Loss

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This December, I have been juggling two emotions: one of happy expectation for Christmas and the new year, of celebrations with friends and family, of worshiping the newborn King in word and deed, and in beginnings, and hope for hard and rewarding work in the coming seasons.

The other emotion is grief and the process of handling memories. My mother passed away on Thanksgiving, just a few weeks away from her ninety-fourth birthday

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Jun 21, 1947. My mom and dad, flanked by Jay and Frances Reed, mom’s parents.

 

It is a bitter-sweet process. Just last week I stood at my mother’s open casket and grieved over words left unsaid. I grieved over the relationship we should have had. But I thank the Lord that I was able to say many times this year, “I love you, Mother.”

And I was able to place my hand on hers and whisper, though my sobs, “I forgive you.”

 

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My mother was an irregular person: musically gifted, filled with passion, ambitious for her children, but lacking a filter on her mouth or the ability to empathize. Her words could be a balm at surprising times. But all too often, her words cut and bludgeoned.

In the last few years, the Lord helped me to see my mother as a hurting soul and to view her with His eyes of compassion.

She wanted the best for us, but she didn’t know how to nurture us with gentleness and affirmation.

She did excel in a couple of things: She read to us each day and stressed the importance of using the English language well.

She taught us piano and made sure our practice was perfect. I am eternally grateful that she was an exacting taskmaster, because I have grown into a good pianist, which gave me a marketable skill as a music teacher.

She accompanied me on the piano when I sang all over the San Francisco bay area. I couldn’t have had a more dedicated and musical accompanist than Mother.

Her sensitive and artistic soul influenced us to see beauty in music, in art, in nature, in the human form, in architecture and literature.

Joanne Nicolaisen, my mother. By the grace of God, I am what I am partly because of her. Thank you, Mother, for the good memories. I miss your piano playing. I miss your passion. I miss you terribly.

 

 

Healthy Habits

One of the perks of being retired—well, retired from teaching, but not from writing—is that I can take as little or as much time as I want, or need, to read scripture every day.

Here’s my routine: make coffee, have my eggs and bacon, take my supplements, clean up, go to my favorite chair…

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and open my Bible. (My spot is on the couch underneath the painting.)

I like to read large portions of scripture, out loud, with as much expression as possible. I think both seeing and hearing the words helps me concentrate on what I’m reading. And the added expressive reading requires that I correctly comprehend the meaning of the text.

The other day, I read all of Ephesians and was impressed by these thoughts:

  • God prepared certain good works for me to do. (That’s you, too.) Verse 2:10
  • God is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”3: 20 I keep forgetting this.
  • We—not the pastors, nor the missionaries, nor the professionals—are the ones who do the work of ministry to others, both in the church and outside the church. We! Not someone else. 4:11,12

Of course, there is so much more to Ephesians, but these are the texts that stood out in my mind on this particular reading.

The other benefit of reading the entire book (especially one of the letters) is that I keep in mind the over-arching theme and see the main points all in the same reading.

Right now, I’m in the middle of 1Timothy. When I get through Revelation, I’ll start all over again at the beginning.

Do you have routines, too? I’d love to hear.

And one more thing: with Thanksgiving coming up, and Black Friday right afterward, my publisher, Anaiah Press is going to offer a sale on all the books they’ve released in the past two years. That means that my book, High Country Dilemma, will also be on sale starting on Black Friday and continuing through the weekend.

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If you like contemporary romance, set in the Colorado Rockies, you’ll love this book. A lovely girl and a hunky firefighter team up to perform in the annual melodrama in an old refurbished opera house. Lots of sweet romance with a redemptive message of God’s love and faithfulness. Safe for teen readers, too.

Stay tuned for more information on this sale.

Have a great day!

Dena

 

The Source of Harvest

 

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A dear friend gave me a beautiful flowering plant called “Oxalis.

This particular species’ leaves are a deep maroon color and each is shaped like a triangle. Oxalis triangularis is what I have. They bear pale pink trumpet shaped flowers. I placed the plant on the window sill, and when it got bigger, I re-planted it to a bigger terra cotta pot. All year that beautiful plant gave me joy.

Then, my oxalis seemed to grow weaker. The leaves became sparce and fewer flowers decorated its foliage.

It seemed to refuse any of my nurturing, or watering, or plant food.

Finally, I gave up and put the dying plant in my cool storage room and forgot about it. I felt a kind of grief, like when the vibrant reds and oranges of fall give way to bare branches.

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Next year, I needed a good-sized terra cotta pot for some new pansies I’d picked up at a local plant sale. I took the pot I’d used for my now-dead oxalis, turned the soil, added more potting mix and fertilizer, then planted the new pansies.

I put the pot of pansies out on my bistro table on my deck. Each morning I enjoyed coffee out on the deck, savoring the beauty and variety of colors and textures, of the dappling of sunlight across the banister and over my impatiens, pansies, and marigolds, and geraniums.

Then something almost miraculous happened. In the middle of summer, a speck of maroon-colored foliage peeked through the green leaves of my pansies.

What?

Sure enough, as I delved through the greenery and bright purples and pinks of the pansies I saw the children of my oxalis straining beyond the shadows to reach life-giving light.

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The two plants lived harmoniously for the rest of the summer and into the fall. But as the weather has cooled, the pansies have reached the end of their time-lines. But the oxalis will live on.

That plant goes through cycles where it seems to wither and die. But wait a while. Leave it. Go away and look at something else. And when the time is right, come back and scratch into the soil and find a new creation, straining upward.

This is the story of the miracle of God’s creative power. Like the oxalis, we artists—made to reflect God’s image—also go dormant at times. It is not strange, as I once thought about the oxalis. I didn’t understand about such things.

But as writer, I have found that we must be patient when we cycle in and out of creativity and productivity. We need those quiet times while we rest from our frantic pace of growth and reproduction. We must let our minds lie fallow for a time.

And trust God to prepare the new seeds for germination and to enliven the old, dried up roots.

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In the book of Galations, Paul is speaking about those who live to please God, how they will reap a harvest of everlasting life. And for Christian writers, as well as others who love God and seek to care for others, we can draw the same conclusion.

Here is what Paul says in Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

 

 

 

Help Me Write My Book!

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Now that you’ve clicked through to my website, you’re clearly ready and willing to help me write my next young adult suspense novel and be a lantern to light my path!

A hint about the plot: Seventeen-year-old Liora has the gift of healing and some really bad guys want to harness her gift for their own nefarious activities.

Here’s what I need:

  1. A name for the cute teenaged guy who helps Liora (my seventeen-year-old main character). I’m looking for a cool guy’s name, but kind of distinctive.
  2. Ways for Liora to escape New York City because she’s trying to get away from the bad guys. Note: She doesn’t have money and doesn’t know who she can trust.
  3. I know NYC area fairly well, having lived on Long Island for five years. But, besides the main highways, what are some smaller routes Liora could use to get out of the city and head west? (Scenic or cultural things one might encounter along the way would be a wonderful bonus.)
  4. Name some small towns in Pennsylvania and Ohio where Liora could hole up for a short time and go unnoticed.

If you come up with some great ideas that I use in my book, your name will be listed on my acknowledgements page …and you’ll be famous!!! And, your name will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of the book when it comes out.

Comment on this post with your suggestions, and be sure to leave your name and email address.

Thanks so much for your help.

Love, Dena

 

 

 

 

A Single Thread

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There’s a wonderful song from the Disney movie, The Prince of Egypt that goes:

“A single thread in a tapestry though its colors brightly shine, can never see its purpose in the pattern of the grand design.”

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I’ve typed out the text to that entire song and pinned it onto my bulletin board in my office. I often refer back to the words, “a single thread,” because it reminds me that there is a much larger work going on in the world that transcends the tracks of my little footprints.

But …

the little part that I  decorate in this tapestry is woven by a Designer who has a purpose.

I am just one person who happens to volunteer each Friday at Whatcom County Pregnancy Clinic. I have no idea whose life I will touch each day as I walk through those doors at nine AM for my four-hour shift. In fact, most of the time it’s the other volunteers and staff and clients who touch me. Their stories  inspire me to keep praying for this wonderful organization, and to keep me coming back week to week.

Recently I met a lovely lady who’d been assigned to me for an Earn While You Learn twelve-week series of meetings. I’ll call her Lora, but that’s not her real name. Lora made it clear in our first meeting that she had no interest in God or any spiritual aspect of the sessions, just wanted to learn all she could about healthy pregnancy, delivery, and how to raise and nurture a young child.

It became clear to me as we talked that Lora was highly intelligent and diligent. She always did her homework assignments and when we watched videos, she was quick to apply the  information presented to her own life and marriage. We did much more that simply watch videos and fill out worksheets. We talked, and discussed, asked and answered questions, and shared information about our past experiences, our educational background, and life goals.

As the weeks flew by, Lora and I began to strongly connect, and we reached a level of trust where I was able to tell her, “I’m praying for you and your baby,” and she said she appreciated it.

One morning, out of the blue, Lora asked, “Are you a volunteer?” Which surprised me because I was pretty sure I’d told her in the first meeting that client/mentors are mainly volunteers. I told her yes.

Lora shook her head in wonder. “You mean you aren’t paid to do this?”

“Nope,”  I answered. “I just love people and want them to have the best start they can when their babies arrive.”

“That’s amazing, ’cause this is a lot of work for you.”

“It’s work, but you make it fun work.”

“And all the baby clothes and diapers and the other stuff in the baby store, who provides them?”

“They’re all donations.”

Lora is a hard-working, independent sort of gal. The kind who made her way through life by dint of a strong will and a good brain. Maybe it seemed strange to her that so many people would give of their time or their resources just so a stranger—not family, not friends, nor associates— could benefit.

I could see the wheels turning. I sure would have loved to see if Lora’s mind concluded that the love for God can indeed translate into a love for people.

On Lora’s twelfth week, we exchanged business cards, exchanged gifts, and gave each other a heart-felt hug.

I haven’t heard from Lora in the last few weeks, but I pray for her still. In some small way that I can’t see, the “grand design” was for me to meet Lora, connect with her, and show her how much I care for her.

Who knows, maybe my “single thread in a tapestry,” will be woven with other ‘threads’ in Lora’s life, leading her to seek out more people who are God-lovers and people-lovers.

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Seeking the Creator in nature and the arts

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