I Have A New Favorite!

It’s been ages since I’ve written here on my blog. It’s hard to call yourself a blogger when you don’t blog! There are all kinds of reasons for my absence. One of them being that I’d written myself dry!

This spring I worked feverishly to finish my novel and get it cleaned up to submit to publishers. (Still haven’t heard back from any of them but you can read the first five chapters of my novel here.) After hitting send on the last submission I couldn’t bring myself to move my rusty fingers over the keys. I had poured it all out. And even more significantly I was terrified it was all terrible!

But words run in my veins as surely as blood does so I filled the gap with reading words instead of writing them. In the last couple of years I’ve purposed to read a variety of genres to stretch my mind. Mostly I look for quality.

This spring my father in law suggested I read the Harry Potter series. I was hesitant. Having avoided them when they originally burst on the scene, with all their spectacular controversy and accolades, I wasn’t sure I wanted to dive in now. I’ve never watched the movies, and had only the barest familiarity with the characters.

I’m far more impervious to criticism or censure than in the past, so I dove into the first book with curiosity and an open mind. I was enthralled immediately by Rowling’s storytelling ability. By the first chapter I was hooked!

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I’ve read all seven books in a couple of months, which is saying something because I can be a very slow reader and some of the books are quite thick. By the time I tenderly closed the cover of the last book, setting it silently aside with a swirling mind, the series had secured itself in my heart as an all time favorite. I now completely understand the Harry Potter mania, and am sorry I missed it as it was happening! I’m also thankful the story has captured so many hearts. Children should be reading stories of characters that exhibit loyalty, bravery, love, and forgiveness. There are many authors I admire, and aspire to emulate, none more than Joanne Rowling!

Have you read the Harry Potter books? If so, what was your favorite character or theme? I loved the theme of sacrificial and redeeming love.

Dry Bones – Where does life come from?

IMG_3182We are dry bones. Our souls can not be made fat and healthy by our tendency to suck the life out of every relationship, out of nature, out of every beautiful thing, for self satisfying pleasure. No. It turns us into dry bones.

The apple in Eden’s garden was taken in hand to serve self, to satisfy where perfect obedience was imagined not to. Adam and Eve were as unwilling to sacrifice their own rise to supremacy, in exchange for worshipful obedience, exactly as every one of their children has been.

“Self, self, self” – the ultimate in human idolatry has plagued each footstep out of the garden. Across the nation the clatter of dry bones betrays our love of self.

The mother who loves her own comfort, her own need to feed a broken heart, over the well-being of her babies – cries “self!” She is betrayed in the haunted look and acting out of her children though. I’ve seen the hate in the eyes of a first grader, the hate of betrayal, the hate of not being loved. And in turn he begins the frenzied feeding on others to protect his scrawny little self.

From top to bottom in this world the antidote to self is sacrificial love for others. Sacrifice that puts their best above our own. So simple. So profoundly difficult.

Anyone who appreciates the God Man Jesus for any other reason than that he came to put the flesh back on our bones, by covering each treacherously selfish act with his own sacrificial one, has no clue about the most basic need of the human heart.

We were each one made for glorious acts of sacrificial love to our fellow-man, and brave loyal worship to our Creator God. Anything else strips the life out of our hearts, and the heart of all creation.

And we hate it. Sacrifice that is. Even in the church we hate it. For years I’ve written with my eye turned to fame and fortune. In the name of Jesus, of course. Nothing is uglier than self-love masquerading as true religion. It happens every day. And every day it sucks the life out of our own hearts and the hearts of others.

One day I asked God the question that is the antidote. I asked him, “what do you love.” And I really wanted to know. He showed me to love the weak is what he loves most of all. I was reborn in that moment, but it’s been a slow rebirth, if that makes sense.

Self must lay down on the altar of worshipful sacrifice, to be swallowed up in a humble allegiance to the authority of Jesus, or we can never be reborn. Any other act and we’ve just renamed a love of self something prettier. It’s not easy though. All the beauty I had learned evaporated when my self (in the name of ministry) was threatened and called into question. But I’m getting over it.

It seems obvious. Hands that bandage wounds, hearts that cover shame in compassion, backs that bear the brunt of another’s weakness glow with strength. But unless these things are done to the glory of Jesus they are done to our own glory or at least the glory of mankind.

The voice I trust least is a loud religious boom scaring others into right behavior. Self hides behind the rules more tenaciously than anywhere on earth, except perhaps our own rights and the whiny voice of indulgence. But self withers and dies in the face of true love that slips off our filthy robes of self-loyalty and replaces it with self-sacrificial love.

I won’t obey anyone I don’t love.

Anyone read Harry Potter lately? I admit I have a bit of an obsession. The image of flesh sucking selfishness came from the image of the dementors in The Prisoner of Azkaban. They sucked the life out of their prisoners, feeding on their joy and happiness, and leaving them with shame and every painful memory from their life. Sounds like hell to me. I’m certainly not going to turn Harry Potter into a Christian allegory but the truth is there – hate kills, love heals. And the source of all hate is a love of self.

Do you take from relationships, feeling nothing is ever fair? Do you blame others for your misery or misfortune? Are you easily offended? Do you shame brothers and sisters in Christ, exerting your superiority over them? I’ve seen enough self-love in the church to choke a horse.

Our motivation for teaching the truth, for holding out God’s superior worth, for leading the way in holiness can only be for the purpose of restoration and healing, for forgiveness and the good of others. Anything else is destructive. Self is a slippery beast. It’s so easy to cloak it in religious or pious language. The heart ferrets out the truth. When the dementors came near in Harry Potter a chill was cast across the heart. Shame and defeat. Our hearts should grieve our own treason to God, but in the same breath we should be swept away by the depth of his powerful love that sets us up on strong legs of hope. There is no room for the curse of shame in the heart that has been healed by Jesus’ act of love.

We weren’t born for shame, we were born to serve. Let the truth that you have been created to fulfill God’s purposes put flesh back on your bones. You aren’t meant to love yourself. You are meant to love God and the ones he loves. His authority tells us what that looks like. We don’t get to make it up, we get to obey. God doesn’t ask us to obey because he wants to lord his power over us. He asks us to obey because every act of sin, every rebellion to his truth, is selfish, it sucks life from our own hearts, our families, and our communities. God’s call to obedience is a call to love.

What does that look like in our dried out, rattling culture? It means instead of prudish modesty we have the privilege of promoting the value of women. We hold up sex as beautiful and life-giving – in God’s context of marriage. It means that instead of snickering at a person’s foolishness that has ensnared them in a mess, we gently pray for opportunities to bring truth and life, to bend down and help them clean a mess we didn’t make, but could have. It means that we gently correct our children, reminding them that the best person they can become is a kind one in Jesus name. It means we don’t give up hope for the addicted, malicious, wounded, cruel, hopeless people around us. It means that we don’t scoff and do battle with those who mock the truth that a man is a man and a woman is a woman, we show them the joy of being what God has made us to be. It means we also recognize there are some things about the complexity of being human we can’t understand. Sometimes we just have to sit with people in the pain of their human experience. It means we recognize one of the most generous things we can do is hold firmly to the faith Jesus has given us, and live in the overflow of obedient servant-hood for the good of our churches and cities.

It means being faithful to our spouses, kind to our children, honest with our bosses, all when it costs us and isn’t easy.

What it doesn’t look like is a loud argument. Or demanding our rights. Because people who loudly argue the truth and ‘defend’ a God, who needs absolutely no defense from his creation, are actually very selfish. People who yell the truth at the top of their lungs and snub everyone who doesn’t agree are announcing that it’s more important to them to be right and win the argument than bearing the fruit of God’s gentle, loving, patient, self-controlled, peaceful Spirit. And that’s a temptation no matter what side you’re standing on, or what relationship we’re talking about.

Sometimes I find myself staring truth right in the face, maybe for years, and suddenly pop! it jumps out in three dimension like a magic eye picture. Nothing’s changed, but I see it from a different perspective. No doubt as followers of Jesus we know about selfishness and love. It bears repeating though, because it is hard. I hope in the context of this generation the reality that death stems from every selfish inclination, and life comes from laying down our rights in worship of Jesus and love of others, smacks you and me between the eyes!

Time’s Tide – A Remembrance

One year ago this week our whole family gathered at the beach. We knew, barring a miracle, it would be the last family vacation with mom. And it was. She died in September, just five months later. It was a sweet time, and painful. Looking back is still hard. I wrote these words not long after coming home:

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I knew she was dying when I saw her. The wasted frame and old person shuffle weren’t actually what gave it away. It was her eyes. They told me. I wanted to get back in the car and drive away, to run.

I felt guilty that maybe, just like I’d seen death in her eyes, she had seen the desire to run away in mine. So I stayed. I couldn’t do that to her. My kids didn’t seem to notice. How is that possible? She looked like a different person than their Nana. Even the sick Nana we’d seen at Christmas, who’d used a wheelchair on occasion, looked better than this person.

This Spring Break Nana was a shell of who she’d been. She should have been in her grandparent prime. Maybe my son noticed. Of all the grandchildren he’s known her longest. He also loves her best. Sometimes, I think even better than me.

His 11 year old heart pumps with excitement over their shared fascination with sci-fi movies like Godzilla. When he recalls how she used to hunt for wolf spiders in the dark with a headlamp, their creepy bright eyes dotting the hill, a twinkle glints in his blue eyes! He appreciates her flare for a good joke and her silly streak. Maybe he saw the change, but loved her enough not to notice.

My two siblings and I had congregated at the sea side with our broods of one girl and one boy each. It was our designated rendezvous, per mom’s request months ago. After the radiation and chemo, we had hoped she would be better. I, at least, had envisioned her in a floppy brimmed hat down where the water laps toes. I pictured her digging in the sand with her grandchildren, oohing and ahhing over the wonder of nature. Instead, it became holy ground, where we came to learn how to let go of life, where we began to let her die.

That whole week life and death interposed. The littlest grand-girl oozed life, as ripe as a fresh berry ready to be picked. With her dimpled hands and round cheeks she babbled at her Nana’s knee, drooling baby love and kisses. Her touch drew fading brown eyes back from a distance into the right now. The haunted look would smooth over for a moment, replaced by a smile of appreciation. As the life of her family pulsed before her I like to think it infused her with hope.

Dinner time was a chaotic, boisterous affair. Each sibling took a turn preparing the meal. My capable sister laid out a spread of tacos. Being the week after Easter I brought a ham. My brother’s gentle wife made spaghetti. On the last night dad, with the help of the capable sister, made a family favorite – low country boil.

Each night the kitchen was a happy riot of parents catering to the needs of half a dozen children. Once the little ones were settled we began our own dinner ritual. Sitting at a long table together the conversation flowed freely. We caught up on each other’s lives and new jobs, laughed ridiculously at half told inside jokes and memories. With our laughter we kept the darkness at bay.

In the past family gatherings could grow unfortunately tense. But as this week wore on, our nerves didn’t. Perhaps we had finally learned that life is unkind enough without us needing to add our own harshness in the mix.

That first afternoon I had stood on the beach with my dad, watching the tide push and pull.

“Mom looks really bad,” I quietly confided to him. I was testing the water. Surely he had something to say. Turns out he did.

“Well, she’s been in the hospital for two days because of dehydration and a fever.”

“I know, but she looks way worse than at Christmas time.” I pushed a little more.

“The oncologist she saw recently was really grave. He said it’s serious.” As if cancer isn’t. But I knew what he meant. He meant it’s gotten worse. He meant the doctors she traveled miles to see in Pennsylvania weren’t containing it anymore. “He showed us the scan of her liver from two years ago and one from that week. It’s enlarged significantly and the cancer is worse. Not better.”

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Suddenly I felt betrayed. I’d been lying to myself all along. When I’d heard the good reports from her visits north I’d believed them. I’d heard hope where I wanted to. I hadn’t listened to the truth in her voice. Worse, I’d stayed away so I didn’t have to see the truth for myself. But I was seeing it now. My eyes were telling me that she was dying.

“Mom plugged her ears while the doctor was talking, he was so grave.” Dad choked a little. “He said if she didn’t do something drastic, start a clinical trial or a new drug or something, she wouldn’t last more than a few months.”

My heart went out with the tide. I’m still waiting for it to come back.

I touched his shoulder. “Dad, I’m sorry.” He asked me not to tell the others just yet and wandered away to take a picture of a shell or grandchild or something. His sturdy frame bent under the burden. A few deep breaths. My head cleared and I saw an 11-year-old boy, two six-ear-old girls, two three-year-old boys, and a toddler girl celebrating nature’s playground with a wild romp! Love and happiness poured into the tide pool that had been left behind when my heart was sucked out to sea. It didn’t make sense. How do life and death go together? How can children tip back the cup of life, delight running down their chins ’til they are giddy with living, while the very source of their lives is drained dry and empty? In my mouth I tasted the bitter and the sweet. It left me weary.

Off and on during the week I would come in from having watched a couple of pre-school boys and my big boy boogie board, mouths smiling wide, swallowing a gallon of sea water and hollering at the top of their lungs. And then I would catch sight of mom. Her unsteady gate and tired shoulders were a slap in the face. She’d turn to see who had come in, smile at me and ease her way back to what she was doing. In those moments pin pricks of tears burned my eyes, and I had to fight back the growing hysteria. Death felt like panic. As inevitable as childbirth, there was no turning back. Time had suddenly become more than a wearisome acquaintance, he was now a loathsome enemy.

Thursday afternoon I slipped quietly into mom’s room. We were working on a scrapbook of our vacation. It seemed odd to work on our memories while we were still making them, but I think we both felt the urgency to keep them from slipping away. The television in the corner was on softly. The show set to an old Andy Griffith rerun. We looked at each other and smiled. The world was always right when Andy was on. Nothing bad happened in Mayberry, not really.

At the end of the week, when we were water logged and ready to go home, mom came and sat in my room as I packed up sea shells and our stuff that had been flung all over the place. I curled my hair and put on my necklace.

“You look beautiful,” she said. The words were almost whispered. Like a prayer, or a hope. My heart squeezed hard. She had always said that. She had always been proud of her children. If I was beautiful, then she was too. I knew I needed to keep living for her. I would be beautiful for her and then when people saw me they would see her too, even if they didn’t know it.

I sat down beside her and she put her wasted hand on my leg. Oh, that hand. I loved that hand, had held it for years, knew it. But now it seemed strange, sickness had robbed its strength and beauty. There was really nothing to say. We were just taking a moment to be close. She had always liked to touch her family, to pull us close. Now it seemed to hurt. But she did it anyway, a little, and then pulled back. Later we drove away in our car so coated in salt spray you could hardly see out the windows. My melancholy imagination believed it was coated in grief, or tears. I couldn’t wait to get home and wash them off.

Those important days at the beach taught me two things; I am a coward and my mother is brave. I didn’t realize it at the time, but later, when I thought back, I understood that it had taken a great deal of courage for her to be away from her home, in pain, to watch people so fully alive. Of course most mothers I know are brave at some time or another.

Even I have been brave before. But I wasn’t this time. I don’t mind being a coward. How else do we face the death of someone we have loved and resented and needed and wanted? Is there a road map? I think we just do it the best we can with what we have to work with. I think it’s okay to be a coward. It’s hard to be brave if you haven’t first been afraid.

On the five hour drive home I cried silently. My husband saw me wipe the tears. He sat beside me in the quiet ache. I didn’t talk for hours. It is a rare occasion that that happens. In the evening, when the luggage was unpacked and sandy babies washed and put to bed, he laid down beside me and said, “tell me about the leaky eyes.”

“I don’t want to,” I said. And went to sleep.

In the morning he stroked my face. “It will be okay.”

I looked at him for a moment, evaluating, debating what okay really meant. Questioning if I could agree. “But that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt,” I replied.

“No,” he agreed, “it doesn’t mean it won’t hurt.”

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And it has. It still does.

Senka has a message, we can help her live it.

Senka July2013Serbia has come along way when it comes to the rights and support of people with disability, but it still has a long way to go. Several years ago I traveled twice to Serbia to see the conditions of people living with disabilities in Dom Veternik mental institution. An institution is no place for a person to live. Many of Eastern Europe’s institutionalized people were born with normal mental capacity, but were challenged with physical disabilities. They found themselves institutionalized anyway.

And then there’s Senka! On my second visit I was surprised to see a small woman with cerebral palsy at an event. I may even have scared her I was so eager to meet her! She is unique. Senka stood out in a society that has a limited population living with disabilities in public.

And what a joy! She had recently become a Christian and was eager to share the truth of Jesus with others. Her smile lit up the room, and there wasn’t a trace of self-pity in her conversation. She is an overcomer.Senka 2

But it’s not easy living with disabilities in Serbia. The government provides little assistance to people who need it. And while new buildings and transportation may be built to code for access, most buildings are still inaccessible. I watched Senka try to navigate life during my few days in Novi Sad, it was a slow, tedious process. She is determined, but it’s obvious she needs assistance.

I’m passionate about assisting Senka because I can’t decry the institutionalization of people like her, without supporting someone who has beaten the odds, who sets the example to her community every day!

I have set up a GoFund Me campaign to help Senka pay a personal assistant. She needs about $165 a month to pay someone to help her navigate her daily activities such as school, shopping, and social outings. Because assistance is limited for people like Senka she relies on the help of friends and her own creativity.

You can read more about Senka at her GoFund Me page. We love to talk about equality and helping others, and this is a great opportunity to do it! Senka is an example to her community that people with disability can and should be a part of society. Her message of joy and determination in the face of challenges is just what her community needs! I hope you’ll join me in helping Senka overcome her society’s obstacles! Any little bit helps!

Donald Trump Is Offensive And So Am I

Donald Trump is offensive. Seriously. He bad-mouths women, he brags and boasts, he’s rude, he has not been faithful to the women he has married, he makes money off of strip clubs, please don’t get me started on his ‘policies’. He claims Christianity but he doesn’t seem to understand what that means.

He offends me. And I’m offended that other Christians aren’t offended by him!

Donald Trump is offensive.

And. So. Am. I.

Is he a bad man because he’s had affairs and owns strip clubs? Is he a bad man because he calls people names? Is someone a good man because he doesn’t do those things?

It is so easy for someone like me, someone who likes to play by the rules, and make sure everyone else does, someone who identifies with the older brother in the story of the prodigal son, to say yes, yes it does! We humans love boxes and labels, and to slap them on everyone else.

But that’s missing the whole point of grace.

It is not wrong to curse or drink or go to strip clubs or cheat on tests or call people names or yell at your kids, or overeat, or whine or any such things because a rule has been broken. Rather, engaging in or abstaining from those actions reveal a heart tuned into love, or to self.

Plain and simple.

True followers of Jesus don’t obey the ‘rules’ to gain love or acceptance, but rather to express it! Jesus came down hard on religious pharisees because he knew every generation would have them; people who set themselves up as the gatekeepers of faith. People who check everyone else’s report card! (Matthew 15)

I’m not saying we don’t need leaders, spiritual or otherwise, we do. And I’m not saying that God’s word isn’t bold, straightforward, and exacting in its expression of what true life in Christ looks like, it is.

The problem is we love to measure ourselves against each other and not the real measure of truth – Jesus. If we did that, measured ourselves against Jesus, we would recognize Donald Trump and our Sunday School teacher and ourselves are all in the same boat. None of us measure up. And while some of us have embraced Jesus’ offer of forgiveness, have submitted to what he says is best for our lives, and have chosen to be obedient, it doesn’t change that we all stand on level ground and without God’s grace we are all morally bankrupt. We can’t take credit for grace, we are all offensive. Many of us church people have just forgotten that truth. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But believe me, no one likes a snotty kid who goes around looking at everyone else’s report card in class and shouting out the grade. (I know because I was that kid, I didn’t have many friends growing up.) What we all love is kindness.

Indulge me on a little side note. My son, Max, has heard a lot of bad language at middle school lately. I’ve been torn in how to talk to him about it. Do I say, “don’t say those bad words because it’s wrong.” Or do I disapprove of his actions and scold him if he does say vulgar, ugly words? While that might be an okay thing to do, I’m unsatisfied with an authoritarian approach’s ability to get to the heart of the matter.

I decided I would tell my son that words meant to cut people down, that are common and low, words that describe the worst of human nature shouldn’t be used by people who have been deeply loved, and want to express love to others. It’s that simple.

Jesus has not called us to follow rules, but has set us free to express love profoundly, and if that means “limiting” ourselves for the good of others then that’s a life of great power and purpose.

So here’s my real problem with Donald Trump. He does not appear to be a man who has learned to limit himself or exert self control for the good of others. He does not appear to be a man who sees value in all people, especially women and his opponents. Which is Jesus’ real test. Can you love even your enemy? Because if you can it means you see in them the traces of God’s glory. Glory you seek to honor.

And that is why I am offensive too, because I haven’t chosen to see God’s glory in Donald Trump. I have laughed and mocked and ridiculed his behavior. We may argue that if someone is going to behave like a fool in public they should expect to be laughed at as one. But that’s their issue, not mine. His behavior doesn’t mean I have to take the bait and laugh. Instead, people, like me, who know what it’s like to be forgiven of so much, to be loved even at our most unlovely,  should know  bad behavior is nothing to laugh at. Foolish behavior, especially by someone in a public position should be grieved and prayed over. 

I think God would just as soon we not follow the rules, if we are not going to do it for the right reason.

All my not drinking or cussing or cheating or stealing, and all my going to church and giving money to poor people and being nice to animals mean nothing if my heart isn’t motivated by love. Love for God and love for others. Clinging tightly to the rules just highlights my pathetic attempt to prove I’m good enough for God to love me, and that’s silly, because I’m not.

As much as it feels good to mock Donald Trump in the moment, I can’t justify it anymore. And that’s thanks in part to Brant Hansen’s book Unoffendable. (I already knew a lot of these truths I just needed a strong reminder.) I’m afraid my actions toward Donald Trump expose me as the fool, the pharisee I am. Not the lover Jesus is and wants me to be.

It astonishes me the ways Jesus can call us to love, and hold us accountable to let love guide our actions. Anyone who says following Jesus is easy is trying to use him to their own advantage. Nothing in life is harder than following Jesus, because it means dying to our own selfish impulses, but nothing is more beautiful, captivating or exciting either!

Over the last few weeks I’ve seen Donald Trump as a great gift for the laugh I could have at his expense, but now I see him as a great gift for the love he can produce in my heart, as I learn to be like Jesus.

If you’re anything like me praying for Donald Trump doesn’t come naturally. (If you’re not like me, but like my husband, then good for you!) A gentle attitude, a kind thought, a patient heart turned in his direction seems counter intuitive, which sounds like the gospel to me. So let me offer up a prayer for Mr. Trump, and for us:

Father in heaven, your graciousness is shocking! It shocks even the senses of us who have long been acquainted with you, and we’re glad because we need it. I don’t see eye to eye with Donald Trump, but I don’t have to to recognize you knit him together in his mother’s womb, with purpose and hope. Help me to see him as a person of worth and a bearer of your glory. And help him to understand that truth about himself as well. Only you know his heart, in kindness and love search it out and teach him your ways I pray. Help him to walk in the light, in humility, and in love for his fellow man, just as I ask you to help me to do also. And help me to be ready to celebrate the work you do in his life. Amen.

{This was a hard post to write. And I’ve hesitate posting it because it may seem attention grabbing, which is not what I want. But I decided to share it since I had been public in my poking fun of Mr. Trump. I also want to clarify that disagreeing with a leader and voicing that disagreement is not wrong. The issue is why and how it’s done.}

Harper Lee and saying goodbye

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Today Harper Lee died. In a way I feel like my mother, who died in September of last year, was lost all over again.

The emotions and memories that tie me to my mama have deep roots in the world of Harper Lee. My childhood, and hers, was very much like the one Lee described in To Kill A Mockingbird. I have always loved this description of Maycomb, it was the world of my mama and her mama, it was my young life’s rhythm:

Maycomb was a tired old town, even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow, it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon after their three o’clock naps. And by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frosting from sweating and sweet talcum. The day was twenty-four hours long, but it seemed longer. There’s no hurry, for there’s nowhere to go and nothing to buy…and no money to buy it with.

My childhood was lived to the cadence of my mother’s voice reading. From the time I was tiny until I left for college mama read to us. She read to inspire, to educate, to challenge, to infuse our world with beauty. There were hard years and rough places in our relationship, but words endured. Even after I’d left home and had my own family mama and I would read the same books and discuss them together.

The summer I was 17 she read To Kill A Mockingbird to us. I think it was actually my brother’s summer reading assignment for school, but she read it aloud to all of us. I stretched out at the foot of her oak sleigh bed and listened to her voice carry us to a different time. The window AC unit beat back the heat and dried the sweat collecting in the creases of our knees and elbows. It was an oasis.

I have to pause in the writing of this post because my middle school son just came downstairs and asked me to come read to him. Mama would be pleased the tradition of loving books lives on in my family.

As I was saying, her voice transported us to another place. I met some of the most important people I’ve known in Mockingbird’s pages. Scout, the curious barefoot girl who came alive as she saw the world through the eyes of others; Atticus, the father who didn’t know he was a hero to all of us; and Boo, the mockingbird who saw what no one else saw, and sang what no one else sang.

We all have our favorites in the story. I think mama’s was Atticus. He was the father she didn’t have. The father she wished she’d had. The father she adopted and needed. My brother and sister can speak to their favorites. My favorite is Boo. I hadn’t thought about it until now but I’ve been looking for Boo ever since. The mockingbirds of our society who don’t hurt a thing but often don’t fit in, and sadly, too often, are wounded.

A friend told me once that mockingbirds sometimes sing at midnight. One night I heard it, the strangest, sweetest sound in the pitch black. You can only hear a mockingbird sing at midnight if you wake up, and listen. The world too often sleeps through the song.

When the world said goodbye to Harper Lee today part of me said goodbye to mama, all over again.

Words, words, and more words!

I’ve been writing like a house afire since the beginning of the year! Just not on my blog. Having only so many hours in the day I find I must choose where my words go, and lately that’s been to my novel. I’m 65,000 words in. The end is in sight! Of course when the last word is written – it’s not really over. Then the revising and editing process will begin.

I feel a confidence in my current project I didn’t feel in my last novel, Sisters. Sisters had beautiful moments, and was an unbelievable learning experience. But this novel is different. I’m different. Hopefully my skill level has grown. I also feel a greater sense of purpose and vision with this book.

My goal for this novel is to use the characters to challenge the church’s status quo and stretch our desire for compassion. It has been a transformational, painful, and invigorating process.

Many days I’ve spent six or more hours writing. I write while the kids are in school. I take notes of ideas in my phone when I’m out. I dream about my characters, literally. I chat with them in the shower. I have no doubt I’ve often sat with a glazed expression at the table as I picture a scene and test out dialogue in my head. My poor family, they’re becoming used to such quirks and neglect!

In the past I found it difficult to ignore dirty dishes in the sink, piled up laundry, and floors needing vacuuming. Writing now seems to trump all else. I don’t seem to notice the mess until I resurface!

I have piles of books stacked around my favorite chair. Not pictured is the pile of writing books on the floor. And for three days I’ve had piles of laundry stacked around the living room. To me this is a good sign! It means I’ve taken my passion and commitment to writing to a new level. Which is what it’s going to take to land a book deal and become an honest to goodness author. So far I’ve been dabbling. It’s time to role up my sleeves and get this done!

The message of this book motivates me to keep going, it’s a tribute to every wounded, rejected, lonely person I’ve known, just looking for a place to belong. (Which includes me.) We are good at building walls, even, and maybe especially, in the church, but that is not in keeping with a Savior who walked among the broken, touching the desperate.

It’s my desire that this book honors God’s heart, and builds a bridge. If you think of it in the days ahead I would love a prayer for blessing and favor!