong and I forgive myself."
8. Do you have some final words of wisdom for those giving care to a loved one with cancer?
Be available. You can't take away the cancer but you can alleviate the sense of aloneness. Don't ever try to explain the reason the person has cancer. We don't know the reason and even if we did, would it really help the other person?
Be careful about what you say. Too often visitors and friends speak from their own discomfort and forget about the pain of the one with cancer. Don't tell them about your cancer or other disease; don't tell them horror stories about others. Above all, don't give them false words of comfort. Be natural. Be yourself. Behave as loving as you can.
About the Author:
Cecil Murphey is an international speaker and bestselling author who has written more than 100 books, including the New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper). No stranger himself to loss and grieving, Cecil has served as a pastor and hospital chaplain for many years, and through his ministry and books he has brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world. For more information, visit http://www.themanbehindthewords.com/.
Cec designed the appendix to be the most practical part of the book. He's witnessed too many situations where genuinely caring people had no idea what to do, so he has tried to givea few general guidelines.
1. Before you offer help. Learn about the disease before you visit. Determine to accept their feelings, no matter how negative. Pray for your loved one before you visit. Don't throw religious slogans at them, such as, "This is God's will" or "God knew you were strong enough to handle this."
2. What you can do now. As the first question, don't ask, "How are you?" Instead, ask, "Do you feel like talking." Don't offer advice. Be willing to sit in silence. If you need to cry, do so. Be natural. If appropriate, hug your loved one. Human touch is powerful.
3. Long-term caregiving. The overarching principle is to let the seriousness of the disease determine the amount of time and commitment you offer. This can be a time for you to help them spiritually. Think about tangible things you can do that say you care. Plan celebrations for every anniversary of being cancer free.
Ask them reflective questions such as:
About the Book:
The World Health Organization reported that by the year 2010 cancer will be the number one killer worldwide. More than 12.4 million people in the world suffer from cancer. 7.6 million people are expected to die from some form of cancer. That's a lot of people, but the number of loved ones of cancer sufferers is far greater. What do they do when a special person in their life is diagnosed with this devastating disease?
Murphey brings his experiences as a loved one and many years of wisdom gained from being a pastor and hospital chaplain to his newest book When Someone You Love Has Cancer: Comfort and Encouragement for Caregivers and Loved Ones (Harvest House Publishers). His honest I've-been-there admissions and practical helps are combined with artist Michal Sparks' soothing watercolor paintings.
Readers of When Someone You Love Has Cancer will receive:
Murphey explains why this is a much-needed book: "Most books about cancer address survivors. I want to speak to the mates, families, and friends who love those with cancer. I offer a number of simple, practical things people can do for those with cancer."
Be available to talk when the other person needs it--and be even more willing to be silent if your loved one doesn't want to talk. Don't ask what you can do; do what you see needs doing. To express loving support in your own way (and we all express love differently) is the best gift you can offer.
Posted by Karen at Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Saturday, June 20, 2009
The one and only real dad of mine recently completed chemotherapy treatments for pancreatic cancer. At 80, he's a trooper--still working part-time and constantly on the quest for something to eat. He's probably the one I inherited my sense of adventure from, and he's still vitally interested in all the ongoings in the world, be it news, financial, cultural, or culinary (NOT that he cooks, my mom's area of expertise). He cultivated my thirst for travel by planning the most extraordinary sightseeing vacations for our family. His faith in the Lord has not wavered as he's faced the diagnosis of his cancer, the difficult surgery and recovery, and the grueling routine of chemo. I am probably my dad's second greatest admirer, the first being my mom (even when he exhibits curmudgeonly behavior, which happens more often than he'd like to admit).
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Sometimes we writers need a kick-in-the-pants inspiration, and I can't think of any better than art.
Here's a site where artists using various media post weekly on various themes. You could view their works as writing prompts for a freewriting exercise. Or perhaps you might search for something to fill in a gap regarding a character, an emotion, a setting, or even a plot twist. Or just let the visual richness work on your creativity while you take a break from writing and let the writer's block flow out of you.
Moody Radio's Midday Connection celebrates Arts Week through Friday. Check out the archived broadcasts from Monday through Wednesday on everything from scrapbooking/memory-journaling to poetry, as well as helpful links regarding these topics. The poetry lesson today made me feel--heavenly--as if I were back in my English lit major classes!
Let the creative juices flow!
Posted by Karen at Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Which one is the lie about me? (Scroll down to find out who won the book drawing.)
1) Every year, I spend a long weekend with several hundred high school students.
Just got home from the Kentucky-Tennessee District Key Club Convention, where hubby and I enjoyed around 430 enthusiastic high school students. (See my Facebook album if you don't believe me.)
2) I have two cats named Siegfreid and Roy.
Nope. Cyrano and Roxanne. Cute and rascally.
3) Our son Eric once played a featured role in a Lifetime movie, The Price of a Broken Heart.
He was in 7th grade, and I got to hang out on the set with him in the Atlanta area, along with Laura Innes (E.R.), Brett Rice (Water Boy), Parker Ingall (Empty Nest), and Timothy Carhart (Ghostbusters & Motocrossed). Eric still has a notebook with the autographed script and photos with the cast.
The winner of my Daisy Chain Blog Tour book drawing is...Ta-da--Joyce Teal! Send me a Facebook message with your mailing address, and I'll get that out to you.
Posted by Karen at Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Which one is the lie about me?
1) Every year, I spend a long weekend with several hundred high school students.
2) I have two cats named Siegfreid and Roy.
3) My son once played a featured role in a Lifetime movie.
Hazard a guess below in the Comments. The truth will out on Monday, March 16!
Posted by Karen at Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Memorable characters reminiscent of those in To Kill a Mockingbird populate a sleepy Texas town. Defiance doesn't seem like the place for secrets. But it is. Fourteen year old Jed has his secrets. His best friend Daisy has hers. Slowly the secrets surface--of Hixon, the man called a prophet, Bald Muriel, Jed's father Hap, and Jed's sensitive but withdrawn mother, of Daisy's mother, Miss Emory.
Posted by Karen at Sunday, March 08, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Five Days on the Digital Dirt Road
A reporter spent five days in North Carolina -- "a textile-industry hub that has been hit hard by the economic downturn -- documenting the challenges facing rural communities without high-speed access. Right now, more than 14.3 million rural homes across the country -- 61 percent -- are not connected to high-speed Internet. "
I had no idea this was a problem for so many people in a "civilized" country. For writers like Brook Townes and me, lack of high-speed internet puts us and our calling back into the last century. Let me know what you think of the people and circumstances described in these video reports.
This report will be showcased at the InternetforEveryone.org town hall meeting on the future of the Internet in Durham, N.C., on March 7.