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

Friday, October 21, 2016

How Strong Are You?

In an hour and a half, we crossed everything off my list!

CSU's Community Appreciation Day comes every October. Tuesday, eight college girls descended on my place, and for the better part of the morning helped me do things I can't do, things like flip a queen-size mattress and vacuum under the bed, clean out and organize the paint closet, load snow tires into my car, move boxes, prepare my vegetable garden for winter, and ready a section behind my garage for grass seed--which  meant picking out buckets full of Pennsylvania rocks and stones. What a great group of girls!

Most of these chores have one thing in common. They require lifting.

I never realized how valuable physical strength is until left-over limitations from a car accident prevented me from lugging the vacuum cleaner upstairs, moving anything of substance, or even taking a turkey out of the oven. When those with strength give me a hand, I'm amazed at all they can do. Their help means so much to me.

In this life I'll never be strong physically, yet I am thankful for what I can do. It's all in how you look at it. 

There are other ways to be strong. We say a person is strong when they demonstrate courage in the face of adversity or rise above unfortunate circumstances. They model hope when we find ourselves in a weakened position. 

The theme of God's strength permeates the Bible. He is all-powerful and at the same time shares His strength with earthbound weaklings like us. "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10). And the verse that got me out of bed on many mornings after the crash: "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10).

So, how strong are you? 


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Trust in the Daily Grind

By the time I hung up the phone, tears wet my cheeks. My doctor just finished telling me that, by looking at the x-ray, he was pretty sure the specialist (whom I, myself, had chosen to do the procedure) had, well . . . botched it. I would have complications sooner or later, which would require another, more invasive, solution.

I thought I had done the wise thing by asking for another opinion. The second professional had not only demonstrated a kind thoroughness but also highly recommended the specialist. The path I chose seemed so right at the time. It made sense. Now, regret and fear filled my being. This had been a difficult decision for me. I had sought counsel. I had prayed. And now this?

Added to the frustration of it all, questions peppered my thinking. Did I not discern God's will? Was I too conscientious? Should outcomes alone determine the quality of our decisions? If my doctor had done the work and made a human error, wouldn't I have thought, "Maybe I should've seen a specialist"?

Have you been here?

Although this was not a huge crisis, I felt disappointed . . . even vulnerable. Do you find, along with me, that it's in the little things, in the daily grind, where trust shrivels or thrives? Can we choose to trust . . . in spite of poor outcomes, in spite of questionable decisions, in spite of our own self-doubt?

God, in His gracious timing, reassured me as I prepared for our small group study, using the the second chapter of Penned Without Ink titled "God Writes Perfect Stories." Once again, I came away with a broader perspective and a fresh confidence in the One who is much bigger than me and my circumstances.

"The Lord will perfect (complete) that which concerns me" (NKJV).
"The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me" (NIV).
Psalm 138:8 

"And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, 
that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ . . . developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you."
Philippians 1:6, The Amplified Bible

I don't know which doctor is right. I don't know what the outcome will be. Yet, in it all, God is committed to accomplish His good work in me . . . AND IN YOU.

That's pretty perfect!

Penned Without Ink: Trusting God to Write Your Story is available here (On Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle formats.)

A picture is worth a thousand words. View photos of our story under the PHOTOS TAB above.

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