We each have a life story, penned without ink, read by the people around us. Who's writing your story?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Secret - Behind the Scenes # 9

I didn't deliberate long. No wringing my hands over this decision. I'd surprise him when the book came in the mail. 

After all we'd been through together, I would dedicate Penned Without Ink to my husband, my college sweetheart, the man who protected me, my best friend who would do just about anything for me.

As Barry struggled to recover from a traumatic brain injury back in 2003, his condition progressed from the dark of a coma to gradually becoming more active and more aware of his surroundings. Pretty soon he recognized me and our daughters when we came to visit him in the nursing home. We saw him progress from preschool level activities in therapy to more advanced exercises. He had a habit of getting stuck on a word or phrase but kept marching forward with each new day. As time went on, he called me on the phone from the nurses' station. And one day he wrote me a love note on a scrap of paper, now one of my most prized possessions.
I kept my secret quiet as I wrote each chapter and then the final draft. I word-smithed those few lines over and over. They had to sound just right. They had to express my heart. They had to somehow show him how much I loved and appreciated him.

  To Barry
My kind and gentle husband who loves God and his neighbor . . .
My wonderful friend.
I love you.

But he passed away before the book came in the mail. Before the manuscript was edited or even submitted to the publisher. I never got to tell him.

All I could do was change the verbs to past tense.

The bitter-sweet day Penned Without Ink found its way to my mailbox, I could only imagine what it would have been like had he still been here. Would I have pointed the dedication page out to him or let him find it on his own? Either way, I can see his smile . . . feel his hug as he reached for me. "Good job, hon." he would have said.

Instead, I opened the package alone.

The yawning divide between the living and the dead is so permanent. Does he know? I took my secret to the cemetery and had a good cry. I realize Barry isn't there, but it satisfied something deep inside me. Someday we'll walk the golden streets and I'll tell him my secret. Perhaps he'll smile, reach for me with a hug, and say, "Good job, hon."

And I'll lay my head on his shoulder and whisper, "I couldn't have done it without you, Babe."  

Two broken and restored people with a story . . . for the glory of God.

Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story is available on Amazon.com.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My Story, God's Story, Your Story

On April 5, 2003, sudden dense fog dropped out of the sky as our family headed east on the PA Turnpike. Within a matter of minutes, twenty-three cars piled up in a fiery crash that claimed the lives of four people, two of them little children. In that brief moment of time, our lives were forever changed.

Today, over 13 years later, I want to invite YOU to read our story – a personal, realistic story of trauma, uncertainty, and life-long limitations, but also of quiet miracles and celebrations. This is a story of hope . . . We all need hope don’t we? Especially when we feel the crushing blow of overwhelming events out of our control . . . when we experience pain, loss, and disappointment. Our circumstances may differ, yet deep beneath the surface of the particulars lie universal emotions that can plague us all. Even then, we have hope because of God's faithfulness. Penned Without Ink showcases God's faithfulness when my husband sustained a traumatic brain injury and my neck was broken.

This is more than just our family’s story, however. Interwoven within its pages is God’s story – biblical principles, stories, and promises from God’s Word – which encouraged us then and give us perspective now. We’ll kneel beside Job’s wife as she wailed with grief over losing her ten precious children all in one day. We’ll hold our breath with Mary, Martha, and the mourners as Jesus cried, “Lazarus, Come forth.” We’ll stand in the upper room with Thomas as he grappled with Jesus’ words, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.” And we’ll lean over the old apostle John’s shoulder as he writes his epic work about heaven. 

The book has three elements: my story, God’s story – And then scattered throughout the book are opportunities for you to pause and reflect on YOUR life story . . . penned without ink (2 Corinthians 3:2, 3). This is where the promises of God become personal and the foundation of trust is built, trust in a faithful God who writes our stories with purpose. This is where we choose to remain the victim or become the victor. This is where we pair our emotions with truth. It’s a place of gentle challenge to finish strong and run the race marked out for us with perseverance.

If I had to summarize the theme of the book, it would be found in Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace AS YOU TRUST IN HIM, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Many of you played a significant role in our story. We will always remember your prayers, cards, meals, rides to therapy, and how you encouraged us and our families as we struggled to recover. THANK YOU! My prayer is that our story will be a blessing to you and bring you hope as you trust in God – no matter what happens.

Don't Miss It:

View the book trailer here (1:06).

A picture is worth a thousand words. I've posted photos that correlate with the Penned Without Ink story. Look under the PHOTOS tab on this site. They'll deepen your understanding of the story. 

Saturday, November 5th: Signing and launch at Duffy's Coffee House, 306 South State Street, Clarks Summit, PA 18411. On this day, a percentage of the book sale proceeds and any extra donations will go to the Ronald McDonald House in Scranton, PA. We'll have a good time, have some giveaways on hand, and you'll have the opportunity to meet some of the "characters" in the book. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

When a Dream is Worth Pursuing . . . Behind the Scenes #8

I felt like a child on Christmas morning when the first copy of Penned Without Ink arrived in my mailbox on Friday! I carefully opened the package and just held the book for a minute, then gingerly flipped through the pages. What a moment! 

My job this weekend? To look it over from cover to cover, to make one final check for any lingering errors in typing, layout, and graphics. I find myself a little nervous, knowing the buck stops with me. Glad my editor is doing the same thing.

From a wobbly dream to a reality. It took six years.

I wonder how the writers of the New Testament gospels felt as they painstakingly pieced together the stories of Jesus, each with a different slant, each with a select audience in mind. How could they best represent the very Son of God? A daunting task even with the Holy Spirit's direction (2 Peter 1:20, 21). But how satisfying to see the finished product, scrawled out on papyrus. How could they have known their work would become part of the Canon, translated into hundreds of languages, and read by millions over the centuries? I'm glad they stuck with the task, aren't you?

What dream do you have that you haven't yet held in your hand? Does it sometimes seem elusive? Like it may never happen? I suppose sometimes a dream is just that - a dream. At other times, a dream is worth pursuing . . . all the way to the end. It takes time, tenacity, and dogged determination all bathed in prayer to finally see it come to fruition. King Solomon acknowledged this in his proverbs: "A desire accomplished is sweet to the soul . . ." (13:19).

So, let's press on. We may find ourselves having to start over, taking tiny steps forward, or being delayed . . . all for good reasons. Life has its seasons. Relationships are important. Sometimes God sends us on a detour. It's all okay.

At the same time, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).

Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story will be released Monday, September 26th and is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Goodreads giveaway September 17 - 25: Enter here to be win one free print copy (autographed).

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Stopped in Your Tracks by . . . a Story?

So, what stories have made a difference in your life? I mean, really grabbed you, stopped you in your tracks . . . or gave you the courage to do what seemed impossible . . . or heightened your awareness with a wider, deeper perspective?

And what about the timing? You somehow picked up just the right book or article at just the right time, in just the right place. And you wonder . . . Where would I be if I hadn't read this?

At just the right time, one story breathed courage into my spirit. One story offered hope beyond the present unknowns. One story served as a grab bar when panic and despair threatened to steal away any strength I had left. Strength I needed to navigate the uninvited trauma that invaded our lives.

Page after page, I read Gracia Burnham's book, In the Presence of My Enemies. A halo--screwed into my skull to stabilize my broken neck--kept my head from moving, forcing me to face straight ahead. Compelled to use a hard-backed chair, I sat with my elbows on the dining room table, holding the book at eye level to see the pages . . . hungry for a word from God . . . searching for a hint of grace.

Gracia Burnham's memoir does not offer soothing verse or warm, wonderful stories. Her account reveals the horrors experienced by two American Missionaries taken captive in the Philippines. For over a year they and several other hostages were forced to traipse from place to place in the jungle, barely surviving oppression from their captors and the elements. In the end, Gracia's husband was shot and killed. 

Somewhere between the lines, I discovered a rare kind of strength. I witnessed a faithful God whose awareness and care for His children make a difference in the very worst of times. There at my dining room table, I determined that if Gracia could trust God in a most horrendous chapter of her life story, I could trust Him with this fearful and uncertain chapter of my own.

The power of her story made all the difference for me then - and continues to inspire me to this day. The right story at the right time . . .

So, what stories have made a significant contribution for you?

*Excerpts from the Introduction of Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story, to be released September 26, available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle Editions.

 Book Signing

Saturday Afternoon, November 5th, 2016
Duffy's Coffee House, 306 South State Street, Clarks Summit, PA 18411

Monday, September 5, 2016

Perfect Stories?

My author friends and I love to write. When we meet together to critique each other's writing, each of us has spent long hours since our last meeting spinning story lines. But our words are far from perfect. And we often read rewrites. Why? Because a writer doesn't get it right the first time. Our first drafts sound disjointed, lacking the smooth flow of ideas and the pluck of just the right word. The key to good writing is rewriting. I've been rewriting Penned Without Ink for six years!

Unlike me--or any other author--God writes perfect stories. He is perfect. He is faultless and whole. Only God qualifies as the ultimate "author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2).

The events surrounding our car crash in 2003 didn't seem to me to be a "perfect story."  How does the dark side of life fit with God's perfect ways? I'd rather embrace the miracles, the healings, and the transformed relationships, wouldn't you?

Instead, problems often overwhelm us, and we struggle with disappointment, pain, and unanswered questions. Has God forgotten us?

As the years have slipped by, I'm learning that my perfect plotline has more to do with God's character than with my circumstances. More to do with His loving consistent involvement in the midst of unsettling situations than with my idea of resolution. More to do with the God who watches and weighs all that happens, even when I can't see Him.

A.W. Tozer writes, "To the child of God, there is no such thing as an accident. . . . Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but . . . we cannot read the secret script of God's hidden providence . . ." (We Travel an Appointed Way, p. 1)

Long ago, King David etched this timeless truth onto parchment: "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me" (Psalm 138:8). The word perfect carries the idea of complete. Another translation puts it this way, "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me . . ."

So, what's your story today? Are you a little discouraged? Disappointed? Apprehensive? Remember, the perfect Master Writer has committed Himself to complete His perfect work in each of us. He desires us to trust Him with our life stories because, unlike any earthbound writer, God writes perfect stories . . . even when they take place in the fog on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

*Excerpts from Chapter Two, Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story.

Penned Without Ink, to be released September 26, is available in paperback or Kindle on amazon.

Photos from bing.com/images

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Your Life Story . . . Penned Without Ink


Life story.

Your life story.

We each have a story. In fact, we each are a story - penned without ink - known and read by the people around us. While the main characters wander in and out of our paragraphs, the plot thickens with tension and misgivings and relaxes with humor and celebration. We all hope for a satisfying conclusion.

So, what's going on in the current chapter of your story? In what season of life do you find yourself? Does the fall represent a new beginning as flexible summer days give way to predictable routines? Are you looking forward to new opportunities or do you find yourself grappling with loss and grief? What's unique about this time in your life - both the pros and the cons?

Today marks the first day of a brand new chapter for me

My youngest is beginning a new chapter in her life, too . . . on a college campus. Which means . . . my house is a little too quiet, a little too empty, a little too solitary. Elisabeth's in a healthy environment where she will learn far more than if she were home. But that ache in my heart, as I left the flat farmlands of the mid-west, made the roadway blurry as I wiped away the tears for an hour after crossing the Pennsylvania state line yesterday.

Perhaps, in the transitions of life we experience both gains and losses. In a day-to-day sense, I have lost my daughter's companionship yet have gained the freedom to come and go, serve and write as seems best to me. Just the opposite of when we welcomed our girls into the world. We gained the wonderful privilege of parenthood and relinquished a few freedoms in the process.

Whatever this new chapter holds for me, I want to do it well. Don't you feel the same way? My friend, Gail, sent a short note, which read, "I'm praying your sense of hearing will be so sharpened that you'll hear God's presence in the quiet." Ironically, I have been praying a similar prayer the last few days.
Wherever we find ourselves in our life stories, let's remember God's faithful presence . . . in our joys, in our sorrows, and in our transitions. We take the promises of God with us into each new chapter and into each new day. 

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. 
The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. 
Hebrews 13:5, 6

Now available on Amazon.com

Saturday, August 6, 2016

To Let the World Know . . . Behind the Scenes # 7

And then there's the marketing . . .

It's one thing to practice the craft of writing over many years, to schedule time to sit down and do it, to rewrite a chapter multiple times, to read it to your critique group, to edit it again, to gather up the courage to send your manuscript off to a publisher, and wait and pray for an acceptance letter.

It's quite another thing to market it. To let the world know. To somehow persuade people to like your combination of words all nicely packaged inside a great cover and . . . to actually buy it.

I'm an introvert. I'm the child who picked mostly white strawberries so everyone else could have the red ones. I'm the young woman in the circle who thought of a contribution ten minutes after the fact. I'm the graying grandma who, like many writers, finds it more comfortable to quietly peck away at my computer than put myself out there.

Then I remember that Penned Without Ink is not about me. Yes, it's our family's story. But it's more than that. It's God's story. He's the hero! And it's His words, jotted bold on the page, that make all the difference.  

Do you ever feel like the little boy who handed Jesus his lunch? I do. Sometimes our fish and bread seem insignificant against the needs surrounding us but Jesus blesses what we bring to Him. He multiplies our offering and somehow feeds the multitudes.  

But what encourages me today is that even Jesus accepted assistance to distribute this miracle meal to the hungry. The text reads, "Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples and the disciples gave them to the crowds" (Matthew 14:19).

I'm learning that it's important to accept a little help in order to offer our story of grace . . . God's story . . . to the world.

A special THANK YOU to all who are offering Penned Without Ink's message of hope to friends, relatives, and others who are hungry for a positive word, some in the midst of very challenging circumstances

Blessings to you all.