Friday, October 8, 2010

Helping hands...

Cannon is three years old and "helping" Grandma with the dishes or laundry is high on his list of priorities. I love the idea that he wants to help and that he understands the concept of lending a hand to those who are doing chores. We have a good time washing and rinsing the dishes, tossing dirty clothes into the washer, wet clothes into the dryer, and pulling clean, dry clothes and towels out of the dryer for folding. (You can see from his picture that he's an efficient little guy--using his shirt to hold his second gun in his quest to rid the house of monsters is sheer genius.)

But his idea of helping differs greatly from mine. And while I don't mind his assistance at first, after a while I'm more than ready to go it alone. As anyone who has ever had a 3-year-old help them with household chores already knows, the pace slows down to a crawl; most things need to be rewashed/redried/refolded after all that "assistance". I hold my tongue as long as I can and then gently suggest he might want to find someone else to help.(They're always very appreciative, as you can well imagine.)

My impatience with slow-downs and obsession with perfection (and speed) are traits I continually battle to overcome. In that regard, I need to settle for less-than-perfection. On the other hand, I can't help but wonder if God doesn't feel the same way about our trying to help HIM as we do when little ones try to help us. Let's face it, in God's eyes, we can't be any better at helping Him out as Cannon is at helping me. Like Cannon, our intentions may be the best, but sometimes helping just gets in the way. Just as I know more about washing dishes than my grandson does, God also knows infinitely more about running the universe than I do.
And fortunately, He also knows a lot more about ridding our world of monsters, although I'm sure He appreciates Cannon's dogged determination to help out.

Until the next time...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blending in...

Geckos have an uncanny way of assuming the characteristics of their surroundings. This is a defensive measure and I'm sure it goes a long way in baffling predators bent on turning them into tasty tidbits.

As humans, it's easy to get lost in our surroundings, to blend into the background so completely that others don't notice us as being different or unique in any way. But as Christians, we should always strive to showcase our glorious standing as children of God. After all, once we accept Christ, He lives within us; we are His ambassadors to the fallen world. We are to live our life for Him, to glorify Him through our actions, our dealings with others, and our words. We must stand out from our surroundings if we expect others to see that Christ lives in us. In that way, we can be an encouragement to others to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior so they, too, can stop hiding in the arms of the rough and tumble world of sin and step into the Light of Salvation.

Until the next time...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

End of the rainbow...

This is just a small section of a full, double rainbow that arced overhead the other night. While the one end was hidden by houses and trees on the other side of the base, the second "end of the rainbow" could clearly be seen touching the ground. I've never before seen the base of a rainbow and I'm sure that if I chased it to where it appeared to be, it would elude me no end (little word play there). In any event, it was the most magnificent example of God's covenant with His children that I have ever witnessed.

On a more technogocial note, I lost a little over fifty pages of my latest manuscript through a computer problem the other day--added to by my incomprehensibly dumb failure to back it up on my thumb drive. I was heartsick. We tried everything, but the little bugger (an Acer Aspire I use for traveling, going to the library, etc., when I don't have access to my desktop) refused to power up. I prayed God would fire it up long enough for me to retrieve my manuscript and transfer it to my thumb drive.

My daughter and son-in-law were helpful in coming up with ideas, but nothing seemed to work. My daughter even suggested I do what I had advised her do one time when her laptop went kaput--remove the battery. I agreed I should try that (although I didn't remember suggesting that to her), but didn't get around to doing it. I was still holding out, I guess, for God to do something magnificent.

Well, you guessed it. After about the eighth time she suggested it, my son-in-law removed the battery, plugged it back in, and miracle of miracles, it powered up. While I was waiting for God to do something remarkable, He had already solved the problem by reminding Darice of something I had completely forgotten I'd reminded her to do. Talk about remarkable. When will I learn to not only trust that God is always there, but that He knows how and why and when I'll need Him long before I do?

It was like grabbing that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Until the next time...

Friday, August 20, 2010

God is in His heaven...

Few things remind me of God's power and sovereignty as do the skies and the heavens beyond. Nighttime brings the moon, stars, galaxies, meteor showers, nebulas, planets, constellations, and the occasional comet. If I'm really lucky, the northern lights put in an appearance. Of course, some of those heavenly sights require perfect weather, a certain geographic location, clear skies and just-right temps, as well as a strong pair of eyes or binoculars--perhaps even a telescope.

The daytime skies, though, are different. Aside from those dreary, overcast, drizzly days we all get on occasion, the sky provides some of the best displays of God's love for His children seen anywhere. Blue and sunny skies are not only cheerful (and essential to life on earth), but they also provide the perfect backdrop for clouds. Whether drifting lazily along like great cottonballs piled upon one another or feathered delicately by the winds aloft, clouds always remind me that God is in His heaven and that He is playful. Why else would clouds, those tiny droplets of moisture that clump together like mounds of white cotton candy, come in so many different sizes, shapes, and altitudes? Why would puppies and bears and buildings and images of Thomas Jefferson (or Thomas the Train, for that matter) appear above us if not to prove that God loves beauty and mystery and the ever-changing panorama that clouds give us whenever we look skyward?

Every once in a while, I come across a cloud formation that takes my breath away. So it was on the day I took this picture as I leaned out the window while my daughter drove along the Parks Highway between Fairbanks and Denali National Park at 60 m.p.h. I'm lucky I didn't end up on the pavement. But some sights are worth the risk of a nasty road rash.

There's something about the way He places the sunbeams at just the right angle to demonstrate, through His playfulness, love for beauty, and passion for us, just how often He thinks of His children and our view of the sky above. As if it's not enough that he placed the sun and moon and stars and planets right where He did, He also gave us the magical disappearing act of wisty or puffy or thunderous or sun-dappled or sunset-layered or sunrise-streaked clouds to delight and amaze us down here on our earthly level.

And if that's not enough to remind us of His love, sometimes He sends a rainbow. Couldn't get much better than that, could it?

Until the next time...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Up close and personal...

Some blessings are bigger than others. A great example of that is the magnificent guy pictured here. After weeks of an absolute dearth of wildlife here on base, unusual for our experience-to-date in Alaska, I ran across this handsome specimen and his buddy (and co-tree muncher, also a bull) on the way to the library the other day. (Me, not them.) I pulled over and snapped photo after photo. Others, of course, followed my lead and before long, several cars were lined up on one side of the road keeping watch over the bulls as they partook of a leisurely, leafy lunch.

One of them wandered into the brush and out of our view. This guy, though, not only stayed in sight, but also decided to cross the road and take a closer gander at me. I guess turnabout's fair play even in the moose kingdom. I kept one hand on the button to raise my window in the event he decided he didn't like the looks of me, and the other on the camera. The photo on the left is the result of my not being able to catch his head as he wandered by at arm's length from my open window, but then everyone needs a good "moose torso-and-hindquarters shot," don't they?

I wouldn't recommend my behavior to anyone else. Yes, he's gorgeous and very picture-worthy, and yes, he and his friend were the first moose I'd seen in a good three weeks. But that's no excuse for taking the chance of becoming the morning headline: "Stupid Woman Gets Head Knocked Off By Fed-Up Bull Moose." Thank goodness I had the brains to stay inside my car. I'm careless, but not entirely without sense.

Being able to enjoy, observe, and photograph these beauties is a blessing indeed, but a second (and probably more important one) is the way God looks out for me when I don't always do it the way I should. Thank You, Lord, for granting patience to your beautiful and wild creations, allowing me to enjoy their grandeur in safety, even when I don't deserve it. I promise I'll be more cautious in the future.

Until the next time...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Masquerading...

Ever felt like you're not being who you're supposed to be? As if you're not fulfilling your God-assigned role in this world? Pretending to be something you're not? I do. Maybe I'm not dressed like a lobster like my grandson, Cannon, is in this picture, but there are times, nonetheless, when I feel as though I'm masquerading as someone I'm not.

A writer, for instance.

There are many mornings when I sit down in front of this computer monitor and ask myself, "What now?" I never get an answer--not from me, anyway. But there are times when God Himself gives me a nudge on the back of my head as if to say, "Go on now. Be who I made you to be. You may not feel like a writer, but that's who you are. Live with it."

So I do. Some days I'm able to pull it off; other days I look (and feel) like a writer about as much as Cannon resembles a lobster without his costume. But he's a pretty convincing lobster when he is wearing it, so I guess the least I can do is be a convincing writer when God tells me to put my writer costume on.

I just wish I looked as darned cute.

Until the next time...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Bigger Picture

I've learned a lot during the past two weeks. For instance, I learned I can do things I never thought I could do (and live to tell the tales). If it were not for the encouragement of Darice, Ron, and Alan, I might never have enjoyed these special events. For starters, I rafted down a river, hiked long and arduous trails through the Alaskan countryside, drove the Parks Highway between Denali National Park to Anchorage, and in general, pushed myself beyond my pre-conceived physical and psychological limits. I'm not ready for hang-gliding or spelunking quite yet, but who knows? (Oh, who am I kidding? I'm never going to hang-glide or spelunk. Just got carried away with the possibilities, I guess.)

But I also learned some lessons that were less physical in nature. My brother surprised me with the gift of his Canon Powershot S5 IS camera, along with a phenomenal camera bag. I'd been admiring his camera and its attributes the entire time he was here; on his last night at our house, he made it mine, first making me promise I wouldn't refuse his gift. Without knowing the extent of his generosity, I accepted. I was floored at his gesture, speechless (and that doesn't happen often), and overjoyed. Alan and I share a mutual love of photography; in fact, it runs in the family. Both our parents enjoyed taking pictures, as does our sister, Shelley. As a whole, the Harpers seem to have a bent toward this wonderful hobby.

But Alan's gift to me extends even further than the obvious value of such an expensive camera and all it can do. He told me he's seen my work, believes in me, and knows I can (and will) use this superior piece of equipment to bring my photography skills to a higher level. I told him that owning this camera will change my life. And it will. Already I'm discovering how to capture the beauty of God's creation with my new camera. The photo above records just a tiny fraction of the intricacy found in the Alaskan rainforest we trekked through yesterday--sort of a "drop in the bucket" of all the things I'll now be able to discover and record.

Sometimes accepting gifts is difficult. We can't believe others think enough of us to give us something special. Perhaps we don't feel worthy. Maybe we're leery of selfless generosity--"What do they want in return? Is this too good to be true?". But when we accept the kind gestures of others, we're allowing them a chance to perform an act that's meaningful to both parties.

And so it is when we accept the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ. Unbelievable as it may be that He wants to do this for us, that He gave His life so we could live with Him for all eternity, that His offer is simple, binding, and eternal--it is, nevertheless, a gift He extends to us with the sincere hope we'll accept. When He holds out His hand for us to grasp, He too is saying, "Please accept my gift. Don't say 'no'."

I guess you could say that when we accept His gift of salvation, we become an important part of a much bigger picture.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brothers and rapids and bears, oh my!

Let's face it: some days are just better than others. Such was the day Darice, Ron, Alan and I moseyed on down the Kenai Peninsula and took a 10-mile float trip down the Kenai River. I've never been in a raft before--a healthy fear of water (well, a fear of dying in water) and lack of opportunity have kept me shorebound-to-date. But I was determined that in honor of Alan's visit from Michigan, I was going to sit in a raft, by gol, and drift down a river. Some things just deserve an extra spurt of courage.

I'm so glad I did. Not only did none of us die, we also managed to have the time of our lives drifting past the wooded shoreline of the Alaskan wilderness, watching bald eagles glide overhead or tend to their young in their massive nests--sort of the McMansion of the bird-of-prey world. Everywhere we turned, we faced yet another of God's beautiful creations--rocks, beaches, towering mountains, rushing water, blue and sunny skies, salmon and trout, ducks, beaver dams, and a host of other glorious aspects of this part of the world. We even took on some class 2 rapids! Now I can truthfully say I've rafted in whitewater--not very white water, mind you, but hey, rapids are rapids.

Following a wonderful lunch at the lakeside Kingfisher Roadhouse, we then hiked a 5-mile round trip trail down to the Russian River Falls. There we watched majestic salmon fight their way up the falls for the right to spawn and then promptly die. While I can't fathom their enthusiasm for dying after all that hard work, I have to respect their determination. And although we didn't find any bears at the falls (returning hikers we met along the trail reported bears catching dinner across the river), we did run across one on the way back to the trailhead. Fortunately for us he meandered away, content to let us continue our trek unmolested. Good thing, too. Although we carry bear spray everywhere we go--grocery store, library, on rides around the base--the one time it might have come in handy is the one time we leave it in the car. I think he simply took pity on us.

All in all, it was a day I will never forget. But even more important than the exhilarating experiences we had  enjoying God's gifts is the sheer pleasure I had simply spending time with my brother. Many states (and many more miles) separate Michigan and Alaska, so my chances to visit him are, in large part, dictated by my finances. Having him with us for two solid weeks has been a pleasure I'll never be able to describe... but I sure hope we can duplicate it some time in the future.

I've been thrilled countless times since coming to Alaska at the wonders our Heavenly Father has created for His children to enjoy. But none of them are greater than His gift of a family. Thank You, Lord, for my family and for the time you give me to spend with them.

And thank You for Alan.

Until the next time...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Living in the shadows

Reflections allow us a second chance to enjoy a beautiful sight. Normally, we think of reflections as accurate representations--a mirror image, if you will--of the original. But there are also times when the same can be said of shadows, even though the word conjures thoughts of gloom and doom, fear and darkness, evil and the brevity of life.

Who can forget Psalm 23:4, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." Or Job 16:16, "My face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes." These Bible verses and others like them equate shadows with the darker side of life.

There are times, however, when a shadow, like the one in this photo I took at my sister's house, can reflect all the glory--the multiple colors and delicate details--of the original, not just a dark approximation of it. And so it is with God. Psalm 91:1-3 says, "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty." While we are resting in His shadow, we can also be reflecting His glory.

I pray I will always be a bright reflection of the glory of God even as I seek shelter in the shadow of His mighty wings.

Until the next time...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Starry-eyed

Stars are big right now in the decorating world. I think it began as a celebration of Texas and those who hail from there (or wish they did), but if that's the case, it's expanded far beyond just those folks and spread clear around the country.

Like many others, we have several stars in and around our house, but (nothing against Texas here) it has nothing to do with that great state. For us, I think it's more a matter of just plain liking stars and the way they look. They're simple and nicely-shaped; some are colorful, others are monotoned. They lend themselves to myriad decorating tastes. All in all, they're very utilitarian and can be used for many purposes.

For me, though, there is only one purpose and it really has nothing to do with sprucing up indoor or outdoor living spaces. I've made a conscious decision that when I see a star (or use one to grace a wall or dress up a garden), it's to be recognized as a symbol of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is, after all, the Creator of the every star in the night sky, the All-Star of all creation, the Superstar of Salvation. I could go on and on, but I won't. Suffice it to say, there's no one above our Lord, and no star (and that includes movie, athletic, political, or other stars created by human beings) could ever shine as brilliantly as the Bright Morning Star.

Until the next time...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What a blessing to be used!

God sent me a gift today via my dear friend, Sherri. I'd been pondering my mission in life; what it is that God wants me to accomplish while I'm on this side of Heaven. Yes, I worship Him, I write to glorify Him, I do my best to live a Christ-like life.

But I've been stumped about just what it is that God has given me a passion to perform. My writing? Perhaps. I certainly hope so, but if my book isn't published, have I accomplished anything other than to pursue a worldly goal? Will that in itself help to further His Kingdom?

Then I received an email from my dear friend in Georgia and in it she mentioned my love of nature. I've long enjoyed photographing the small things that God has placed in our world--things that we might easily overlook, but things of beauty, nevertheless. I felt a nudge when I read her words and then it hit me. God was speaking to me through her. I immediately wrote back and told her how much her words meant to me--that they were literally the answer to a prayer.

Even better, I discovered later on this morning that Sherri had been praying to be a blessing to someone today. Through our communications, we discovered that God has used us and blessed us simultaneously! Our words to one another not only spoke to our hearts, but also revealed His love.

He never ceases to amaze me.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Moose magic

There are days, despite my knowing better, where I feel forgotten and left behind. I don't feel special; I don't even feel run-of-the-mill. I just feel invisible.

And then something happens to jolt me out of my pity party. So it was the night my daughter and I were taking an evening drive around the base (a "candy bar run," we call it as we always stop to pick up some "provisions") to look for wildlife. And there on the side of the road where you'd least expect to find it, laid a mama moose and her obviously newborn baby. We parked next to them and watched for at least thirty minutes. Mama watched us carefully, but made no attempt to get up and chase us away--which they've been known to do. Moose are extraordinarly agile and quick. If she'd chosen to chase us away, believe me, she'd have been able to do so.

But she didn't. And despite the fact that they were lying along a drive to the base hospital--an odd spot for wildlife, particularly one with a new baby, to take a rest--there they were. We watched quietly, in awe at their beauty, snapped dozens of pictures, and took in the specialness of it all. It was as if this majestic animal had come to an agreement with us. She wouldn't stomp us into the ground and we wouldn't make a move to harm or disturb her or her baby. It was an easy truce, one that was sealed with long, silent, eyeball-to-eyeball contact. Have you ever stared a moose in the eye? It has to be one of God's most beautiful gifts. There she was, wild and strong and huge, staring into my eyes. There was intelligence in those big brown eyes and I know she knew we were there only to enjoy a special time given to us by God.

Funny thing, I no longer felt invisible. Quite the opposite, in fact. I felt chosen--hand-picked to share this magical slice of time in Alaska with only my daughter, a couple of Hershey bars, and a baby moose and its mama for company. You can't feel much more special than that.

Until the next time...

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thank You, Father

What better way to celebrate Father's Day than to acknowledge our Father of all fathers! Nowhere do I see His hand more than in the artistry of nature. We visited the Eagle River Nature Center on Friday and hiked deep into the Alaskan woods where mountains, ponds, trees, wild flowers, birds, and all other sorts of God's creation greeted us. Later, we visited a waterfall along the Seward Highway that skirts Turnagain Arm. It was a mighty uphill climb (and we still didn't reach the source of the river), but the views along the way were phenomenal. Everywhere we looked, water spilled over rocks and fallen tree trunks, splashing and foaming its way down the mountain. In some places the slope was gradual; in others, the water crashed and tumbled over chunks of granite--big and small--to the river below. There it continued its journey until at last it spilled out into the the bay. The aches and pains I've felt as a result of my upward trek are well worth seeing what God has created for His children's pleasure--even in places we might never know existed if not for the urge to explore.

Until the next time...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Family visit!


We have company from Michigan with us this week--Ron's cousin and her husband. It's great to see family and wonderful to show them around this beautiful part of Alaska. The weather hasn't cooperated as much as we'd hoped, but they're being very good sports about it and accepting the cool temps, drizzles, and overcast skies for what they are--part of God's great creation. Despite the less-than-stellar weather, they're having a good time hiking to glaciers, panning for gold, scouting wildlife, and seeing the sights. We have a barbeque and campfire planned for later tonight, then a trip to the Eagle River Nature Center tomorrow, followed by a nice lunch. Then it's back to the airport for their return flight.
I hope they've had as much fun being here as we've had showing them around.
Until the next time...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shaping up...


I'm reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. I think everyone else in the world has already read it. I started it several years ago, but something prevented me from finishing it and now I think I know what that was.

I've been beating myself up lately for not taking my writing as seriously in the past as I take it today. You could have done so much more, Deb, if you'd only applied yourself. Just think where you might be today if you'd written more and faster and better. But in chapter 29, Rick begins to describe the role God has decided I will play during my lifetime. He explains my SHAPE, the unique combination of abilities God has given me for the purpose of serving Him. The letter "E" stands for experience.

It occurred to me that while I've been railing against the fact that I haven't yet done what I think He wants me to accomplish, God's been preparing me to do just that. My life experiences have slowly molded me into the person (and writer) He wants me to become. While I've been flopping around like a wounded, crazed bird in a glass box with only a small opening to freedom, He's been showing me what's on the other side, calming me, healing me, teaching me what I need to know to find that doorway to freedom.

I can relax now, knowing that I'm where God wants me to be at this stage of my life. I can stop fretting about the past and starting enjoying the present--with an eye toward my eternal future with Him. Yes, if I'd worked more diligently at my writing in the past, I might be farther along in my writing career, but would I still be traveling the course the Lord planned for me? Or would I have taken a shortcut, gotten hopelessly lost, and completely abandoned my path?

Fortunately, I'll never have to know--firsthand--the answer to that question. I'm where I'm supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing. And that's good enough for me.

Until the next time...

Friday, June 4, 2010

All wrapped up...

Sometimes it's the little things that drive you over the edge.

This morning I tried to open a new bottle of plaque-fighting mouthwash--you know the stuff you use before you brush your teeth? Well, apparently it's a lot more valuable than I first suspected because it's impossible to get into. Perhaps it's specially-drawn water from the legendary fountain of youth; believe me, after this morning's battle, I could use a shot of youth water.

I always dread opening a new bottle because I know I'm in for a mighty battle with the plastic-encased cap, but today's endeavor was one for the record books. I admit that everything within four feet is a blur without my glasses, so attempting to open it by running my thumbnail under the rim of plastic on the top of the cap, just by feeling it, was stupid to begin with. But I can usually accomplish the task because there's a slightly-serrated slit along one side that makes one part of the plastic a wee bit weaker and thus vulnerable to tearing. But somewhere in the world, a plastic wrapping-serration-slitter machine is out of order. I did everything but get out the chain saw to remove that wrapper. I even put my glasses on, thinking the weak spot was just lost in the blur. No such luck. I dug my tweezers out and stabbed at it with them for... oh, five, six minutes. Nothing. Risking a nasty tweezer-stabbing, I finally leveraged them enough to create a tiny tear where one did not previously exist and managed to pull the wrapping far enough down the cap to open it. A stubborn bit of plastic still ringed the base of the cap, but I was beyond being neat.

Except it wouldn't open. It's one of those "push down with the palm of your hand and simultaneously turn the cap" caps. Yeah right. I leaned over it, placed my palm on it, pushed with all my weight, and twisted. I got a nasty plastic-twist burn on the palm of my hand for my trouble. I tried squeezing it inward on two sides with one hand, pushing down with the other palm, and twisting. No go.

Plaque pre-rinse bottles aren't the only products difficult to gain entrance to--the world is filled with plastic-encased, stapled, metal twist-tied packages. And I completely understand why the retailing world has resorted to super-packaging to stop those few thieves who have ruined it for the rest of us. They're tired of the pilfering, we're tired of paying higher costs for products encased in stuff that would protect the space shuttle from burning up in re-entry (and the medical costs associated with attempting to pry that stuff off), and the thieves are simply finding new and improved ways to do what they've always done--mess it up for the rest of us.

I've often thought that someone--a very patient, very strong someone--could create a lucrative business in the days before Christmas by simply offering to open children's toys and then cart away the cardboard and plastic debris. They'd have to own a semi-trailer, of course, and have nerves of steel and good insurance coverage, but it would certainly make Christmas morning simpler and I'm sure folks the world over would pay dearly for this service.

I finally set my pre-rinse aside and brushed my teeth without it. My teeth will no doubt fall out of my head soon, but at least I'll know my bottle of green stuff is safe from anyone--besides maybe The Hulk--who would dare try to open it.

Until the next time...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Getting down to business


There are times (too many times) when I find myself playing writer--you know, the way we used to play office or school when we were little?

Playing writer is so much easier than being a writer. I get to rearrange my desk, change the lighting, add this inspirational quote over here, move that writerly object over there. Sometimes I get to wander around OfficeMax, buy new pens or notebooks or stock up on paper for the printer (although we're usually out of toner, which renders the paper generally useless for its intended purpose and I end up scribbling grocery lists on it instead).
And if I'm really desperate to update my surroundings, organize, or expand my horizons (read: procrastinate), I can always clean out my files. Yes, cleaning out my files is vitally important to my writing success. After all, don't readers want their authors to have uncluttered files? Isn't that some kind of an unspoken rule of the publishing world? "Author will provide, at all times, proof that he/she maintains uncluttered files and a well-lit and nicely-decorated/inspirational quote-surrounded environment."

I always feel so much more like a writer when I'm not sitting in front of my computer. After all, feeling like a writer doesn't require thinking--merely the appropriate accoutrements to the profession. On the other hand, being a writer is work. Hard work. Lots and lots of hard work. And when I can't think of anything worthwhile to write, I feel like a failure. So pretending to be what I know I truly am satisfies me for the moment. Sometimes. Most of the time, though, pretending just makes me feel more like a failure than I feel like when I'm writing. (If I haven't confused you yet, I haven't done my job.)

Yes, I can always use a new pen (those Pentel gel pens are my favorite) or another notebook or clean files, inspirational quotes are indeed inspiring, and rearranging my desk gives me something new to look at while I'm staring off into the distance. But none of those are substitutes for the real stuff of writing: sitting down and writing. No two ways about it. Writers write.

Now if I just had a new pencil box, everything would be perfect.

Until the next time...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Flying high...

It was a glorious day here in Alaska, with deep blue skies overhead, puffy white clouds piled along the horizon, myriad shades of green bursting from every tree and bush, and wildflowers blossoming among the ferns. The river that runs through Cottonwood Park here on Elmendorf AFB is filled with the snow-melt from the Chugach Mountains and rushed past us as we walked the dog along the riverbank.

After leaving the natural splendor of the park, we drove to the other side of the base and watched F-22s land, touching the runway as lightly as a feather wafting on the breeze to the ground below. An enormous C-17 Globemaster took off next, its huge body lifted into the air as if by magic, majestic in its size and power. It never fails to amaze me how man's innovative technology (given to us by God, of course) and His glorious creation are showcased side-by-side on this base. I'm a lucky woman.

And speaking of wonderful things, I received my signed copy of the contract with Hartline Literary Agency in the mail yesterday. It's official now--and I'm tickled pink to be representated by literary agent Terry Burns. Prior to receiving the contract, I worked with his very knowledgable, funny, and patient editorial assistant, Linda Glaz, who helped me whip my manuscript into tip-top shape. Thank you, Linda, for all your assistance, and thank you, Terry, for representing me. I'm flying high! I look forward to a long and fruitful relationship.

Until the next time...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Resurrected


Days like yesterday leave me awestruck.

As my Mother's Day present, Darice and Ron took me to down the Kenai Peninsula to Seward, Alaska, where we took a four-hour Kenai Fjords gray whale-watching tour. The grays are migrating from California to the Bering Sea this time of year and it was our hope (as well as the hope of everyone else on board) that we'd spot one of these glorious creatures doing what it does best--that is to say, inspire awe and renew our mouth-dropping wonder at God's creation. The drive to Seward from Anchorage took four hours and with the tour and the drive back, we put in a long day. (Ron took the brunt of it, driving both to and from Seward.)

The snow-swept peaks, etched in perfect relief against the bluest sky I've seen in years, made me feel as though I were inside a living, breathing (and windy!) calendar picture. Everywhere I turned, whether on the top, lower, or middle deck, inside or out, there were wonders beyond any ability of mine to adequately describe. Dall porpoises darted alongside the boat to escort us both to and from the mouth of the Bering Sea, racing through the waves at a speed that rivaled ours; sea lions by the hundreds sunned on the rock outcroppings along the shore or on small granite islands that rose from the bed of the bay. They sprawled haphazardly against the warmth of their stony beds and looked for all the world as though some great wave had hoisted them high above the water and slapped them against the rocks where they stuck--velcroed to the spot. There they lay, warmed by the afternoon sun, content, sleeping for the most part (although one or two got shoved off their perches and had to flipper their way back to the rock) and braying in that sexy way sea lions have. A bald eagle perched majestically atop a towering tree; a brave and nimble mountain goat nibbled alder branches on the side of the steep mountain and watched us watch him. Sea birds swooped and darted, tended their nests, or skimmed over the water in search of an afternoon snack.

All the while, the boat bobbed and rolled as we grew closer to the open, unprotected water of the Bering Sea. The sea spray dotted our faces and I tasted salt on my lips and felt the brisk breeze sandpaper my cheeks. For a few minutes there, I felt as though I were on the deck of the Northwestern with Captain Sig Hansen and his crew, braving the elements, bringing in the king crab on an episode of "Deadliest Catch." Ha! It did, however, make me wonder how those men survive twenty-foot swells when six-inch whitecaps were enough to make me grip the railing to keep from pitching overboard.

Then came the whales. The first one we spotted was a rare fin whale--rare to these waters and capable of growing to 85 feet in length. Our boat was 85 feet long! It surfaced, water sluicing off its back in great shining sheets, its gigantic back glistening, then waved to us with its fin and headed for parts unknown. Next came the humpback whale and her calf. They spouted water, dived below water, and frolicked the way only mama whales and their babies can frolic. Just when I thought we'd have to turn back without seeing any migrating gray whales, there they were! Their "blows" drew us toward them. We cruised quietly and waited for them to appear after their initial sounding dive. And they didn't disappoint us. First came the blow, followed by the graceful curve of their backs, then the magnificent tail wave for which they are famous. Then it was down for another sounding dive. About seven minutes later, they were back up again to repeat their magnificent aquatic performance. After that, we left them in peace, content to have witnessed the natural movements of one of God's greatest creatures in the very spot He specifically designed for them.

Glaciers, hundreds of waterfalls, caves, towering granite cliffs, snowy mountaintops that resembled the prickly spine of a mile-high stegosaurus, rocky beaches, terminal morrains, islands covered with trees or perhaps starkly bare, peppered with only the seabirds that perched atop their granite mass, the emerald waters of inland bays, the sun glistening off the softly rolling, white-capped water of the Bering Sea--all of it blended into a panorama of such gut-wrenching beauty as to nearly hurt with the joy of seeing it.

What a privilege I've been given. I know there are many other beautiful places on earth; I've visited some and lived in others. But yesterday, on the deck of the Orca Voyager in Alaska's Resurrection Bay at the mouth of the Bering Sea, surrounded by ancient mountains and in the presence of countless natural wonders--well, at that moment in time, that was the most beautiful spot in the world. Thank You, God! You never cease to amaze me and resurrect my wonder.

Until the next time...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Amazing Grace


On average, I hurt myself about every twenty minutes. Round-the-clock. I can drift off to sleep relatively unscathed and awaken the next morning marred with colorful splotches, scratches, lumps, and perhaps one or two broken toes. I have no idea what I've done to myself. Discounting otherwordly abuse or alien abduction theories, common sense tells me I did it to myself while I was awake (rather than during my sleep as it appears), and just don't remember doing it. Experience (lots and lots of self-abusive experience) tells me I cannot be trusted with myself. My family agrees. I've been known to trip, slip, collapse, plunge, bounce, ram, and skid over, on, through, into, and against anything in my path. Or off the path. Doesn't matter.

Once I fell over while sitting astride a bicycle parked in our garage. One second I'm sitting there, feet on the floor, hands on the handlebars; the next I'm flat on the cement floor with my legs tangled in the spokes and my head just inches from a workbench that should have cracked my skull open. Another time I fell out of the shower--just standing still, lathering, no fancy turns, no dizzy spells, when bam! I'm flat on my back on the bathroom floor, the shower curtain billowing in my wake. Then there was the time in Alaska when I hurt myself running from a charging pregnant moose I was stalking... okay, I had that one coming.

My all-time best performance, however, had to be the "Great Sprawl." It was a Sunday morning and I was taking my daughter and her husband and my four grandsons out to breakfast. Before we could get inside the front door, I managed to nosedive, gracelessly, to the sidewalk. In the split-second it took me to land, I remember thinking, "This one's gonna hurt." And it did. I bounced--yes, bounced--off the concrete with my right cheekbone. Why I didn't break all my teeth or nose or neck or skull (or cheekbone, for that matter) is a matter of divine grace. There can be no other explanation. And of course, I could have done this in a stadium packed full of NFL fans on a Sunday afternoon, but no, I had to do it in front of an even bigger crowd--the Sunday morning gathering of post-church breakfast eaters at a Cracker Barrel in Kentucky.

While I lay sprawled, broken and bruised, dazed and dumbfounded on the hard concrete, my daughter and her husband hovering above my throbbing face asking me if I'd had a heart attack, the manager drifting in and out of my line of sight with pillows for my aching head and drinks and bananas for my four grandsons, the EMTs arrived. I convinced them I wasn't dying, just clumsy, and with my thanks, sent them away to tend to accident victims who, unlike me, didn't deserve what they got. After thirty minutes of staring at the sun and answering questions, I announced I was fine and more than anything in the world, wanted to stand up, brush myself off and get some breakfast. I needed coffee.

I limped into the store and up to the podium and asked for a table for seven. We were escorted through both dining rooms, past two hundred or so people trying not to stare at the crazy lady with the skid marks on her face and the legs bruised beyond repair, where we had a wonderful breakfast with lots of coffee.

For once, my clumsiness paid off. In what was probably an attempt to keep a lawsuit at bay, the manager picked up our check and told us our meal was on the house. We thanked him profusely and I assured him I did not hold the restaurant responsible for my show-stopping inelegance, that I had a history of spectacular spills. He seemed relieved and promptly refilled my coffee cup.

I thank God for watching over me when I can't be trusted to take care of myself. I can only imagine the number of times He's saved me from certain death--or broken bones, gouged eyes, a fractured skull, you name it; the many times I've been oblivious to His love and attention, those times He's kept watch over me like a shepherd watches over the one sheep who keeps getting lost. Or falls into the creek. Or over the cliff. In short, I thrill to His amazing grace in light of my amazing lack of grace.

Until the next time (and there will no doubt be a next time!)...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Still a winner...

A lot has happened since I last posted to this blog. First of all, I did not win the Operation First Novel contest in February at the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Writing for the Soul conference (that's quite the mouthful!). After holding my breath for what seemed like five years, I let my stomach drop to my ankles for a few seconds after the announcement, then gathered my tattered hopes around me and said, "Okay then. That's behind me. Now I can look forward (and breathe once more) and concentrate on pitching this novel to all the agents, editors, and publishers at the conference."

And that's exactly what I did. Yes, it was disappointing to hear someone else's name as the winner--after all, who wouldn't want to win $20,000 and publication of his or her book by Tyndale Publishing House? I know I did. But, I reminded myself, I was still a finalist and that carried a lot of weight at the conference. Believe me, I threw that weight around every chance I got and it paid off. While I don't know whether or not it will eventually garner me an offer for representation or a contract to buy my manuscript, I do know that I met many wonderful folks from great Christian publishing houses and literary agencies. I had a chance to pitch my book, make important contacts, network with influential people in the business of Christian publishing,
and reunite with my dear friends from the inaugural Craftsman class.

I'm still awaiting word from several agents and publishers. Maybe the news will be good, maybe not. I know I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make my book better and I trust that anyone willing to take me on as a client or offer me a publication contract knows more than I do!

Until the next time...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Denver, Colorado, here I come!

Even after all these weeks, I can hardly believe it--I'm a finalist in the Christian Writers Guild "Operation First Novel" contest! This Wednesday, I'll be on my way to the Writing for the Soul conference at the Grand Hyatt in Denver, whereupon the other three finalists and I will find out which one of us has won the delightful double prize of publication by Tyndale and a check for $20,000.

I'm so blessed and thrilled to be a finalist. Two of my three esteemed (and equally excited, I'm sure) co-finalists are also Craftsman graduates. One was in the first Craftsman class with me and I'm so happy for him. I find myself in the strange predicament of rooting for Jon, as I know what a talented writer, wonderful husband and father, and all-around great Christian man he is. He and I agree that no matter how much we would love to have our respective books published, it is God's Will we desire, not our own. It's in His hands now and that's been a comfort to me ever since I learned I was one of the lucky four. Knowing that I could no longer edit, rewrite, or otherwise fiddle with my manuscript freed me up to spend every waking minute being nervous. (Isn't life good? :-)

Darice will be meeting me there and I'll be so tickled to be with her again and have her with me during what will undoubtedly be the most exciting night of my professional life--regardless the outcome of the contest. My time in Michigan, Florida, and now Kentucky has been wonderful, but I do miss her and Ron and the pets. I'll be returning to Alaska in early April if all goes as planned, but in the meantime, touching base and spending time with her will be great.

In the meantime (between being nervous during my waking hours and dreaming about it every night), I'm working hard to have an excellent book proposal for not only the manuscript I entered, but also for the sequel that I'm working on now. I will have three great opportunities to pitch my work to agents and editors and I want to make the most of my time at the conference.

I know God is with me no matter what happens and for that I'm humbled and blessed. Thank You, Lord, for holding my hand. I'll be squeezing Yours tight next Thursday night.

Until the next time...