Thursday, December 30, 2010

Catch-Up--Rolling Days 19-30 Prompts into One Post

PROMPT 19: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

Healing came when I could see the end of Steve's commitment in Nashville and the end of our financial obligations there. Answers to prayer! That chapter of our lives, which had its own blessings and lessons, ending the day of closing, December 14.

PROMPT 20: Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn't because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)

I should have hugged my kids more, told my hubby I loved him more, exercised more, written more, submitted more, decluttered more, helped others more, saved more, paid off more, called my parents more, visited my parents more, among other things. But as Scarlett so famously put it, "Tomorrow is another day."

PROMPT 21: Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

2011 Karen: What advice do you have for me, Karen of 2016?

2016 Karen: First of all, you know those art lessons you've always meant to take? Take them. Don't wait. And go to the Hunter more often. That's why you joined, Goofy.

2011: I'm listening...

2016: All the months you worried about money, and every month you had enough--why wouldn't that keep happening? God took care of you then, and He'll do it again.

2011: Anything else?

2016: Yes. All the stuff you think of when something catastrophic happens, remind yourself of those things every moment of every day you get a chance. Tell people you love them. Kiss and hug often. Take care of you and the people around you. Smile at everyone you meet. Never pass up an opportunity to help or to give, if you possibly can do it. Stop and watch the sunset. Take time to laugh and play. Talk to God throughout the day, and soak up His Word. Live, truly live.

2011: I feel so much better about this new year! See you in five.

PROMPT 22: Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year?

By air and by car. We saw Memphis, Lexington, Nashville, Knoxville, Disney World, and enjoyed the delights in our own backyard. We dined with Disney characters with our grandkids, imagined Graceland still inhabited by Elvis, and strolled across the Tennessee River to watch Pops in the Park on the Fourth of July.

Next year, Lord willing, we'll go to Phoenix for a convention. We'd love to revisit Disney. And New York City--I'd like to see the art museums there that I've only read about and perhaps row a boat in Central Park or see Shakespeare in the Park. And eat at that little place in Brooklyn under the bridge as the sun sets over Manhattan. Hey, I can dream, can't I?

And if somehow we should win a trip, Steve and I agree we should go somewhere impossibly expensive and exotic, say, Fiji.

PROMPT 23: New name. Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

I'm really comfortable with my name, and more than ever these days, with who I am. Why would I want to use another name. Although there are more beautiful names--my mother-in-law's, for example, Julia Elizabeth. Or the name my cousin Jenny and I both said we'd choose for our daughters--Laura. She did; I didn't. My daughter Emily's name is lovely and maybe a bit old-fashioned for such a contemporary young woman, but it still suits her, not me. So I think I'll pass.

PROMPT 24: Everything's OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead?

Two, actually--when Steve moved home from Nashville for good last March, and when the condo closed on Dec. 14. Then I also remember my dad's oncologist friend, a contemporary, but not his own doctor, saying he believed my dad--with a clear CT scan over a year out from his diagnosis--had a cure from pancreatic cancer. I can call on those moments in 2011 to realize that there is nothing the Lord can't get us through.

PROMPT 25: Photo - a present to yourself. Sift through all the photos of you from the past year. Choose one that best captures you; either who you are, or who you strive to be. Find the shot of you that is worth a thousand words. Share the image, who shot it, where, and what it best reveals about you.

[See photo at top of post] Emily took this picture of me on Christmas Eve at my parents' house. My mom gave me a pair of vintage-looking ankle boots I'd asked for, and being with the folks I love so much made my smile for the photo genuine. The photo reveals that I love my family and derive a great sense of well-being from their support and affection. They have nourished my soul into the flower that blooms today.

PROMPT 26: Soul food. What did you eat this year that you will never forget? What went into your mouth & touched your soul?

Chattanooga Cupcakes--any flavor, but especially strawberry and peppermint-chocolate
Thanksgiving dinner--broccoli casserole, Bar-b-cutie smoked turkey and my dressing from Ma's recipe, cranberry gelatin salad, pumpkin pie
Bluegrass Grill's egg scramble with just the right mix of sausage and spinach
Marshmallow Peeps--make me feel like a child
Christmas sugar cookies--the recipe seems to improve over time
The Blue Plate's potato chip nachos and their splendid egg white omelette.
Fresh asparagus--always and forever a treat.
Hazelnut coffee--nectar of Heaven. That, and sweettea. Yeah, it's Southern and it's spoken as oneword.

PROMPT 27: Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?

So many! So hard to choose one. Laughing at Emily making dinosaur talk as she cut out a misfit cookie for the Christmas batch. Walking with Steve to see the buffalo. Cracking up at Eric's quip as he tried to convince my dad to exchange gift cards with him. Browsing the Hunter's sculptures, paintings, and other art, and gazing at the river below the bluff. 2010 was a string of lights, beautiful moments one after the other.

PROMPT 28: Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

I'd love to have our finances where we want them. Yes, that would be a feeling of freedom!

10 Things to Experience the Feeling of Freedom TODAY:
  1. Get rid of at least one thing every day.
  2. Back up my computer with an external drive and perhaps online storage.
  3. Let go of unnecessary tasks.
  4. Do the most important, not the most urgent things, every day.
  5. Start each day with the Lord.
  6. Look in the mirror and say, "I love you just as you are, because God does!"
  7. Smile often, especially at people who look as if they need it.
  8. Give something to someone, whether I can "afford it" or not.
  9. Capture and treasure the moment, so I'll know forever I didn't waste it.
  10. Look at choices from an eternal perspective, and choose to do what's most likely to last.
Defining moment. Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

  • Steve moving home from three years of long-distance commuting.
  • Emily's multiple transitions, showing her resilience and coping skills.
  • Eric's acting successes.
  • Mom and Dad's triumphs respectively over stroke and pancreatic cancer.
PROMPT 30: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What's the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

The closing of our Nashville chapter. I have my husband home full-time, and I feel a freedom from the responsibilities of maintaining another home. It's a fantastic gift.

PROMPT 31: Core story. What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.)

My story: I grew up in a warm cocoon, surrounded by affection, books, art, laughter, and the knowledge that God loved me as I was. Then I was encouraged to burst out and be myself in the best way possible, empowered by His Spirit within and others' support without. I share this by seeking to give out what has been given me, and by writing about the safe, warm place all can know through Jesus Christ.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yes, Yoda, Sometimes There Is "Try"

Prompt: Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn't go for it?

Bucket lists have become popular since the movie of that name debuted. As someone pointed out recently, if you spend too much time making out the list, you run out of time to attain it.

In 2010, I wanted to submit several stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul, and I did. None have yet been accepted, but I'll keep trying. I felt elated during the process of my stories being critiqued by my writing groups and revising the stories until I knew there was nothing in my power to make them any better.

In 2011, I might take an art class of some kind, something I haven't done since I was 10 or 11 but thoroughly enjoyed when I did. So why not?

What I learned about myself in 2010

Prompt: Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

[Pretend I'm not attempting Prompts 17-20 all on the 20th!]

I learned that I have powers of influence I didn't have 20, 30, or 40 years ago. Youth, money, intelligence, and good looks aren't the ultimate persuasions. Conviction, moral courage, and sheer enthusiasm are. I will apply my influence wherever I think it can change people or the world for good and for eternity.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Changed by Friendship in 2010

Prompt: Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

Rather than one, I'll choose three friends who've changed me this year, though one's related to me.

Marla has dealt with many hard things in her life, yet she carries on. She makes a deliberate effort to engage others, when her natural tendency from all the hurt she's experienced ought to make her hold them at arm's length. She's one of the brighter people I've known, well-read and always challenging my in-a-rut thinking. She listens with interest, as if I'm the only person who's ever interacted with her.

Amber stimulates my creativity. Sitting in the writers' group circle with her, I pick up the vibe of her electric personality. The words she writes and reads to us portrait a breathing entity, and no neutral colors exist in her palette. Enthusiasm infects me when I've been with her, and I find the words pouring out of my writing self as if she gave me her muse by osmosis.

Our son Eric, despite--or as he believes, because of--his Christian upbringing, draws my husband and me into conversations that prove nothing except his cynical, skeptical views of the Bible, Christians, and all things related. Especially in the past year, he's challenged us to consider anew why we believe what we believe. Eric reminds us that Christians shouldn't belittle the honest questions of nonbelievers and that the way we Christians come across--often as unthinking ignorant clods and hypocritical bigots--is much clearer to questioners like him than to those of us who act as if we have all the answers from here to eternity.

Many friends have affected me in the past year. But I can't name them all here and now. For knowing the trio I descibed, I'm a better me.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Five-Minute Flashback on 2010

Prompt: 5 minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

  • Christmas Vacation movie with all four of us watching together
  • My mom and dad healthy and recovered, respectively, from a stroke and pancreatic cancer
  • Having Steve back working here and selling the Nashville condo--finally!
  • Visits to the Hunter Museum of American Art and walking Bluffview and Walnut Street Bridge--with Steve and all by myself
  • Eric's roles acting in a drama, tap-dancing in The Drowsy Chaperone, recapping his Tiny Tim/Fritz roles in Nutcracker Christmas Carol, and getting his first screen credit for a feature film
  • Emily's transitions, which she's handled amazingly
  • God's provisions and answers for more than I could list
  • The laugh over my mom saying, when Huison and I told her not to lose any more weight or she might die, "At least I'll die skinny"
  • Many happy breakfasts at the Bluegrass Grill
  • Touring Graceland with the KT Key Club District
  • Playing Reindeer Games in goofy antler helmets at MainX24

Ah, too many great memories--five minutes isn't nearly enough. After the timer went off, I experienced a forehead-smacking moment when I realized I hadn't even mentioned the major Disney trip with kids and grandkids.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 14--2, 4, 6, 8, Who Do I Appreciate?

Prompt: Appreciate. What's the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

In the past year, I have come to appreciate most the people in my life and the impact they have had on my growth as a person. Here's the simplistic version of the ones I appreciate and why:

From my parents, I've learned to seek ways to reach out to others.
From my husband, I've learned to look for the positive, especially in other people.
From my children, I've learned open-mindedness.
From my fellow writers, I've learned to relish creating and the creativity of others.
From my Sunday school class, I've learned to enjoy fellowship in a group of diverse personalities.
From my church choir, I've learned to pray for and inquire about my fellow church members, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
From the people who serve me at the bank, the grocery, the drugstore, the post office, the mechanic's, and all the other places I receive help, I've learned that helping others can be a courteous, joyful privilege.

I thank God for all of these folks, but I need to express it more. May I take this Christmas season--and other occasions as well--to thank each one for what they mean in my day and my life.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 13--Making Ideas Happen

Prompt: Action. When it comes to aspirations, its not about ideas. It's about making ideas happen. What's your next step?

My writing goals for the year have gathered some dust. Before December 31, I have a chapbook manuscript and Chicken Soup for the Soul story to submit. I will begin revising this week, even if it's only a few minutes a day!

What will you do next to make your ideas happen?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 12--When Did I Feel the Most Integrated with My Body?

Prompt: Body integration. This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn't mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present?

When I--briefly--returned to walking. When I wrote. When I laughed and shared long talks with family or friends. When I became absorbed in work that accomplished something visible and/or lasting. When I read a well-written, meaningful book. When I prayed, from my heart, any time of day--not only during a "quiet time/devotional." When the Word spoke directly to me, piercing me arrow-sharp with its truth of conviction or comfort.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What Are 11 Things My Life Doesn't Need in 2011?

Prompt: 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn't need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life?

1. Stuff and clutter--I learned this lesson from FlyLady about seven or eight years ago, but I need to get back in the habit of spending 10-15 minutes a day decluttering. If I don't use it, if I have duplicates, if it brings me down, if it doesn't make me smile--these are my main guidelines, again, thanks to FlyLady. I especially need this mantra after moving things back this week, smack in the middle of the holiday season, from my husband's place after his two and a half years of working out of town. The less stuff I have to take care of, the better I feel. Nothing like a trip to Goodwill or McKay to make me feel lighter in every way.

2. Regrets--Why didn't I start writing sooner? Why didn't I parent better in certain areas? Why didn't I save more and spend less? I need to make a clean break. Every day is a do-over.

3. Stress--I need to walk, to take care of the things I can, and to leave the rest to God. Most of the things I worry about never become a real threat. And it could almost always be worse.

4. Activities that are meaningless, to me anyway--at least in comparison to the ones I love most. When will I catch on to the fact that I can't do everything, give everything, and be everything? Why not follow my calling, my gifts, my passions, instead of thinking I need to seize every opportunity that drifts into sight? The world will be better off for me doing a few things I love well, rather than spreading myself into mediocrity.

5. Other people's guilt trips--see #4. They don't usually know what the Lord is leading ME to do. They don't do everything. And if they try to, why should I? I answer to Him, my family, and whatever my other current commitments may be.

6. Other people's drama--Sure, I can listen, offer advice, but no need to be swept into anger or self-pity while empathizing. In fact, I may need to be more honest with them, in a gentle way, of course.

7. Time-wasters--Too much time on Facebook, too much TV, too much time taking care of possessions that aren't even important enough to keep. See #1.

8. Items on the Bucket List that don't matter--I'll concentrate, instead, on a few that I've kept putting off, saying there isn't time or money. Life is short. I should make the time or money available if what I want to do is important enough.

9. Anything that keeps me from reading my Bible and praying each day--Doing this creates such a life-transforming difference in my attitude and actions each day. Often I let tasks take precedence before I start my day with this all-important communication with the Lord.

10. Anything that cuts into or distracts from precious time with family and friends--As Jim Croce sang in "Time in a Bottle," "There never seems to be enough time to do the things we wanna do, once we find them." The temptation to put a phone or computer between me and loved ones is great, but couldn't that wait while we eat, talk, watch a movie, or play a game together? If I need to maximize time, wouldn't it be better to do something mindless, like folding laundry, while we visit?

11. Whatever I need to leave in the past, meaning to accept change and transition as a fact and not necessarily an evil--In other words, if something special gets broken or a family member dies, I need to look for what's good and new afterwards. Often I find broken or lost items needed to be purged. And those who pass from us into the presence of the Lord are happy. We are grieving for their presence, not for them. We need to take comfort in our special memories and to form new memories and traditions, as well as stronger relationships with the loved ones we still have with us. We can learn the preciousness of life and love even as we still feel the pain of loss.

Looks like 2011 will be a great year in which to let go.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reverb10 Day 10--Best Decision of 2010?

Sorry, I fell behind due to moving and prepping food for the Sunday school class party. I'll try to do better!

Prompt for Day 10: Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

Nothing stands out, except perhaps my choice to volunteer as moderator for a new writing group for our local writers guild. I've enjoyed learning more about what memoir is, how to approach it, and what makes the people in our group tick.

One of my favorite meetings took place at a local coffee house, which was memorable in itself, but the incident that stood out was the visitor's story. A group member had brought her elderly mother, who decided prior to attending to write down her recent adventure. She shared with us how at a local patriotic celebration she had taken her first motorcycle ride. Her way of telling about it brought smiles all around.

As much as I love writing, I've learned that I love my fellow writers even more. So, yes, deciding to lead the memoir group was probably my best choice of 2010.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


On a whim, I just signed up to blog through the month of December, reflecting on 2010 and anticipating 2011.

Today's prompt:

December 7 – Community Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

One of my newest communities, one that's become dear to me, is the world of writers, especially Christian writers, both online and locally. The Writer's Digest Poetic Asides blog has become one of my favorite "meeting places" with other poets, and Facebook has brought so many writer friends into my life. For a year now, I've co-moderated a memoir group, while still attending a nonfiction group and a group for Christian market writers. We share ourselves through our writing and thus become intimately acquainted with one another's hopes, dreams, disappointments, backgrounds, and families.

Another community I discovered through a class where I represented our local writers guild is supporters of the arts, including artists and afficionados of art, like me. The creativity flows through the room like electricity in the air when I'm gathered with one or more of these kindred spirits.

After the serious medical crises of both my parents in 2009, and with our daughter moving away to work after college, community with family became even more precious this year. Our daughter came home for jury duty the other night, and we made a point of gathering the four of us, drawing our son from the cave of his room, to watch the zany holiday movie, Christmas Vacation.

More than ever, my church choir is another family to me. The caring we have for one another, as we share prayer requests, sing and perform musicals together, and when needed, take meals to members who are ill or recuperating from surgery, brings a warmth to my life I'd greatly miss if it weren't there. Our common bond in Jesus Christ brings sweet unity to a diverse group.

In 2011, I'd love to cultivate friends from the past. I have a mental list of people I'd like to take walks with or meet for coffee. I look at Elizabeth Edwards and the 21-year-old neighbor who recently died, and I remember with startling reality we don't know how long we have. It just hit me as I typed this: I want to connect, reconnect, and simplify in 2011.

Monday, December 06, 2010

FEELING SUICIDAL? Linda Evans' Message, Relevant for Those with Serious Blues

Linda Evans has provided this material to bloggers free of charge. I hope and pray it will reach and help many--or even just one person.

Dear Friend,

I'm so sorry you’re going through a hard time. Good news, though—there
really is hope. Time will change your current situation. You’ll soon find that
these dark feelings are temporary. Peace and joy are available to you.
I'm not promising that you’ll never have losses, but the pain will pass as you
keep praying and seeking God. Keep your head high in this storm until the
sun shines again. Soon this dark period of your life will be behind you.

There is hope. Jeremiah 29:11-13 says,
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give
you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come
and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me
and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”


1. Go to other believers for encouragement.
Find a church home. Join a small Bible study in a home or church
setting. Surround yourself with others your age who seek God and
study His Word.

2. Listen to inspirational music.
You can find Christian music in your favorite style. Try your local
Christian radio station or one online.

3. Take time to read the Bible.
If you don't have a Bible, there are versions available on the Web
that you can download. Or ask your church for assistance.

4. Read the book, Purpose Driven Life.
This is a great Bible study and will give you a sense of direction
and purpose for your life so you feel plugged in.

5. Get help.
Call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room if you fear you are no
longer able to prevent taking your life. Allow someone outside
your situation to intervene. Also, consider going for counseling.
Seek out a pastor or other professional who will listen, care, and
help you with your struggles.

You are in our prayers during this difficult season in your life.

Linda Evans Shepherd

Suicide Helpline: 1-800-SUICIDE

Sometimes good things happen suddenly. It was New Year's Eve 2003 when I
considered all the people contemplating ending their life that very night. As a
person who has also experienced a dark night of the soul, I understood how a
crisis, circumstance or depression could create a state of hopelessness. It’s only
by the grace of God that I survived my dark night to live a life of joy.

Sometimes all it takes to survive a dark time is a little hope and encouragement
as well as a fresh perspective of God's love. That's when I decided to hook up
my interactive website,, with the suicidal lanes of the Internet.

That night 20 people came to Christ. By
Monday morning 100 people had escaped
suicide and found faith. Two weeks later, we
were at 12,000 hits and 2000 souls coming to

I soon added other features to the site. With
each improvement, we experienced greater
statistics. More than that, we received
personal reports to show the site served a
purpose. A depressed pastor wrote, "Thank
you. This was the worst ministry day of my life.
Your site helped me feel better."

A dad of a disabled child wrote, "You saved
two lives tonight. You see, I was going to kill
both myself and my child, but your story has
encouraged me. The two of us will live."

Since then, we have seen thousands of suicides prevented and over half a
million people have come to faith. Millions have found the encouragement they
need. We’ve recently redesigned the site and hope this will attract even more
people to the site and encourage them to draw close to God.

As the president of a tiny nonprofit, Right to the Heart, we are delighted to help
and encourage so many. Please visit the site, link to it from your online
presence, and spread the word.

Linda Evans Shepherd

U.S. Suicide Statistics

• 1.3% of all deaths are from
• On average, one suicide
occurs every 16 minutes.
• Suicide is the second leading
cause of death for 25-34
year olds, as well as
college students.
• More people die from suicide
than from homicide.
• There were over 800,000
suicide attempts in 2005.

Suicide Helpline: 1-800-SUICIDE

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

RED INK by Kathy Macias

The widespread persecution of Christians in our time troubles me. This book makes it real and personal.

A young Chinese woman, Zhen-Li—raised to observe the party line, including its one-child-per-family doctrine—falls in love with and marries a Christian, and adopts his faith. Though the couple downplays their Christianity in an effort to survive, Zhen-Li’s family is appalled, and she and her husband are ostracized. When she becomes pregnant for the second time and refuses to have an abortion, the persecution begins in earnest. Zhen-Li’s parents, under pressure from the government, pay to have Zhen-Li kidnapped and the baby aborted.

It is then Zhen-Li decides she must live up to her name—"Truth"—and take a firm stand for her faith, regardless of the consequences, and so she begins to regularly teach children about Zhu Yesu ("Lord Jesus") and to distribute Christian literature every chance she gets.

Based loosely on the life of Christian magazine editor Li Ying, currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in China, the story of Yang Zhen-Li tells the desperate tale of her incarceration and separation from her family, as she continues to minister to other prisoners, and even to her guards.

About the Author

Kathi is a multi-award winning writer who has authored nearly 30 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. Kathi is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences, and recently won the prestigious 2008 member of the year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) at the annual Golden Scrolls award banquet. Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding their Harley.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What Makes a Hero? Review of Hero's Tribute*

The book cover asks, “What makes a man a legend?” In this novel,the author proceeds to break down the legend of the late Michael Gavin and show his humanity. Told through the eyes of multiple characters, including the reporter who receives the strange assignment of giving Gavin’s eulogy, the story makes a sluggish start. Immediately in the opening, the reader learns of the death of the title’s hero, and may feel anticlimactic and bogged down in the details of various individual and group reactions to Gavin’s passing. However, the plot picks up momentum as Michael Gavin’s life unfolds through the research of Wes Watkins, one of the small town’s sports reporters.

Following the list he’s given, Wes takes off in search of both his news story and the assigned eulogy, determined to find out why he’s the chosen speaker for Gavin’s funeral. He uncovers secrets from Gavin’s past and begins to learn some truths about his own life. With a few surprising twists, Hero’s Tribute satisfied my hunger for a good story.

Only the most skillful authors pull off the multiple-viewpoint plot well. William Faulkner and Jodi Picoult come to mind. Garrison does it better in some places than others, especially when he’s giving the back story of the various people whose lives were most deeply affected by Gavin. The mystery he injected into Michael and Watkins as his chosen eulogist kept my interest, and by the close of the book, I was not disappointed.

The genre could be considered inspirational fiction, but the book does not so much focus on Christian themes as incorporate principles generally upheld in our culture. The actions, words, and thoughts of the characters portray values, rather than preaching them. An impatient reader may not endure, but for the one who does, Hero’s Tribute is worth the persistent read.

*The reviewer received a free review copy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guest Post by Author Lorilyn Roberts: Monster Inside My Daughter

Animal Planet found this story so gripping, they’ve included it on their show, Monsters Inside Me.
Animal Planet’s “Monsters Inside Me” airs on Wednesday, August 25, 10-11pm EST, or check the archives at . Help us get the word out about this important issue.

“I feel a pulse,” one of the medics said.

The paramedics worked feverishly on Manisha to make sure she was still alive. My beautiful seven-year-old daughter from Nepal lay on the floor unconscious at the O’Connell Center of the University of Florida.

“Has she ever had a seizure?” another one asked.

“No, no,” I said in bewilderment. Manisha rolled over and vomited.

One emotion consumed me: Fear. The enormity of single parenting hit me like lightening.

I cried out, “Where are you, God? I feel so alone.”

After hooking up stabilizing IVs, Manisha was whisked off in an ambulance to Shands Teaching Hospital. I found a pay phone and called my mother. Her first comment was, “Do you know what day this is?”

I remembered—September 19. Four years to the day and almost to the hour, my father had died of a brain tumor. It was about 5:00 p.m. My shattered world continued to close in on me. A short time later my worst fears were confirmed.

“There is something on the CAT scan. We have a called a neurologist,” I heard the nurse say.

“No, no, no,” every cell in my body cried out. “God, you can’t let this happen. Not again!”

But God was silent. The next nine days of hospitalization were filled with tests—MRI, gallium scan, spinal tap, TB test, HIV test, numerous blood draws, and too many questions and not enough answers by doctors doing their daily rounds with medical students in tow. Manisha had what in medical parlance is called a “zebra.”

As the days passed in the hospital, I asked God for two things that humanly speaking seemed impossible. I prayed first that the doctors would not have to do surgery. I couldn’t bear the thought of seeing Manisha’s beautiful thick, curly black hair shaved off. The ugly scars of surgery still lingered in my mind from my dad’s brain surgery. And I prayed that whatever was in Manisha’s head would not be cancerous. I had asked God to heal my father of a brain tumor and he died. Could I trust God for Manisha’s healing?

It was critical that the doctor’s make the correct diagnosis. The wrong treatment could kill her. Did she have a malignant brain tumor or a worm inside her head? Manisha had been adopted by me from Nepal at the age of three—old enough to be exposed to the extreme poverty of Nepal and lack of clean drinking water. 57.1 percent of the water in Nepal is considered unsatisfactory for human consumption, contaminated with feces.

Manisha’s condition turned out to be caused by a tapeworm infection of the brain—the most common parasitic infection of the nervous system. The larvae can travel anywhere in the body—the muscles, brain, eye, and other structures. The condition, known as neurocysticercosis, is still relatively rare in this country, but is appearing more on the radar as part of the differential diagnosis for seizures.

Thankfully, twelve years later, Manisha is a healthy, well-adjusted 19-year-old finishing her A.A. degree at Santa Fe College—six months ahead of schedule.

Why did God allow this nightmare to happen? I don’t know why God allows the hard things in our lives, but I do know God never wastes anything. I hope writing about neurocysticercosis today will bring awareness to this very preventable disease. International adoptive parents and travelers to the developing world should seek appropriate medical care upon returning to the U.S. if they have been exposed to poor sanitary conditions or contaminated water.

In spite of the trials of single parenting, the years following that dreadful day of September 19, 1994, have been filled with life and joy. Manisha soon will be leaving home to make her own way in the world, and I reflect on her middle name Hope—with God, there is always hope, and for that I am thankful.

The book, Children of Dreams tells the complete story, available at, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookstores. For more on Manisha’s story, be sure to watch Animal Planet’s “Monsters Inside Me” on August 25, 10-11pm EST, or check the archives at .

Lorilyn Roberts graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Alabama and is currently working on her Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Perelandra College. As a Certified Court Reporter, Lorilyn has made contributions to the National Court Reporters Association Journal. She provides real-time broadcast captioning for television. Lorilyn’s first book, The Donkey and the King, is a beautifully illustrated children's book. She also co-leads Word Weavers in Gainesville, FL. When not writing, taking graduate classes, or closed captioning for television/web, Lorilyn homeschools her younger daughter, Joy.

Enter a drawing for a free copy of Children of Dreams on Lorilyn’s website and blog. The drawing will be on September 1, 2010. Go to the website for details.

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Permission was granted to use this material as free content on this site,as long as used in its entirety, including the bio and links at the end.

Friday, June 25, 2010

(Read & Eventually Win) STUFF CHRISTIANS LIKE--An Irreverent Tongue-In Cheek Serious Look at Faith, Church, & Being Christian...

... in a World Where Joel Osteen Barely Coexists with Ernest Angley and Mega Churches with Country One-rooms

I knew I had a winner to review when:

1) I read the two paragraphs of the intro to friends and already Jonathan had us giggling and recognizing--unfortunately--our American Christian culture:

If you buy this book, God will make you rich.
I was going to say, "If you read this book," but I'm pretty sure people who get it at the library
won't receive the same amount of awesomeness as people who buy it.

2) Some of our other friends sat around and read aloud the titles from Stuff Christians Like, while we all guffawed.

3) Our household religious critic and self-proclaimed skeptic, a 25-year-old male, pilfered the book from the kitchen and I had to insist he return it long enough for me to get this post out.

With essay titles like "Sending More Hate Mail Than Satanists" and "Waiting Until a Co-worker Is Away from His Desk to Drop off Some Christian Propaganda," I've smiled my way through the book. But the messages are clear, as Acuff pokes subtle fun at himself and the rest of the Churched. Agnostics and Atheists will laugh along, as all the things they ever suspected us believers of thinking, saying, or doing are revealed in these pages.

If you don't want to be convicted about hypocrisy, impatience, lack of discipline, laziness, judgmental attitudes, misplaced zeal, Christian infighting, and other common sins of regular Christians, don't read this book. Wrapped in Jonathan's blunt humor, the convicting parts sneak up on you.

You can eventually win this book--hey, my son and I have to fight over it first--about which I will post details later.