This morning I awoke to an old song:
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!
Until Next Time,
This morning I awoke to an old song:
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!
Until Next Time,
It’s bugging me that this blog is neglected.
Here’s the deal. Since my husband’s heart attack December 31st of last year and the subsequent struggle with Graves Disease, I haven’t had much left over for this space. And the times I’ve tried to write something heartfelt? Well, I ended up deleting.
Jerry and I are working through things. Making lots of changes in everything from employment to diet to choices for activities. We finally admitted to each other last week that there for a while we were preparing ourselves to say good-bye. But lately he’s been gaining strength and energy and stamina, and that has us encouraged.
What’s discouraging is that he seems to continue to lose vision. He’s having to give up lots of stuff, and, well, you grieve every time you have to let something go. Our pastor taught a few weeks ago on “blessed are they who mourn.” It opened up good conversation between Jerry and me about our grieving process. He grieves all he’s giving up. I grieve for him. And we both grieve the things we can no longer do together.
It’s been quite a journey.
I won’t promise I’ll be any better about posting here in the near future. We’ll see. The dam may open and the words come flooding out one of these days. But for now, I’m just trying to take it a day at a time.
That said, I’m not absent in the on-line world. On my author/speaker page I still post daily inspirational thoughts on living Free to Flourish, and I send a weekly newsletter to my subscriber list. We actually have a free novelette coming this fall for my newsletter subscribers, so now’s a great time to sign-up. And the Lord continues to bring me speaking engagements here and there. There’s something really beautiful about still speaking about Jesus while I’m in a season of grief. It blesses me when He pours the love and hope through me, and I see others encouraged.
I’ve had a few of you ask for that next book in the Towering Pines series. Rattled is half written, and poor Chad and Jade are left hanging, still trying to figure it out. I also promised another Christmas novella this year telling Hillary’s story (Evie’s best friend from Fruitcake Fallout). Honestly I don’t know when they will be written. I’m sad with those of you who’ve told me you’re waiting. Me, too. One of these days, months . . . (I hope not years!) . . . it will happen, and I’ll be sure to let everyone in cyberspace know.
For now, Jerry and I would appreciate your prayers.
Ever wonder how an author thinks up stories? It can be anything, really, that becomes what I call the story seed. Yesterday you got some sneak peeks into the inspiration for my novella, At Home with Daffodils. Today’s posts gives the rest of the story.
On that warm summer’s day when my husband, two youngest sons, my dad, and I drove through Camp Gruber, stopping to swim in the creek when I swam as a child, I had no idea a story was about to be seeded into my heart.
It happened after we drove on through the camp, coming out the other side to discover the quaint little building I talked about yesterday. Dad suggested we stop for lunch. (Don’t mind my hair in these pictures. Remember, I’d just enjoyed an unplanned dip in Greenleaf Creek.)
Located on Qualls Road in Parkhill, Oklahoma, Jincy’s Kitchen is housed in what was once the general store for the old Qualls community. (As I mentioned yesterday, the site was used for the filming of the movie, “Where the Red Fern Grows.”) The old building still has the wooden cubed walls that once held merchandise. Now it contains memorabilia—antique dishes and newspaper clippings of folks important to the area.
We ordered—and enjoyed—our home-cooked meal.
Debbie Rucker, the proprietor and cook, left her stove to share the store’s history. The store was opened many years before by her grandmother, a single mom. The building was passed down to Debbie, and she opens the restaurant on weekends to keep the spirit of the Qualls community alive for the next generation.
I commented on the french fries. I hadn’t had homemade fries like that since my grandmother made them for me many years before. My husband said, “Yes. The fries were just like Grandma Eunice’s weren’t they?”
Debbie whipped toward me, “You’re Aunt Eunice’s granddaughter?” She explained that she had been married to my grandma’s nephew. Then the stories began in earnest. She said my grandparents were well-loved in the Qualls community; everyone had a story of a time Grandpa or Grandma helped them out. Then Debbie began to tell her special story. It was about her daddy and my grandpa. How I treasure this story!
You’ll read a similar version in chapter one of At Home with Daffodils. I won’t spoil it for you by sharing it here, but I find great joy in honoring my grandpa by creating a fictionalized account of the event.
I dedicated this novella to my grandpa. Maybe you’ll enjoy reading the dedication:
For Grandpa Curtis
Whose grave lies just outside Camp Gruber
Near the old general store at Qualls
You were the master storyteller
No doubt the hours I spent mesmerized by your stories
Influenced my decision to become a writer
I look forward to sitting on a front porch swing
(if they have them in heaven)
With you and Jesus
No doubt He’ll chuckle as Grandma whispers,
“I wouldn’t tell that one if I was you!”
Until next time,
PS We’re almost to the end of our celebration of the release month for A Bouquet of Brides. As you know if you’ve visited here this month, I’m giving away a copy of the book. The contest ended on January 31st, and I’ll announce the lucky winner on Friday!
Today I share tidbits about the historical context of At Home with Daffodils in a guest post on Pegg Thomas’s author blog. I hope you’ll check it out!
Also, over the weekend Donna Schlachter invited me to her blog to share some stories behind the setting of my story. It’s fun talking about the are where I grew up. I hope you’ll visit Donna’s blog and read all about it.
Tomorrow on this blog we’ll hear from Suzanne Norquist about the takeaway value in her story, A Song for Rose.
Both stories are included in A Bouquet of Brides, which released this month from Barbour Publishing. (The collection is on sale today on Christianbook.com.)
I’m writing you today from a sparkling, snow-covered Colorado. Feeling a little sore. I shoveled the white stuff for about two hours yesterday! The snow kept falling and I returned to clear the driveway three times! (This was after my husband took the first shift. He’s recovering from a heart attack, so I insisted on only one turn for him! Not that he listened when I suggested he didn’t need a turn at all! But I did appreciate his help since I needed to be to my singing job by 7:30 a.m.)
Hubby took this shot of me when I worked in the falling snow after returning from singing.
Snow brings hard work, but I must admit that I love it. As I watched the sun come up this morning over the winter wonderland, my heart lifted. It is indeed beautiful. How’s the weather where you are?
Here’s a giggle for you. My husband treated me to this old song when I returned from my snow venture.
Wishing you beauty wherever you are–in balmy sun or glittering snow.
This third in the Soul Scents series of devotionals leads us from struggle to acknowledging the blessing of Immanuel in our lives. Paula courageously shares the raw and intimate moments of her own struggles in the valley of the shadow of death. Incredibly, hopefully, she leads us day by day into His Light, teaching us how to walk hand in hand with God at our side. ~Susan Irene Fox
God’s love and his extravagant grace toward us is shared through Scripture, the beauty of nature and the author’s personal stories of pain revealing God’s ever present care and commitment to our “blooming.” I . . . found myself saying, “Yes, Lord, Yes! Do that in me!” . . . . Paula clearly knows her Lord and her honesty and vulnerability are so healing. . . . I highly recommend this devotional to anyone who needs a reminder that God is beyond good. ~ Amazon Customer
In His presence we bloom in sunshine and storm. His Spirit carries us through the struggle, offering the love, strength, and wisdom we need for the times of trial. In the joyous seasons, His smile deepens our pleasure. Bloom in season and out!
The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes, Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish, offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from Scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom. The week-day readings include Scriptures and prayers. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.
Blessing to Your Home From Mine,
PS One of my Mother’s Day celebrations this year is the joy of our son Stephen’s recent graduation from Fort Lewis College. God is good and has done amazing things in his life! When he graduated high school, I wrote a piece about how he’d overcome great odds. Stephen’s college graduation was also a high day. That little boy who struggled with speech and learning to read graduated Summa Cum Laude! (If you have a struggling learner, you might want to check out that article, which includes links to resources.) He’s already started his first full-time job. He’s using his adventure education degree to serve at a camp where he will be assistant to the director of adventure activities. (If you’d like to support him in prayer or finances, email me, and I’ll have him send you more information.) Happy Mother’s Day to each of you moms reading today–I hope you enjoy your free gift!
I believe how we navigate empty nest plays a huge role in how free our adult children will be to flourish in life.
This week Vicki Caruana, author of The Joy of Letting Go, shared wisdom and grace for parents like myself who navigate the challenges of transitioning to empty nest. I took extra time with what began as a short interview because this issue dovetails with my own passion to see people free to flourish, and these formative years can set our children on a path of freedom where they can grow and expand—or hold them back.
Find the joy in letting go isn’t always an easy process for me, yet I know how I navigate this long season of rotating doors and releasing my children into adulthood has powerful impact on them, on myself, and on how our family will function in the future. I’ve also learned that how I walk this out deeply affects how joyful or painful my son or daughter’s journey into adulthood is. I realize it hurts my teens and young adults when they have to fight for the very freedoms they should be offered as they mature. At the same time if I give freedom without responsibility, I set them up for failure. For me, one of faith’s greatest journeys is to step back and release my children in God’s capable hands when the temptation is to hover a little too closely.
In my opinion there are few things more difficult to navigate than knowing when and how to give our children the wings they need to fly free to flourish in life. I appreciate Vicki taking the time to help my readers and myself more deeply process these important issues. (Past blog interviews interviews include the process of letting go, how our approach to letting go helps with the transitions to college, and a parent’s role around a child’s identity and decision-making.)
I mentioned in the first blog of this interview series that a hardback copy of The Joy of Letting Go arrived in my mailbox the week of our oldest son’s wedding. Though I was privileged to read an advanced copy of the book and to offer my endorsement some weeks ago, re-reading selections at just that special time was a balm. (Thank you, Vicki!)
It’s interesting that during this time my son Seth was searching for the perfect song for our mother-son dance at his and Amanda’s wedding.
He couldn’t find a song he liked, and his bride-to-be came to the rescue. She sent him several ideas, but her favorite was Mark Harris’s, “Find Your Wings.” Seth told me later he immediately knew it was the song he wanted, but that he didn’t want to influence me, so he sent me several links and asked my opinion.
When I listened to this song, I was alone in the car and free to sob–which I did! It said every single thing I wanted to say to my son as I freely offered him to the beautiful young women who now holds first place in his heart.
I’ve included the song with this last post about releasing our children into adulthood. I hope you are blessed as deeply as I was.
To close our time with Vicki, I asked her to share a selection from her book that would most say what she wanted to say to us today. Thank you, Vicki!
Do I Stay or Do I Go?
Don’t cry because you are leaving; smile because you were there.
The image is still so strong. Every weekday for months, my five-year-old baby boy stood at the window of his preschool with both hands on the glass crying for me to stay. I couldn’t. I had to go to work—as a teacher I had about thirty more children waiting for me to show up. I endured the daily exercise of letting go that school year in the most excruciating way. In my mind I see the palm print of his small hand on the glass moments after his teacher enticed him away from the window. It imprinted on my heart in ways that followed us both through the next twenty years.
Fast forward five years later when our children were transitioning back into the public schools after being homeschooled for four years. I walked this same boy to his fifth grade classroom stopping just short of the door. After only a moment’s hesitation, he slipped into the brightly decorated room with the stealth of a ninja. He didn’t look back, but I lingered.
I sat in the parking lot for an hour trying to decide if I should stay—just in case—or go and let him be. Parent drop-off had ended and I was alone in the lot. I could see his classroom window from where I sat. I realized what I was waiting for—his hand print on the glass.
Thirteen years later we stood—my head only reaching his shoulders—with a jam-packed moving van and the dog nestled safely in the car that would follow. I couldn’t believe it was time to go—again. A mist-like rain covered us like dew and I felt hurried in this goodbye. How many times had I said goodbye? More times than I’ve recounted here to be sure. Why is it that each time feels like the last time?
After a tear-filled hug of this now fully grown and fully able young man, I saw through the car window clearly for the first time. In a last ditch effort, I wondered once more, should I stay or should I go? But he was fine. And it was time. We pulled out of the parking lot, and I watched him through the car window, with my hand pressed against the glass, as we now moved one mile at a time 2000 miles away.
One goodbye at a time.
Letting go is a cumulative process. We have had so much practice up to the point of departure. Instead of remembering all the times you were parted, remember all the times that you were there.
Friends, I (Paula) wish many blessing to each sweet momma (or dad!) whose own journey into empty nest includes those tears that are joy and grief mingled.
Don’t forget! Vicki Caruana and Lisa Samson, who I interviewed last week, both offered to do a giveaway. So . . . if you comment on my blog between now and Easter, your name will go into a drawing for one of their books!
Today’s interview with Vicki Caruana, author of The Joy of Letting Go, probes the issues around our role in our children’s future and identity. (Past interviews interviews include the process of letting go and how our approach to letting go helps with the transitions to college.)
Vicki, The Joy of Letting Go offers 52 daily readings that help parents by offering grace and wisdom in the letting go process. I loved the title of Day 5, “Alma Mother.” The wisdom of that particular reading is something I hold dear. One of my most passionate beliefs is that only God has the right to shape someone’s destiny. I don’t mean that parents/spouses/friends don’t get to give positive input; I mean that in the end, God and the person get to choose his or her path and destiny. You quote Psalm 16:11 which says, “You make known to me the path of life” (NIV).
The psalmist is talking about God, not his mother (lol!). It’s really hard not to constantly think Momma knows best, but I know that even when I do have a “better” way for my child, it’s his or her life not mine. And sometimes God is orchestrating something very different than I would. You wrote, “Sometimes what you think is the best choice may not be the right choice. We need to allow our kids to tell us they don’t like peas so they don’t have to resort to hiding them under their mashed potatoes.”
What are some warning signs that we’ve fallen into the “momma knows best” trap?
Well, momma does know best! It’s funny. . . I’ve spent a lot of time promoting that parents know their kids better than anyone else and can and should be their greatest advocates. As a teacher I know this is true. But I also know that we tiptoe (or should) around being an advocate without being an adversary. There are times when going to bat for your child is warranted, while at other times it will only delay their development into independent and responsible adults. There is a tug of war always being waged. It began when they were about three years old and said to us “I do it by myself!” They’ve been telling us in so many words that they know what they want and would like the chance to make their own decisions. When we fall into the trap of basically sending them away with just a pat on their sweet little heads as if to say, “Oh, aren’t you just the cutest?” and disregard the assertion of authority over their own lives, we foster one of two responses. They’ll either hide their peas under the mashed potatoes or they will throw their peas at you in a food fight! Many of our kids may not be developmentally ready to confront us and assert their independence. But don’t mistake their compliance with agreement. Eventually they will find a way to live their lives on their own terms; it may not be in a positive life-giving way if we silence their disagreement.
One of your daily reading is entitled, “Lord , Shut My Mouth!” Talk a little bit about the danger of our words (and unspoken attitudes!) in the letting go process.
It is said that silence means agreement, but the silent treatment conveys just the opposite. So it isn’t always a matter of keeping your mouth shut about what we think about our children’s decisions; it’s about being discerning about the power our words or our silence has on our children’s confidence. I picture walking hand in hand with our son – Chip on one side and me on the other – and we hold on tight and if we come to a puddle on our path, we lift our son up and over it. That only works when they’re two to five years old. After that, they’re too big to lift up over that puddle. I can walk side by side with our son and point out the puddle, but it’s up to him to step over or around it. If he doesn’t pay attention, he’s going to find himself ankle deep in muddy water. Do I say “I told you so”? Do I belittle his lackluster efforts to avoid the puddle? No. I myself step around the puddle before us and keep walking. When he catches up, he’s learned that he needs to watch where he steps.
In that same entry you talk about how sometimes it is good to speak wise words, but even in this how sometimes they will fall on deaf ears. How can one know when to speak and when to be silent?
Knowing when to speak and knowing when to be silent is very individual. Each situation, each child-parent relationship requires its own discernment. I still believe in the litmus test that if there is danger for a child’s mind, body, or soul you must speak up. But if it is a matter of preferences, likes and dislikes, then my opinion is let it go. All of this may fly out the window if our kids come directly to us for advice. Once they do that, the door opens and I guess so does my mouth!
You talk about the very real angst of watching our children make decisions we know will bring them pain. Is it our job to protect from pain?
Angst – yes, that’s the perfect word for this experience! I’m not convinced it’s my job to protect them from pain. I do believe it’s my job to keep them safe. As our children grow into their own “firsthand faith”, they will learn, just as we have, that suffering – and with it often pain – is part of our perfecting; it’s part of our good and God’s good purposes. Admittedly, watching my sons make decisions I suspect will bring them pain brings me straight to my knees! Maybe that’s where God wanted me all along.
What about decisions that seem contrary to how we raised them? How can we wisely navigate this situation?
This is happening to all of us – I doubt any of us can escape it in one form or another. I recognize that it can be disappointing, discouraging, and maybe embarrassing. After all, how often do we post on Facebook that our son no longer goes to church or that our daughter has dropped out of college? We don’t or if we do, we’re really looking for sympathy from our friends. Those realities are benign compared to what is really going on in the lives of parents of teens and young adults. Again I compare this to our relationship with God. How often do we stray from how He raised us? He is so set on relationship with us that He chooses to love and to remain steadfast with arms wide open even as we run around like our yellow lab, Bella, after a squirrel in our backyard. Make home a safe place always to come home to and remain steadfast. That way, when our children run in a zigzag after that squirrel, they still know they can come back to you because they can rely on you being right where they left you – with arms wide open.
Friends, I find myself constantly on my knees asking the LORD to guide my adult children and to show me when to speak and when to be silent. Perhaps that’s why today’s questions with Vicki were especially meaningful to me. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did! We’ll have one more interview with Vicki on Friday. Looking forward to sharing an excerpt from her book!
Don’t forget: Vicki Caruana and Lisa Samson, who I interviewed last week, both offered to do a giveaway. So . . . if you comment on my blog between now and Easter, your name will go into a drawing for one of their books!