Friday, January 25, 2019

In The Eye of the Storm by Max Lucado

I read another book by Max Lucado, a writer I respect and a teacher who has given me much peace—IN THE EYE OF THE STORM. In this book it says that “He is convinced Jesus’ tomb is empty.” That strength of faith encourages me.

The book is about one day in Jesus’ life, maybe the second most stressful besides the day of his crucifixion.  Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9; John 6.

He learned his cousin, John the Baptist, someone who probably understood him better than anyone else, had died. The news came that Herod might be after Jesus as well.

A good thing that happened on that day—his disciples returned excited about what god had done through them as they traveled teaching and healing. Jesus wanted to take them away by themselves for a while, but thousands of people followed him. He helped the people because he had compassion on them.

Mr. Lucado said the Greek word for compassion means from his gut, strong compassion. Jesus helped them because people are precious to god.

This was the day Jesus fed more than five thousand people, then they wanted to make him king.

Jesus knew what to do to keep his calm. He called home when the pressure was on, when the temptation was rising. The crowd was hungry, and his disciples didn’t know what to do. Jesus talked with his father.

He prayed before delivering food, and when the crowd wanted to make him king. He took the time to be alone to talk to his father.

It would have been tempting to let them make him king, to not go through the crucifixion, to get back at Herod for killing John the Baptist and possibly threatening Jesus. He didn’t want to listen to those voices. He wanted to hear his father’s voice.

Through storms of doubt, gentle lights can help. When big, terrible things happen, small, unexpected kindnesses and other delights can help. The disciples did not expect Jesus to come walking to them on the water. Like them, we need to be careful to watch for God’s answers to our prayers, which may come in ways we do not expect. God finds his path to us in the storm.

I’ve always been impressed by Peter, walking on the water. Sure he got scared and started to sink, but he had the nerve to get out there in the first place.

Often, our faith grows through fear, through terror. When Peter began to sink, he was terrified and called out to Jesus for help, and Jesus was there immediately.

Those times of terror are the times our faith can grow. Nothing Peter could do, nothing he was proud of, no legalistic religious strengths he had could help. Even his doubts didn’t stand in his way then. He just yelled for help, and Jesus was there.

I’ve called out to God many times, but I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a desperate place. My family has.

Almost seven years ago, I had a severe brain injury from a fall. For a time, they didn’t know if I would survive, or if I did, what shape I’d be in. I have very little memory of that time, but my family has shared some of what they went through.

Murray said on Facebook then: “We are completely helpless and have abandoned her to our sweet Lord Jesus.”

I know my family grew closer to God at that time.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Writing Goals For 2019

For 50 years I’ve had a dream that I would have a book published. This year, that dream is coming true twice.

In April Mantle Rock Publishing is releasing my first book, ALL MY TEARS, a collection of novellas in women’s fiction.

In October they will release my children’s Christmas book, MILLIE’S CHRISTMAS.

I thank the folks at Mantle Rock Publishing for giving me this chance. And I thank God for fulfilling this dream.

Now it’s time to get to work.

Part of the work I do is editing. I love to edit books for other writers. It is an honor to be a part of the work of authors I respect and admire.

Another important piece of my job as a writer is to promote my own books. I am striving to learn more about this important work.

But the goal I need to work on most of all is writing every day.

I have fought this ever since I was a teenager and started to learn about the craft of writing.

I love writing when I am in the midst of it, but I have always had a hard time motivating myself to sit down and start writing.

For more than thirty years, I put off writing much while going to college, working, and raising a family. I got back to my writing career six years ago when I had to stop working due to health.

Now, the push to write every day again.

I finished a novella a couple months ago, and I’ve started another. Just barely.

I had several exciting ideas for stories I wanted to write. I started on a couple. Then what happened?

I’m busy. With editing, family, work around the house, promoting my books, the holidays . . .

How many excuses can I come up with?

We’re solidly into 2019, and I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but I do set goals. I have a to-do list, and I’m writing “just write” on every day.

I want to work on my new story, and I write “work on my story” on many to-do day entries. But I will count other things as meeting my goal. My blog; proofing my last story; future magazine articles; letters; journals; possible future fiction stories.

Just write, Kathy. Just sit down and write.

I will appear as a guest tomorrow on author Gail Sattler’s blog, “What really goes on in the mind of a writer.” Please check it out at and click on the blog link.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Jesus is My Reason

In church this week we talked about the new year, making resolutions, setting goals, from Philippians 3.

I confess, I have been a downer about making New Year’s resolutions. I don’t do it, because when I don’t keep up with it, I get discouraged about myself.

But I’ve heard some wise people say that instead of making resolutions, we can make goals. And that’s what we talked about Sunday. In Philippians 3, Paul encourages us to make goals.

He says to forget what lies behind, good or bad. That verse has always been a great comfort to me. I need to forget what I’ve done in the past, the wrong ways I turned, stop letting them drag me down.

Instead, Paul said he strained forward toward the goal of knowing Jesus. Strain, strive, press on. Strong action words.

Our pastor, Todd, talked about the phrase sometimes used at Christmas time, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” He said, “With Jesus, every day is a holiday, right?”

That’s the goal I want to strive for. Jesus is the reason for every season, for every day.

In my personal bible study I switch between the Old and New Testaments, with more frequent stops at reading one of the gospels. I find that helps me keep encouraged, focused. I realized recently that I haven’t read a gospel in months. I need that. I need a more frequent refresher reminder of what Jesus said and what he did. I started the book of Matthew this week.

Todd also read some resolutions Jonathan Edwards made and one especially touched me. He said to not only try not to be angry in a conversation, but to show love. That’s what I want from myself in conversations.

Those are just a couple of my goals.

Like Paul, I want to strain to better know Jesus, and be more like him. There are so many things I want to do better: to be kind to my family, to put God first in my life, to be more humble and less selfish, to have purer thoughts, to be more generous. And I’m not sure how to keep all this straight in my mind.

Maybe a simple reminder for me might be, “Jesus is my reason for today.” Or, “Jesus first.”

Philippians 3:12-14: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Friday, January 4, 2019

More Than Seven Around the Dinner Table

Recently I asked my mom when was the last time Murray and I and all our kids visited her for Christmas. She said 2010, then she told me it was 1975 since all her kids had been home for Christmas.

I want to grab on to every memory I can.

Sometimes when I’m busy working, and Murray wants to talk to me, I’ve found myself snapping, “I want to get this done.” I’ve taken a few deep breaths while the kids are home, reminding myself that nothing is so crucial for me to do, and I need to take advantage of the time with them.

Ping-Hwei was with us every day, and for a few days, it was just him, Murray and me. That felt strange but Murray said it reminds us of how our future may be.

That’s okay; Ping-Hwei is always fun, and he enjoys the new people others have brought into our home.

All seven of us were home this holiday season, but not at the same time. I described it as a lot of in and out, because of work schedules and because our kids needed to spend time with the people they love and their families as well.

We enjoyed having small children around the house again. Jessica came with Benjamin for Thanksgiving and brought her youngest son Soren, who is close to two.

Holly and Caleb both have dog guides. Soren followed them around saying, “Dog-dog, dog-dog.”

We kept Soren one evening so Benjamin and Jessica could go out, and Soren and I fell asleep together in my armchair. Murray took a picture and posted it on Facebook with the tag, “Kathy loves babysitting.”

Benjamin and Jessica were with us again on Christmas Eve-eve, and she brought her oldest son J.J., who is four.

It is fun buying gifts for kids. We gave J.J. a couple gifts to share with Soren. One was a package of bouncy balls which light up when they’re moved. I wrapped it up in thick wrapping paper, but as I handed it to J.J., he said, “Oh, it lights!”

I haven’t been able to see much light for several years now. But hearing J.J. say that was more fun than if I could have seem them light up myself.

J.J. is a happy, lively boy. He found my two large stuffed animals sitting snugly side by side on my desk chair—Barny the elephant and Gus the monkey. He brought them to show Jessica. The next morning I found he’d put them back on my chair, Barny holding Gus on his lap.

Rebecca and Sarah were home in time to have dinner with us on Christmas Eve-eve. Benjamin kept saying he couldn’t have foods of different temperatures touching on his plate. Rebecca said, “I don’t really think this is a thing with you.” She and Sarah reminded him of foods that must be different temps but still touch, like hot fudge and ice cream and warm bread and cold butter.

Benjamin and I drew each other’s names for gifts this year. He told me, “Your gift is a thumb drive.”

He recorded himself playing a couple songs on the piano and promised to give me more throughout the year. I am so happy. I’ve missed listening to him play the piano.

Steve wasn’t here with us during the holidays yet, but I could hear Rebecca smiling as she said, “I think Steve likes me.” I think so too. He went to feed her cat, Millie, and sent Rebecca a message with Millie purring loudly. “It made me smile,” she said.

Rebecca and I went shopping on Christmas Eve. Such a delight, especially since she told me she probably won’t come home next year for Christmas. Since she just became editor of her newspaper, she said she’ll need to take turns with people taking off at Christmas.

Rebecca lives in a small city in a very rural area of Iowa. As we were driving in the city she said, “I miss being around people who aren’t white.”

Caleb and Holly were here for Thanksgiving, but they went to visit Holly’s family in Missouri for Christmas. Caleb called me often, though. Once I got to hear one of the family dogs speaking quite vocally. Another time Caleb walked his dog Hammy outside, and I heard the goats bleating. What a fun gift!

Sarah is home from her first semester in grad school. I tell her I know she doesn’t live here anymore, and that’s okay, but it’s sure nice to have her for a few weeks. At church, Sarah hushed me as I sang when no one else sang, or talked when others sang. She grabbed my hand and stilled it as I clapped on the seat in front of us to the beat of the song. At Lunch she said, “I can’t take you anywhere.” Being with her like this felt like coming home.

I was reminded of something recently that I’ve only heard my kids say a few times. When there’s a problem that nothing seems to fix, they asked, “Isn’t there anything you can do?” And when the answer is no, it squeezes a parent’s heart.

Now that they’re grown and moving away from me, even for those who live in the same house, there is so much less that I can do for the hard things in their lives. So I will pray they learn more every day how much God loves them. That he covets a close relationship with them, to support them through everything they meet in life.