Glorious Mutts

I love dogs. Since my children have grown and flown the coop, my three dogs have moved up in rank. They are now the only “children” in the house and believe me, they know it. They are spoiled with reserved seating on the couch and reclining chairs, petting and cuddles on demand, and more toys scattered about than my three actual children usually had. This is where I will insert their adorable portraits so you can keep their faces in mind while I share the next paragraphs.

 

The largest dog is actually the baby in the house. She is 7 ½ month-old Selena. We adopted her from a rescue about three weeks ago. She is incredibly smart and quite well-behaved already for a pup with no real training. These great attributes of her personality had lulled me into letting my guard down this past weekend.  Apparently, you should never ever let your guard down with a puppy in the house. I learned this lesson after I left her alone downstairs just long enough for me to work-out and shower upstairs. I was gone for about an hour and a half, and this happened:

 

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Okay, mental note, Selena has a thing for accent pillows. Brand. New. Pillows. Sigh.

The little black pug in the photos is 3 year-old, Izzy. Izzy is my cuddle buddy. She loves to crawl right up on my chest and get cheek to cheek with me. She also love kisses, and I’m okay with them being on the lips. After all, she is my dog-baby. But don’t let her innocent look fool you. You see the coffee cup in the photo with Izzy? The picture was taken just seconds after I caught her going in for a few sips… or should I say licks? No cup of coffee is safe around Izzy, and trust me, she is the last dog on earth to need caffeine.

The fawn colored pug mix is our old lady. She is really only 7 years-old, but Nike is the queen matriarch of the pack. She is super well-behaved 97% of the time. The other 3%, it’s raining outside so she has to pee on the floor, usually under a table where we won’t notice until it’s had time to soak into the laminate flooring.

The thing is, none of these less than desirable behaviors lessen my love for these glorious mutts. Not even a little. They destroy and I replace. They pee and I clean. They lick my coffee and I drink it anyhow. Don’t judge me. At the end of the day, when they want to climb into my lap and be showered with love, I am there for them. Always.

I imagine this is how God feels about me. As his rescued child, I don’t always behave in a desirable way. I destroy things he’s given me, like my health when I skip workouts and eat garbage. I don’t always exhibit self-control when temptation is placed in front of me. Sometimes I “go” where I shouldn’t, either physically or mentally. Yet He loves me. At the end of every day, His arms are still wide open for me to rest in his lap and receive His grace and affection.

I will leave you with this. He feels that way about YOU too.  : )

Just In Time For Easter Baskets!

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I am so excited to announce that my debut illustrated children’s book, “Esther the Easter Donkey,” is now available in both Kindle and paperback format! This release is just in time for stuffing Esther in your child’s Easter Basket.

Esther is the new girl on Potter’s farm, and the bully goats who live there don’t give her a very warm welcome. Despite their teasing and insults, Esther shows the love of Jesus in every way and ultimately shares the beautiful story of Easter with her new barnyard friends.

I must give a shout out to Matt Zeigler who created the vibrant and adorable illustrations for this labor of love. Children will surely delight in seeing all the animals come to life in this book. I hope many kids will enjoy hearing and reading Esther’s story for generations to come.

Early reviews say:

“What a cute story with a big message! The illustrations were adorable, and I love that the author tackles the bullying topic. I also like the vocabulary list at the back of the book. As a home-schooling mom, I can see how this book could be used for a variety of topics and school subjects.”

“Review written by my 7-year old daughter, who read the book as soon as I gave it to her! “It was a good book. I would read it again and I would recommend it to a friend! I liked the animals names!” She read it a few days ago and still remembers all the animals’ names!”

“This nice read has good illustrations and we loved that Esther has blue markings. It really makes her so cute and sets her off. Intertwined is a double message. There is a message about dealing with bullies, and the message of Christ’s love for us and others. I can see many children enjoying this book.”

Click Here To Order!

Anticipation… Is Making Me Wait

Okay, if you are about my age, that title just made you sing the jingle for a Heinz ketchup commercial. The jingle was taken from an old Carly Simon song.  I promise I’m not selling ketchup. : ) I’m actually thinking about letter writing; not email or text writing, but actual put a pen to paper and draw words on it writing. Have you written anyone a letter lately? I have not. I might have jotted a handwritten note in a birthday or Christmas card, but that doesn’t count.  Why not? Because there is no expectation of a reply attached to a greeting card and that’s what I remember most about writing letters to people, the anticipation of their reply.

When I was a kid, I wrote letters home from camp in the summer. I would imagine my mom getting my letter and then sitting down to write back to me. I could barely wait to read her reply to whatever I had written. The best feeling was getting my mail at lunchtime in the dining hall. My mother made it even more special by making sure I had pretty new stationary with matching envelopes each year to take to camp. I don’t think you can even buy those little stationary sets anymore. They used to be sold at greeting card stores.

Pen pals were a popular thing when I was a kid too. You could sign up for a secret pen pal at school. I think schools from different places did some sort of exchange to facilitate that. Sometimes camp friends would become pen pals after camp ended, or if a friend moved away, they might become a pen pal. If you and your pen pal were both committed to letter writing, you could really form a deep friendship. If one or the other of you was no so committed, you could be really disappointed. Learning to deal with disappointment was also something kids used to get to do.

Pen pals have been replaced by Facebook friends I suppose. Now instead of sharing news through a nice long letter that also probably expressed a few hopes and secrets, we get to see what each other is having for dinner and envy the amount of time the other seems to spend at the gym. I’m not knocking social media as a means to connect and communicate. I actually think it’s quite awesome when used responsibly. It’s just not as tangible. You can’t touch a private message. It doesn’t come enveloped in pretty wrapping for your eyes to feast upon. There’s no sound of an envelope tearing and paper unfolding, and do you remember the scent of pencils? Perhaps most importantly, there is no lesson in patience, no real anticipation. Sure, I might be anxiously awaiting an email response from someone, but I know the minute they finish crafting a response, I will see it. With letters, you have to wait, and if the response somehow disappoints, you have to write again and wait again. I wonder how many hot-headed Facebook feuds could be avoided if everyone had time to simmer down between responses? And, how many people are lonelier now because they don’t participate in social media? How many people in my parent’s generation never hear from anyone anymore?

Here’s a thought. Maybe it’s time to buy your kid some pretty stationary, if you can still find it. Sit them down and teach them about the USPS and how to properly address an envelope. Address the envelope to Grandma and Grandpa or Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa, or maybe just to a resident at your local nursing home. Make it even more fun with Snoopy stamps from the post office. Let them experience anticipation and the joy of receiving a response, mail of their very own! They’ll remember it for a long time, even longer if you give them a shoebox to stash their mail away. There’s something really cool about being able to unfold and re-read a letter received many years before. You just don’t get the same feeling from an archived email.

And now just for fun, here’s a link to one of the old Heinz commercials!

 

Kendall’s Sale!

Wow! I just realized how long it’s been since I last wrote a blog post. I am sorry for neglecting you all! I’m afraid this isn’t going to be a thoughtful post as much as a shameless self-promotion. Ha! I promise to follow up soon with something more substantial. I just wanted to let everyone know that the Kindle version of “Kendall’s Secret” is on sale for the remainder of January. If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, what are you waiting for? It’s just 99 cents until the end of the month. Kendall is also available in paperback for $8.99 if that’s more your style.

Order Kendall’s Secret Here

 

A Not-so-Happy Birthday

Last year, on this day, my mother called my phone at work and left me a voicemail. On the recording, she was singing “Happy Birthday” to me. She said she loved me and wished me a happy day. This was just shy of a month after she was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer. In my heart I knew her prognosis was not good and a little voice inside told me to save that voicemail. Less than two months later, on October 2nd, my mother left this earth and went home to Heaven. I drew solace from knowing that she was with God, that she was whole and healed, and that she was rejoicing at the feet of Jesus and singing with the angels. At the same time, my heart was broken and I wished so much that she could have remained healthy and stayed with us longer.

It was comforting to still have my Dad, alive and basically well aside from the chronic pain he suffered from years of arthritis that broke down his body. I was happy he could come to my grandson’s first birthday party in November and just as happy to have him at my table for Thanksgiving. Something very nurturing in me always loved to feed my dad. He enjoyed food, especially dessert, and we cut the biggest piece for him. I never expected to find him in his room deceased a few weeks later. My siblings and I could only reason that he needed to be with Mom and didn’t want to spend a single Christmas without her. Facing an almost insurmountable mountain of grief and the business of settling our parent’s affairs, we could only pull together, roll up our sleeves and press forward.

Winter was long and brutal. Life refused to just stop and let me mourn. My family took a few more hits below the belt, a lost pregnancy and a car accident, before spring finally brought the thaw we had been craving. My parents’ remaining worldly possessions and the property that was their livelihood for many years, sold at auction. I did not want for any monetary return, only for my parent’s affairs to be settled in an honorable manner. My siblings and I posed for one last photo in front of the house while it still belonged to us, and after the final gavel fell on that warm May day, all that was left was to drive away.

In June, we were blessed with a healthy new grandson and I cried tears of joy… and sorrow at the realization that I would not be calling Mom and Dad to give them the news. Still he was a ray of light after such a trying and exhausting year. A headstone was ordered to mark Mom and Dad’s graves, and I suddenly found my mind being kept occupied with new worries over my ailing Mother-in-law’s health. A long hospital stay for her consumed the balance of June and all of July.

Now I find myself in August again. The same day that one-year-ago I heard my mother’s aging voice singing Happy Birthday on my phone. I never thought about what it would be like to have a birthday without the two people responsible for it. But now I know it is heart-breaking. How I wish today I could hug my dad and feel the soft fabric of his flannel shirt against my cheek or smell his after-shave. We’d be sitting in their kitchen and he’d ask me at least three times if I was sure I didn’t want a diet soda. I wish I could hear my mom hollering “hello!” from the back of the house and see her walking out the hallway in a blue patio dress with a pack of gum in her hand. I wish I could tell her I think she’s beautiful. I wish I would have told her that more often when I had the chance. Alas, there is just one birthday wish that can come true, to hear my mother’s voice again. You see, I did save that precious message. It’s my mom. The woman who made the nest I flew out of and now can never return to, the woman I’m missing so much on my birthday. I’m sure when again I hear her recorded voice, fresh tears will streak my face. Yet I will listen and remember when, and know that as much as I loved her, she loved me too.

I know a guy…

My younger brother is the “I know a guy” guy. He knows someone for just about any problem or need you may have. Need a master electrician? He’ll call his boss’ son. Need an auctioneer? He’s got one on speed dial. Need to find the perfect engagement ring? His friend Jim deals in jewelry. He knows pastors, gun club owners, used car dealers, and even a guy who does laser etching on tombstones. Just this weekend, when he needed emergency dental work, he simply called his dentist friend who opened his office on a Saturday for him. Every time my brother starts a sentence with “I know a guy…,” I smile in amusement and want to say, “Who don’t you know?”

Truth be told though, I really admire his ability to network with random people he meets. He’s met these people through jobs that he’s had or has, hobbies and interests of his, extended family connections, etc. The one thing they all have in common is that he reached out to them at one time or another, and he spent some time getting to know them. That’s something many of us never do. I may not meet as many people as my brother does through work, but I do meet some. I meet people at church or through friends, but I often falter at initiating meaningful conversations. Often times, I am worried I’ll seem nosey if I ask questions to get to know someone. Sometimes I just don’t have the time to invest in a lengthy conversation. It’s sad but true for many of us, isn’t it? We hustle and bustle and rush around. We miss the forest for the trees, but that’s not all we miss. We miss the chance to widen our circle of friends or even contacts and ultimately our circle of influence as well.

Why is this important? It’s important, because God didn’t design any of us to be completely self-sufficient. Verse after verse in the Bible instructs us to be helpmates to each other, to share our gifts, and lift each other up. God has also instructed us to be disciples and lights in this world. Each contact in our network is not only someone we can turn to, but also someone we can bless. We may bless them by sharing a talent or our knowledge. Perhaps we provide income to them through payment for services. Maybe we simply share God with them at some point. I’ve shared just a few examples of the verses that guide us to care for one another below.

Hebrews 13:16
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Philippians 2:4
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Proverbs 3:27
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

Matthew 10:8
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

Acts 20:35
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

My brother doesn’t just benefit from knowing handy people who can help him when he has a need, he also blesses others by sharing his talents, gifts and expertise in return. My brother has never asked me to help him with anything that I can recall, yet he has never said “no” to any of my requests of him. He has installed parts on my husband’s truck for me, driven me home when road conditions made me nervous to drive and even gone car shopping with me. If he ever does ask me for anything, I’ll certainly not hesitate to respond. This is one way God has provided for his children in this life. He has given us each other. Some, like my brother, are really good at recognizing and building upon this resource. Others like me are just happy to know an “I know a guy” guy. That reminds me, I have to ask my brother who he knows for plumbing.

New Release, “Kendall’s Secret” on sale now!

I am thrilled to share that Kendall’s Secret is now available in Kindle and paperback format! Keep reading for an introduction to my new release.

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The town of Waterville, Pennsylvania is home to Kendall Ross and her friends, Justin, Hannah, Alex, Megan and Owen. Together, they are JOY, the first youth praise band their church has ever had. “Kendall’s Secret,” the first in The Praise Band Series, is available now on Amazon.com.

From the back cover:
Kendall’s world revolves around her family, the church youth band, and an endless stream of text messages with her friends… until a tragic accident claims her sister’s life and leaves Kendall carrying a painful secret. Her mother, her friends, even the police don’t know what really happened that fateful night on Crooked Hill Road.

Shattered by grief and tortured by her memories, Kendall knows if she tells the truth, she may never be forgiven. But if she doesn’t, someone else will face certain persecution. Will she ever find the courage to reveal how one choice, one word, changed everything?

From the author:
Everybody does it. That’s the battle cry of the teenager, and sometimes it is all too true. Kendall didn’t do anything that her friends and even her mom and other adults weren’t doing. That’s why Kendall didn’t seriously worry about texting while driving. It wasn’t really that big of deal, was it? Perhaps not. Until that last one, that last message that changed Kendall’s life forever and ended Hayley’s. Read her story for just 99 cents until July 31, 2015!

Click here to purchase!