Monthly Archives: May 2018

A Constant Comfort by Christina Suzann Nelson

Christina Suzann Nelson, inspirational speaker and award-winning author of If We Make It Home, is celebrating the release of Swimming in the Deep End, on September 25, 2018. She writes and speaks about hope after dysfunction. Christina is over the top about her passions, including the stories created somewhere in the twists and turns of her less-than-focused brain. When she’s not writing, she’s working with the Every Child initiative, chasing escaped steers, reading, breathing in the sweet smell of her horse, hiking with her dog, or enjoying her just-as-crazy family.

One of the best parts of being an author is meeting and getting to know other writers, especially the ones who have written books you really enjoyed. Christina Suzann Nelson and I “met” in a Facebook Group because we were represented by the same literary agent. My book club chose to read her book, If We Make it Home, this year, and I cannot recommend it enough. It is a completely unique story of redemption, friendship, and survival. The last week proved incredibly difficult for Christina as you will read in her post, and I am so thankful she was able to take the time to share her story here. I know you will be touched by her words.

 

Thank you, Leslie, for offering me this blog spot. When I took you up on the opportunity, I had my life in order with all going as I planned and expected. I placed the date in my calendar and planned to write this segment in the week leading up to the deadline. No biggie. It’s not a huge commitment…I thought.

Let me tell you about that week I’d planned.

My father has been struggling with Parkinson’s for the last couple of years, especially the not as well-known aspect of the disease—dementia. A week before I was to turn in this post, we had to make a hard decision. It was time to stop the extra poking and prodding and move to comfort care. The best guess was one to two months.

But Parkinson’s never behaved well for my dad. Within a couple of days, he started to diminish. He no longer would eat, even the chocolate pudding that had become the go to food. Then he stopped taking liquids.

Last Tuesday, he passed away, leaving us stunned and reeling from the loss and the speed at which it happened. Two days later, we were at our rural cemetery saying our goodbyes. Needless to say, the blog post didn’t get written until now—the night before it’s due.

A few things have crossed my mind this last week, lessons I’m learning, and a few I keep trying to avoid. I won’t drag you through all the crazy thoughts ping-ponging around my brain, but here are a few:

We are not promised, nor are we owed, an easy life. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

Though this last week dripped of loss, sadness, and trials, there was peace. Peace sat with me at the hospice house, it allowed me to sleep, and it gave me hope as the end drew near. Thank God there is peace.

We need our people. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

By nature, I’m crazy-independent. It’s actually a trait I got from my dad. But this week, I was comforted and surrounded by community. From prayer, to meals, to friends present at my father’s service, I can’t say enough thank yous to express how humbled and loved I feel.

I love my job. Over the last week, I’ve had the flexibility to stop working and be available. My agent has been an amazing support, encouraging me to be with my father rather than pushing me to produce. I couldn’t be more grateful for the career God has allowed me to be a part of.

No emotion, experience, or disappointment is wasted on a writer. We have the opportunity to turn our sorrows into stories that will, hopefully, speak to the heart of the reader. As I work through grief, I find myself holding onto this thought. Maybe, at some point in the future, this pain will be redeemed by comforting someone else in the midst of their own sadness.

So, for wherever you are today, I pray that you will be blessed in this moment.

 

Becoming a Skillful Sailor

“Smooth seas don’t make skilled sailors.” African Proverb. I read that on the side of my frozen yogurt cup the other night. And isn’t it true? In this writing world, I have learned this lesson more than anything else. As I often say, if nothing else comes out of my writing journey, my children will have witnessed perseverance. They will know what it is to dream big, work hard, stay faithful, and surrender to God’s will. For whatever the outcome, whatever the purpose of our successes and failures, God always works for good.

“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts.” Romans 5:2-5.

Goodness, how I cling to those verses when the losses are coming hard and fast, but also to the revelation I had last week. I think it just occurred to me because I had to watch two of my children struggle with losses. It’s so much easier to watch them win, but—Losing is necessary for learning perseverance.

Maybe if we look at it that way, we can see that it is never really a loss. Trials are for learning lessons, honing our skills, gaining strength, and always becoming more patient because it might not be the right time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that perseverance and patience both start with ‘P.’

We all have to navigate rough waters to learn the skills will need for success. When I look at past perceived trials and losses, it always amazes me to see how God was working for something better. His ways are not of this world. Can I get an amen?

What loss or trial left you stronger, in a better place, with a new and improved relationship? What blessings have you gained from persevering through loss?

Anything is Possible

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11

Recently, I have spent a lot of time at the high school Libby will attend next year. The excitement is in the air. I get chills walking through the breezeways. These students have their whole lives in front of them–anything is possible. As we get older, we often forget that feeling, burdened by our daily lives.  Sometimes we need a reminder that God wants to prosper us all, no matter how old we are, no matter how far off His path we have roamed.

We have hope when we turn to God for direction. A future following His plan might have interesting twists and turns, but He is always there cheering us on when we need it, providing the right tools, and preparing us to do his work.

This week lets take a moment to look through the eyes of a teenager and see the opportunities God has provided and remember the way He blesses each of our days.

What new adventure are you considering? How are you stepping out in faith?

A Derby Win by Carlton DeVooght

Last spring, I told my husband, Carlton, about a flash fiction writing contest that wanted stories about sports and romance, and he wrote this fun piece about the Kentucky Derby.  Then he endured my brutal edits, and we’re still happily married, but we won’t do that again. This Saturday is Derby Day, so I thought it was the right time to share it. I know you’re going to love it. 

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What a miserable day. As rays from the setting sun, pushed through the clouds, Clint raked his fingers through his wet hair, surveying the damage.

The torrential rain shower had drenched his new seersucker suit, leaving it transparent. His pink shirt shown through the white stripes in his jacket, making it look like someone had sloshed raspberry lemonade on him. Mud from the infield and a variety of spilled drinks had turned his once white Bucks into a Jackson Pollack work. The pathetic lemon bow tie dangled around his neck, warped by the hours of rainfall—Sinatra’s disdain was palpable.

With his shoulders hunched over and arms hanging limp, he began his walk of shame, his damaged sartorial goods were just the start.

Lori Anne had gushed over his invitation to join him at the Derby in his sought-after seats on the final turn. Her lack of depth reared itself when she abandoned him to join some celebrity’s posse in a box on the stretch. All he had left was the stack of plastic mint julep cups, commemorating the 143rd running of the roses—a pitiful trophy.

Under the shadow of the Churchill Downs’ Spires, he attempted to scan the crowd for his group. Instead he experienced a solar eclipse brought on by a gigantic emerald green hat covered in a cacophony of red roses and white feathers. The feathers swatting his nose tore the cap of politeness off, spewing his frustration and spiking his blood pressure.

He batted at the offending plumage. “Do you mind removing that thing, the race is over.”

The head under the hat snapped around. Her fiery eyes scorched everything in their path, searching for the offending party.

He straightened as her eyes bore down on him. His heart beat like the hooves of the racehorses. But he couldn’t pull his eyes away from her. The millinery framed long red curls and alabaster skin—an enchanting fury.

She arched an aristocratic brow. “See-through seersucker suit and an ugly bowtie don’t make you in charge of Derby fashion.”

Ouch. Harsh honesty that he deserved, but it still stung.

Dropping her gaze to his feet, she grimaced. “And what color Bucks are those?” She was leading down the stretch, giving a final glower to push her over the finish line. “Certainly not white.” She smirked, daring him to respond.

But that’d be a mistake driven by impulse. Instead he’d do the gentlemanly thing and admit defeat. He tugged on his labels, rocking back on his heels. “Forgive me ma’am. It’s been a long day, and I’ve lost a lot more than the original color of these shoes.”

She tilted her head to the side, pursing her lips. Through narrowed eyes, she studied him. His mea culpa had either touched a suppressed nerve of empathy or simply confused her.

“Humility is not something I often find in Kentucky men.” Was that a hint of pity in her jade eyes? At this point, he’d take it.

She smiled sweetly. “Your stab at dapper may have failed, but there appears to be something attractive underneath those fancy clothes.”

Sighing, she flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Did your horse lose too?”

“Apparently, my horse didn’t like the mud.” He showed her his losing ticket from the betting window.

She tapped the ticket. “That’s ’cause you bet on the seventeen horse, and no horse has ever won from that slot. If you don’t have a horse running, best odds are on five or ten.” She tilted her head, blocking the sun with her green headgear of sinamay and feathers. “Or you could pick the horse wearing the prettiest silks like I did.” She winked—a font of Derby knowledge.

He shrugged. “Wish I’d talked to you three hours ago.”

She tossed him a smile.

Heat surged over his face. His impulse moves were winless so far, but why not try another. He wiped his hand on his soaked trousers and extended it. “Name’s Clinton Tanner, but please call me Clint.”

Despite his damp hand, she clasped it, firm and steady. “Mary-Brighton.” This was not a normal filly. She was special, and not afraid to race with the colts.

“Don’t suppose you’d like to get out of here and have a drink with me.” He tried his lopsided grin.

She nodded towards his trophy. “As long as it doesn’t include bourbon.” She hooked her hand around his arm.

A winning day after all and his odds were looking better for post time at the Preakness.