Almost, But Not Quite

Just a quick note to let you know that the manuscript has NOT been sent yet. It was a self-imposed deadline but yet, I still feel the pressure. After my wonderful husband edited it I took one more look at it and, well, lets just say there were a few minor changes I want to make. The problem is that I am just now waking up (with coffee at my side) from a two 12-hour night shift stint. So, I will be working on those changes once my coffee hits my brain, and the new and improved plan is for it to be in the mail tomorrow.

The additions mostly involve character description. One challenge I have with trying to find a traditional publisher for this second book is that it is… well it’s the second book. It MUST be a stand-alone story (which I think it is), but that means that I need to make sure the characters are described well enough for someone who might not have read the first book. That’s what I’m finding I left out. For instance, they need to know that Molly is 8. They need to understand the connections of the kids.

Anyway, I know some of you are praying. I believe that God’s timing is best and I have only one shot at this number one choice of publishers, so I’d best get it right! Pray tomorrow as I send the manuscript. Pray each day, if you can that God’s will would be done. Oh, and my website has a payment button now! Go order a few dozen books. 🙂

Culture or Love of God – Which constrains me?

This is the first draft of a column for the Newberry Observer. I rewrote it to be less direct for the paper but felt I wanted to have my “full-say” here.

Culture or Love of God – Which constrains me?

When Mr. Jimmy prayed in church on Sunday I got stuck on his first phrase and, I admit I didn’t hear much else he said. He started like this. “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the privilege of coming to you today.” 

Privilege. He said privilege. 

I am a PK. That means preacher’s kid to those of you who don’t know and since this is the Bible Belt that’s probably not many. My Daddy is a Baptist minister and has been most of my life. In fact he was in Seminary when I was born and is still going strong. 

 I love church. My week is not complete if I don’t go to church Sunday Morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evening. Call me weird but that is who I am. That is my culture. 

Because of that I feel comfortable here in the South. Out West people are more private about their faith. They don’t speak as freely about their church affiliations. When you pray in a restaurant you stand out, you are conspicuous. Not here. Here, there is nothing unusual about a table full of people bowing their heads to pray before eating their meal at Ronnie’s. 

Jesus is a big part of the culture in the South and I love it 

However, I have to wonder sometimes if that’s all it is to us. A part of our culture.  That’s why my mind got stuck on the word “privilege”. I’m so blessed to know it is my privilege to come to God, to attend church. But do I look at it as a privilege? Am I attending church for the right reasons? I’m sure God is pleased that I am there, regardless of my motives, but am I receiving the full blessing I could? These are some questions I ask myself. 

After the prayer, I pulled myself together and listened as Pastor Clark preached on the Love of God. He spoke of the truth that it is the Love of God that constrains us. 

 Ah, there is the answer. Church attendance shouldn’t be because it is my culture. It should be simply because God loves me and that love is so powerful, so overwhelming that I can’t wait to get there. 

It’s like when I am going home to South Dakota to see my family. I can’t wait for that plane to land or the car to travel those last hundred miles. I go every chance I get. I make sacrifices so that I can go. If I don’t go often enough I become unhappy. (My husband might even use the word crabby.) The love for my family constrains me to go. There would be something wrong if I went simply because it was my culture.

That’s what bothered me when Mr. Jimmy prayed. The Love of God should constrain me, not the Culture to which I was born. After all, as a child of the living God it is my privilege to be in church.

It’s something to think about, isn’t it?

Come, Holy Spirit

I was sitting at the piano this evening, singing my way through a song book. I came to this song. It’s not my usual style but every time I sing it I am grabbed with the powerful truth. Tonight more than usual. With the challenges we face in our nation and world today I couldn’t help but think that this song is quite fitting. As in every age what the world needs is for Christ to work through his people. The thing is. . . we are His people. Are we letting Him use us as we should?

For as long as I can remember, my Daddy has been burdened and praying for revival. I believe that we all need to follow his example. What America needs isn’t a new economic program. It’s not a new batch of people in Washington, although I’m thinking it can’t hurt. What the world and America need today is for God’s people to surrender to the Holy Spirit and let God change the world through us. Are we up for the challenge? 

Come, Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit came at Pentecost; He came in mighty fullness then.

His witness thru believers won the lost, And multitudes were born again.

The early Christians scattered o’er the world; They preached the gospel fearlessly.

Tho’ some were martyred and to lions hurled, They marched along in victory!

Chorus:   

Come, Holy Spirit, Dark is the hour. We need Your filling, Your love and Your mighty power.

Move now among us, Stir us, we pray;

Come, Holy Spirit, Revive the Church today!

Verse 2:

Then in an age when darkness gripped the earth, “The just shall live by faith” was learned.

The Holy Spirit gave the Church new birth, as reformation fires burned.

In later years the great revivals came, When saints would seek the Lord and pray.

O once again we need that holy flame, to meet the challenge of today!

Chorus:

Come, Holy Spirit, Dark is the hour. We need Your filling, Your love and Your mighty pow’r.

Move now among us, stir us, we pray;

Come, Holy Spirit. Revive the Church today.

by John W. Peterson

Pay Pal – Up and Running

In the never-ending attempt to sell books we have Pay Pal up and running on the website. Now it is much easier to order a book or ten from my website. I know kids are back to school now. Maybe they have a book report. This would be an awesome book for that purpose. Maybe you know they are going to be invited to umpty-jillion birthday parties this year! This book is a great gift for a boy or a girl. Maybe you are a grandparent looking for a birthday or Christmas gift for little Dick, Jane, or Sally! Have I got a deal for you!

Check it out! We will be making more updates to the website soon so go frequently. Tell your friends about this book. And please, please pray. The manuscript and proposal for the second book in the series will be sent Tuesday to a publisher. I really would like it if a traditional publisher would pick up the second book.

Thanks for reading my blog. I am so blessed to have this opportunity. I am amazed every time I see someone has chosen to come and read these little things I write. Now, if you want to read the BIG THING I wrote, go to my website. 🙂 🙂 www.doublecousins.net

Like No Other Place

A few days before he died, I sat by Grandpa Jones’ bed in the nursing home. He fiddled with the blankets, frustrated that his life was nearing an end. He wanted to be home. He wanted things how they used to be. The silence was painful for me, and since I don’t believe in silence I started the conversation with a question. “Grandpa, what was the favorite place you ever lived?” 

Without hesitation he answered; “Survey Valley.” 

I wasn’t surprised. The Survey Valley is in the Sandhills of Nebraska, north of Ashby. It is the place they moved to, by covered wagon, in 1913. Grandpa was eight. He grew up there, he married there, and his heart really never left. He wrote about it in his books; the people and the places. 

From 1978-2005 the places I lived in Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota all led to a frequent traveling of Highway 2 through the Sandhills to get to Grandpa and Grandma’s. Even now, when we travel to Rapid City, we travel via Highway 2 most of the time, just from the opposite direction. So indirectly, I have developed a love of the Sandhills. It feels like home. It is the place of my roots. My Daddy was born in this sod house in the sandhills during the depression. My Uncle Jim is the boy in the picture. 

I remember once, when I was about seven the family made a trek one Saturday up to the site of the old sod house. It wasn’t there anymore. If I remember right, we found some foundations on the property and an old garbage dump. What I remember most though about that day was the feeling that pervaded the air. It seemed everyone was a little excited mixed with sadness. Everyone wanted to see the place where. . . 

Last September my sister and I drove Highway 2 on our way to, and from Grandma’s birthday party. I realized that I didn’t remember traveling the Sandhills in the fall. Maybe it was just the fact that the Sandhills never look quite the same any two years. This year, in particular the colors were amazing. Oh, not the bright colors you see out east, but subtle hues. It was awe-inspiring.

September Sandhills

Yesterday I spent a lovely sweet hour reading a book I ordered. The name is Like No Other Place – The Sandhills of Nebraska by David A. Owen. My cousin Gordon and his wife Jan brought the book to the reunion and I really wanted one of my own. Mr. Owen is from Connecticut and spent a year in the Sandhills learning the people and the land. He took pictures and then he put together this fabulous book. I could hear my Grandpa talking as I read the stories in the book. I can tell you, that if Grandpa and Grandma Jones were living, they would not only own this book, they would be its best promoters. Grandpa liked books with lots of pictures. Grandma loved the Sandhills too.

Gordon is pictured in the book which is fitting. I’ve always felt that Gordon is the most like Grandpa. He is the oldest grandson and benefited from the most years around Grandpa. He and Jan moved their family to the middle of the Sandhills. I still remember the pride in Grandpa’s voice when he spoke of their move. He was sad they would be farther away from him but oh my, there was a bit of jealousy that he couldn’t be the one moving there.

So, my recommendation today is that you go to Amazon, or your local bookstore and buy this book. Whether you have ever been to the Sandhills or not it will be interesting for you to read. I think he caught the essence of what the Sandhills are as well as what it means to be a Sandhiller.

Change is Life and Life is Change

Change is hard. I don’t know anyone that particularly likes change. I know I don’t. Well, maybe I should rephrase that. I don’t like bad change. But—and it’s a big but—who defines bad change. I only want good changes. Changes that will keep us all the way we are.

 But is that good? I guess not.

 I was all for the change of getting married five years ago. But that led to change that I didn’t much like; the change of living fifteen hundred miles from my family. The change of not being there every time one of my nieces and nephews celebrate a birthday. The toughness of going home and seeing the changes in everyone as they grow older. The wonderful change of marriage brought about difficult change. But I didn’t for one minute entertain the idea that I should refuse the loving husband God was offering me. Hello!!!

So many of the changes we experience are related to sin. The sin of Adam caused death; the aging process can be blamed on him too. The thistles are his fault; the pain of childbirth is his fault. Man. . . he really blew it. Others are given to us by God. Some to make us happier, some to make us grow, some just because that is how he created things to work.

 I have been sitting on my porch a good bit this weekend. The tree in the big yard is starting to change. Already. I know it’s only August, but a few over-achiever leaves have already changed to orange and as I watch they start dropping in the breeze, floating to the ground. Sometimes two drop at once.

Our house in North Carolina has seen a lot of change the past 4 years. Emptying out, painting, scraping, gutting the bathroom and starting fresh. There’s the porch, of course and the new siding and windows. Our last big improvement was the new flooring. It almost looks like a new house.

 But yet, the memories are still there for my husband. We kept the picture of Mary the mother of Jesus that has been on the wall ever since Bruce remembers. He thinks it was a wedding gift for his parents. It’s not our style, but its part of the history of this house. The house his parents built when they married. So we work at making this our house while preserving the memories. We refer to it almost always as “Mama’s house.” To my husband that’s what it will always be.

There are moments as we sort through the remnants of his parents’ life in this house that I sense the deep sadness in my husband. He misses his parents. He misses the way it was when Mama still lived here. We still keep things just because it’s too hard to part with. Sometimes the things we find prompt a story or two about growing up in this house. Stories about his Daddy taking them camping when he was switching shifts and had a long weekend.  Stories about the huge garden they grew, the garden that was essential to feeding four growing boys.  I love that. I want to know how it was for my husband. I want to see how the people in his life made him who he is.

The change I hate the most is the change of saying goodbye. I hate it. I hate moving because I have to say goodbye to my friends. But I always remind myself that if I hadn’t left the last place I wouldn’t have met the people I am presently saying goodbye to. So, I tell myself when I’m faced with another move,  maybe in a few weeks I’ll have new friends, new people I won’t want to say goodbye to. It usually helps put things in perspective.

In this world of change I’m thankful  for the one thing I know won’t change.

God.

 God is immutable. He cannot change. How can perfection be changed?

But, What If?

I feel like a four-year-old this morning. I’m in the “But, what if” stage. What if the publishers don’t want Book Two? What if I send it out and it’s rejected again and again? What if I try hard but not quite hard enough? I don’t have the money to publish another book the way we did the first one. Am I working hard enough on it?

Then I think, yes, but what if the publisher does accept it? Then I’m going to be doing this marketing for the rest of my life! And where has my life gone anyway! I’m going to be 50, yes, I said FIFTY in less than two years. My life is more than half over even with the best case scenario and I’m going to spend all of those years selling mysteries? Of course that’s only IF a publisher likes them. But, what if they don’t.

Then I’ll have to pursue a self-publishing route that is a little less expensive. But what if it isn’t out there. What if I don’t get as good of a product from a different self-publishing option. WinePress put out an awesome product. What if I use a different self-publishing company and the product is rotten. Then I’ll be frustrated and regretful.

What if I can’t get the next book printed at all. All of those people who are excitedly waiting for the next one will be disappointed. 

Well, as you can guess I didn’t sleep very well last night. There were too many what-if’s going through my head. I told my husband, “I’m afraid a publisher won’t take the book, and I’m afraid they will.”

His response, “well Miriam, remember what you often tell me. God is in charge of this anyway so I don’t need to worry about it.”  He had to go there didn’t he? I’m thankful for a wise husband. I’m thankful for enthusiastic readers and friends who encourage me. But, mostly I’m thankful for a God who knows all and can do all. He never has any “what if” moments.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Philippians 4:13

Writers Group

One thing I have really missed since I got married and moved away from Rapid is my writers group. The group in Rapid City was instrumental in the development of my writing skills and in the completion of my book. Every month I went to the meeting, often with no writing to show for the month. However, whether I had written or not I came away with the reminder that I was a writer and I had a book to finish. Months would go by with no progress on my book but I still went to the meeting. I’m social, what can I say.

Through the conferences we hosted and even helping run a contest I learned more about the writing process. I also learned from people of diverse backgrounds. There were people of all political ideologies. There were people from various faiths. The things I heard weren’t always comfortable. We were there, though, to encourage each other in the writing process and in the meantime I made some dear friends. Friends I still miss.

In Florida I tried to find a group but I never did. Well, I found a group but it required getting on the interstate and driving in all of that traffic. I went once but never could quite get into the groove. Since we’ve lived in Newberry I haven’t been able to find a group. This spring after the conference in NC I came home to find a voice mail inviting me to a writers group in Newberry. I was thrilled. Leslie told me that they met once a month and read to a topic that they chose. You could also read something else if you wanted to.

It reminded me of Rapid so I made plans to go. Last night was the third meeting that I attended and I hosted it at my house. It was a blast. These five ladies are a conglomeration of ages but they are an encouraging group to be around. We end up in interesting discussions, sometimes with opposite opinions but it is a safe place to share our writing souls.

I am so thankful God put the Black Hills Writers Group in my life and I’m just as thankful for my little writers group in Newberry. Today I am in North Carolina sitting on my porch. I will be working on my book today. The goal is still to get it sent to a publisher the first of September. Please pray that the Lord will give me clear direction and will be opening the pathway for the book. 🙂

In My Heart There Rings A Melody

I love “favorites night” at church. Always have, always will. When I was a kid I couldn’t wait to shoot my hand up in the air and call out the number of my favorite song. It usually was an upbeat happy song, with a hallelujah or something for bolder people to call out.

When I first started playing the piano for church “favorites night” was a little scary. There were songs like “Jesus is Coming Again” with their impossible-to-play chorus. I dreamed of the day when someone, please won’t SOMEONE rewrite the music for the chorus of that song. It is just SO hard to play. Eventually though, I learned it and even got a thrill when I would accomplish the feat of making it through the chorus without any mistakes. At the proper tempo even! Amazing. Now I look at favorites as a challenge. There aren’t many songs in the hymnbook that are new to me but occasionally one will trip me up. It usually involves timing, never my forte since I play primarily by ear, secondarily by note.

Last night at church we had favorites and I realized another reason I love “favorites night”. As a child of a minister, PK in common vernacular, my life has revolved around church. Church is my culture and I certainly love going. I don’t feel right missing! The music is a highlight for me. But last night was a special blessing. After an initial song Pastor opened it up for favorites.

I can’t remember all of the songs but The Old Rugged Cross was one. I love playing that as a special, creating my own rendition, probably different each time I play it. It just takes me right back to my childhood. Another one was Onward Christian Soldiers which always reminds me of Vacation Bible School. Along with camp that was one of the highlights of my year as a child.

I played Servant’s Heart for the Offertory. It is a newer song. When I lived in Rapid City, before getting married we had a family in our church there for six years. They were Air Force so six years was a long time. They are from the Philippines and Arther led the singing for Sunday School. It was a rare Sunday that he wouldn’t choose Servant’s Heart. It was his favorite. So now, every time I hear, see, or play that song I think of Arthur Ortiz and the dear sweet family that I miss so much.

One other song we sang, Miss Barbara’s pick was Jesus is Coming Again. Miss Barbara’s hand shot up first and I almost giggled. This song always reminds me of my baby sister Vonda. (Sorry Vonda, you will always be my baby sister.) When she was little she misunderstood the words and she was always asking for the “Baby Soon” song. “Baby morning, Baby noon, Baby evening, it Baby soon.”

As I played it I got to the chorus. What? What is this? I stumbled along, trying to play the notes that had appeared in front of me. This was NOT how I remembered it. Someone had rewritten the chorus. Now it was in boring straight four-part harmony. None of the bouncy left-hand jumping from chord to chord thing. And I couldn’t play it. I found myself trying to revert to the way my mind remembered it. Of all the nerve. . . who would ever think of rewriting such an amazing piece of music. . .

Watermelon Memories

We bought a watermelon this evening. Yummo! I tell you what, there is nothing that spells SUMMER like a good watermelon. We also bought a cantaloupe!  I can’t buy watermelon and cantaloupe without thinking of my Grandpa Jones and the amazing melons he used to grow in Central Nebraska. Oh my. When it was a good year we were eating melons with every meal and for snacks. You just couldn’t eat them fast enough. We actually were staying there one fall when they had an especially productive year.

Another fun memory I have in regards to Watermelon happened the summer of 1973, the summer after my mother died. We were spending our week/weeks out at the ranch and Grandpa took us over to Uncle Jim’s place for the day. They were going to a 4-H meeting and invited us along. At the 4-H meeting they had a watermelon feed. There was a truck full of watermelons and the adults kept cutting watermelon as the kids kept eating. Somehow my cousin Vernon, his friend RP, and I got into a who-can-eat-the-most-watermelon-contest.

I am quite proud to say I won! I ate 13 1/2 pieces of watermelon and the contest ended not because we were done, but rather because they ran out of watermelon. Vernon ate 12 and I’m sorry RP, I don’t remember your count. Judging from how I felt after eating one large piece tonight I would NOT be able to repeat that performance today.

I remember the next spring when my Dad had us write a letter to our new mom-to-be I wrote about my watermelon eating feat. At eleven I apparently felt this was an accomplishment she needed to know about. She wrote back and told me that while she had never eaten that much watermelon she had eaten so much ice cream in one sitting it almost made her sick. With that one acknowledgement my new mother won my heart. I still remember the feeling that she did indeed understand me. She was a kindred spirit.

I am proud to say that I was right. Today is my Mom’s birthday. There are not enough words in this world to express exactly how much her coming to our home meant to me. She set things right in so many ways in my life and in our little family. I am so thankful for God’s ability to give us exactly the people we need in our lives. She has become one of the best friends I could have. 

So maybe it’s not so much the watermelon I’m enjoying although the taste is hard to beat. Maybe it’s the special people who have colored the tapestry of my life.

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!