Friday, December 26, 2008

A New Year's Blessing From Your Southern Author Friend

With an entire year to elevate my thoughts, to contemplate the peace of Christ and His redemption, I can still battle negativity just like anyone else. But over time I’ve realized that by embracing the morning with whatsoever things are lovely, it brings hope for at least that day. I can blow away negativity now much more effortlessly than in the past with simple mental practices like meditation on God’s Word and His goodness. How about you? How do you know you've grown since last year? The changing of years helps us regain perspective and think on our life and what good things have come from our struggles.

We’re in the final hours of a year that is nearly finished. Here in the South, it’s the commencement of our true winter, a season of blooming pansies and light dustings of snow, at least down in the foothills. I brace for winter and a new year and somehow hope surfaces. It’s the season of do-overs and bowl games, winter beginnings and sports endings shaking hands.

I pray your new beginnings are powdered with snow and hope and football and faith. Toast and awaken and come alive to the fact that God’s still pondering you and what he might do with you next. You’re in his hands and that’s a reason to throw a party and kiss the cheeks of your friends. You are dearly loved, appreciated, and prayed over by this southern author. Happy New Year, friends!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Facing Loss Through the Holidays--Part 3

If You Are the One Recovering From Loss:
• Seek out a support system. I never would have made it without my girlfriends who called or emailed to check on me. I remember less about what they said, and more about their quiet vigil of presence. Support groups are available in most every state through ministries like GriefShare. My GriefShare group had mostly widows, though. I recommend groups that share similar loss.
• If you are the grieving person, and your friends offer to come and do specific chores, watch a young child while you nap, etc., then consider letting them. It allows them to express their grief through beneficial works. If you are grieving, chances are they are too. And you will start to feel the weight lifting off your shoulders as you allow friends to help.

• If others do not want to acknowledge your missing loved one, don’t force it. But also don’t allow others to tell you how to grieve. Your grief is yours. Remember that women grieve differently from men, so be easy on your spouse.

•“Closure” is just a latch on the neighbor’s fence. If others tell you that you need to bring closure to your loss, it is only because they haven’t faced your kind of loss. They do mean well. Don’t allow meaningless “happy affirmations” or clichés to ruin your day.

• Augustine’s “Dark Night of the Soul” seeped in every evening at 8:30 for my husband and I, so we learned to go to bed early to “beat the demons” to bed. Rest is a necessary ingredient to recovery from loss.

• Memory loss can be caused by the body’s natural response to shock, a literal washing of the neurons with a numbing chemical generated by your body. Yes, the Creator thought of it all. But memory loss and feelings of numbness can make you feel as if you’re losing your mind. You’re not. You’re normal.

• It’s fine to give yourself permission to distance yourself from social settings that you know typically create stress for you. Picture yourself in that place in advance. You are the best judge of what you can and cannot handle.

• If your loved one has passed unexpectedly during the holidays, you may want to consider asking a friend to remove their gifts and donate them to charity in honor of your loved one. Our favorites are assistance to AIDS victims and a women’s drug treatment center, but there are homeless people who need gifts, elderly folks, shut-ins, and families in your church who can’t afford to buy gifts. Again, let this be your choice and not something you’ve been pressured to do.

• Avoid mind-numbing solutions to grief such as over-medicating or alcohol. Eventually the effects of those things wears off and you still have to face the loss. If you take anti-depressants under your doctor’s advice, then you and your doctor can decide what is healthy for you.

• Make yourself a cup of your favorite hot drink, start a fire in the fireplace, or light a candle and then journal a letter to your loved one and express what you are feeling through the holidays with them gone. Written expression is helpful for triggering natural coping mechanisms.

• Money can be mismanaged and disappear quickly if someone isn’t minding the till. Allow a trusted friend, pastor, or family member to help oversee your finances through the first year of grief. Grieving widows accustomed to a spouse who oversaw the finances can wake up one day to find the lights shut off or the home going into foreclosure just because you were too numb or inexperienced to keep vigil over your pocketbook. Let others help.

• By making the choice to commence facing my journey of grief right away, the unbearable heaviness didn’t linger as long as it does in denial. So embracing was the best choice for me. When I felt the heaviness seeping in, I mentally confronted. I even held conversations with it—“Oh, it’s you, Grief. Come on in. We’ll talk.” I put feelings to words. Today it feels like . . . It’s different than last week when I felt . . .It’s worse. . . It’s better. . . This anniversary date is killing me . . . When will I stop crying? I had a dream about you. . . Today was amazing.

• Here is one suggestion that I’ve not seen anywhere else, but after asking several grieving parents about this, many agree with my husband and me about the problem caused by music; perhaps it’s worse for parents suffering the loss of a child. Song lyrics are written out of an artist’s emotions. When my emotions were raw and I was still suffering shock, songs about heaven, love, loss, even Christ’s suffering and death sent my emotions into a nosedive. Most radio song themes depict love or pain and so does church music. My husband experienced the same anguish. We both love music. He and our two sons are musicians, so our home is full of music. We kept the radio and CD player off for many months. It was another of those temporary changes we made in order to keep our emotions on an even keel. I visited the neighborhood music store and found recordings of beautiful peaceful music that had no recognizable tune and no lyrics. Sound therapy is soothing. We often fell asleep listening to the soothing sounds. Time eventually healed us in that regard and we were able to enjoy our music again.

Sorrow is a sacred time in a family’s life. It is the season that changes all other seasons. Respect and honor include the practices of sensitivity and patience. Gathering to weep is as important as gathering to laugh. During the holidays, make time for both.

♥If you are suffering loss and don’t have someone to call, please call the Hickmans and we’ll be glad to talk you off any ledges or offer you our own experiences through loss. Tel. 704-655-9390.

"Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'erfraught heart and bids it break." William Shakespeare

“And the people who recover are the people who admit, and are able to talk about it and to share it.”
H. Norman Wright

“Because of the LORD’s great love, we are not consumed, his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lam. 3:22,23

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Facing Loss Through the Holidays--Part 2

The best gift a grieving person can give to himself or herself is permission: permission to change traditions, to create new normals, to kindly say “no” to social settings that place high expectations on you. Another fact you might remember is that people who love you might be afraid of mentioning your loved ones name. Over time, whenever possible I gently dispel this myth to anyone who will listen. My daughter’s name is the sweetest sound to my ears. I carry her with me everywhere I go, so when I noticed everyone around me holding back from mentioning her name, it created an emotional deficit. So my husband and I agreed to mention her whenever we want and sometimes almost every day.

For the holidays, personal memorials aid your sense of loss like a healing balm. Holding a candle lighting service in honor of your loved one can be a comfort and allow you to reflect positively about the one you are missing. I wore one of Jessi’s blouses and my husband played one of her CD’s. I sprayed her favorite cologne into the air, closed my eyes, and danced in the aroma. Our youngest son and I collected miniature ornaments that we felt his sister would love. We found a miniature tree with battery operated lights. We decorated the little tree, took it to the cemetery, and gave it to our Jess for Christmas. We felt as though somehow she knew and was there with us. Just as we were leaving the cemetery, a soft winter rain let go and in the dim grayness, we could see Jess’s tree shining out. It was a reminder of the light of Christ that had always shown forth from her heart. That is the power of memory-on-purpose. Purposeful memories bring comfort.

The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to be certain that you don’t fall into the denial patterns of trying to act like nothing has changed. Of course everything has changed from this time forth. By acknowledging that change you fill that empty space with new memories and reflections; you grieve freely and positively.
Tonight we are making desserts for the homeless shelter after an announcement was made that they don't have enough desserts for Christmas. We're delivering them Christmas morning. I can't think of a more positive way to celebrate Christmas morning, and it was my son's idea--and he typically loves the "stuff." We grow as a family through loss when we make our grief a proactive exercise in love.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Facing Loss Through the Holidays--Part 1

After the sudden loss of our daughter, we were warned by other grieving parents of the “dreaded holiday season.” Our family had always enjoyed our Christmas fanaticism, the neighborhood lights competitions, and the many annual traditions we practiced. Having had loss thrust on us suddenly, we had to reconstruct Christmas. I attribute this one sane response to our family’s dependence on Christ since there is no other logical explanation for a season when all seems illogical. The old traditions were too painful so it became evident that we were going to have to create a new normalcy for the holidays. Because it had always been our tradition to hang the old handmade tree ornaments made by our children over the years, pulling those precious keepsakes out for me as a mom was devastating. We had several discussions with our sons and agreed that for at least a couple of years, we were going to keep the tree in temporary retirement.

Whether it is a tree or some other family heirloom that reminds you of the loved one you have lost, thinking of putting those types of triggers out of sight in advance of the holiday season could help to alleviate some of the stressors that may negatively affect your raw emotions.

However, that didn’t mean we were going to force our boys to sit around the house glum-faced. A friend passed along a timeshare trip that first Christmas that allowed us to visit an island in South Carolina, a new experience for us. We created a fresh memory. We were surprised at how a change of scenery lifted our hearts out of the doldrums. The condo came with a full kitchen and we all cooked something different and fun, but not laborious.

After several years, my holiday spirit did return, the ornaments were pulled out, and I was glad to return to our old Christmas traditions.

This week, I'll post a series of helps for those of you who are either grieving through the holidays or you're supporting a friend or family member facing loss. Please feel free to send a link to your friends in need of consolation. Take care.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Patsy's Friend:Grief at Christmas

Yesterday my hubby confessed he was having a very sad day. He was missing Jessica so badly he could barely stand it. I confessed that my dark shadow of grief had, thankfully, just passed and I was beginning to feel that awesome joy that follows. We're both thankful that God helps us as a pair with the balance of support for each other. We had no sooner made our confessions to one another than our oldest son Josh called from the hospital where he works and the "sads" were creeping in on him too.

Then I received an email from my precious friend Patsy whose best friend Carol just passed away Dec. 1. Patsy has posted her YouTube video on her website and it's such a blessing I thought it would be a great way to precede my annual postings for those going through loss around the holidays. I post this with great joy that it is going to bless the socks off you whether or not you are longing for sweet reunions this holiday season.

Just go to Patsy's website, and then click on the video.

And tomorrow I'll post little encouragements for those experiencing loss through the holidays.

Great joy to you all!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Calling All Big-Haired Girlfriends--It's the Pulpwood Queens Author Extravaganza

It’s official, readers. I’ve been invited as an author to be presented JAN. 15-17 at the Pulpwood Queen’s Author Extravaganza, a huge annual event for women who are avid fans of southern literature. I'll be promoting my latest novel Painted Dresses.
Whether or not I'll have to wear a tiara remains to be seen.
If you live anywhere in the vicinity of the Ark-LA-Texas corridor, get some spray in that wig and get thyself to this huge weekend book party and event. It’s sponsored by Beauty and the Book—the world’s only beauty shop and book store. I am not kidding! The Pulpwood Queens have been promoted across the country (including Oprah) as the world's wildest book club. The charters have now crossed international
This is a fun, fun event and I can’t wait to meet all the readers from my old childhood stomping grounds as I grew up in this corridor, down on the Arkansas side of Barbecue and Big Hair Boulevard.

Here’s a note from the event’s director and founder, (and now author) Kathy Patrick:
Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend Weekend Author Extravaganza 2009

Dec 1st, the price is $350 for members and remember for non-members the price is always $100 higher. We accept all major credit cards but checks must be payable to Beauty and the Book and sent to address below to Attention: Girlfriend Weekend.
Individual tickets for events during Girlfriend Weekend will be available at the door but may be limited to space of event venues. Some events will be SOLD OUT so contact me at either 903-665-7520 for tickets or email me at
The full schedule for Girlfriend Weekend 2009 is on the website, with list of authors to be featured coming soon.

This is your party and the more we put into it the better the event! I think you will be very pleased with the fantastic line up of authors, speakers, actors, celebrities, and musicians. I work on this event all year and I do my very best to make this event that will be memorable! Now let's get busy reading!
Kathy Patrick, Tiara Wearing Founder of Pulpwood Queens

Girlfriend Weekend Author Extravaganza's mission is to promote literacy, to serve the Ark.La.Tex community through educational, theatrical, literary, and musical programs; to nurture, support, and showcase regional, national and international writers, actors, musicians, and other artists; to help undiscovered authors get discovered in a big way!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gratitude for Your Compassion

Here are some notes of gratitude from some very gracious and grateful moms and kids who want to thank those of you who gave to the Thanksgiving Big Give:

“The Secret Angels has helped me and my family be able to enjoy the holidays. Thank you so much. I have been out of work for almost 6 months and this is truly a blessing and I know God is smiling down on everyone.”

“The Secret Angels has helped me by giving me a meal to feed four young children. These are my grandchildren and niece that I’m raising. Angels like you all help make a difference in giving of your time to help families like ours. God Bless and have a happy holiday season!”

“The Secret Angels have been an awesome blessing in my family’s life. Providing food, presents, and other things have helped and has been wonderful. We didn’t have the funds for meals and Christmas presents. Secret Angels has blessed us and given us hope and fantastic holidays.”

“The SAP helps me and my family a lot because times have gotten to be very hard for us. I lost my job and had to take a lesser paying one that barely pays my bills. If it wasn’t for people like you all, me and my family wouldn’t have Thanksgiving dinner this year. So we are very thankful for you all and God bless all of you!”

“I would like to thank all the families who helped to make this possible. My family and I didn’t know how we were going to do Thanksgiving this year. So we are very thankful for all who helped this year. And the staff was very great!

A Child: “Secret Angels helps my family by giving us food and lots of toys at Christmas. We get things my parents couldn’t buy for us because we have so many medicines to buy and bills to pay. Secret Angels are angels to us because they take care of us.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Gratitude for Your Compassion

If you've been following the Hickmans' Thanksgiving Saga, you may scroll down and read it in a three part blog. The following letter is posted from the Levine Children's Hospital for those of you who gave generously this past week to our families affected by AIDS:

November 28, 2008

Dear Secret Angels and “Co-Angels,”

Each Thanksgiving, families sit down together in honor of a tradition that began long before HIV and AIDS were discovered. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons, whether by blood or spirit, reflect on the blessings they have received. They give thanks for the food that warms their bodies and the love that warms their hearts. This Thanksgiving, many families affected by HIV were nourished by wonderful meals and the knowledge that a group of Angels is dedicated to vanishing the shadow this illness casts on their days. I, too, gathered with family this Thanksgiving, and thought about how grateful I am to the Secret Angels for their never-ending kindness and commitment.

Each Thanksgiving, families sit down together in honor of a tradition that began long before HIV and AIDS were discovered. Some day, families will sit down together again, and HIV and AIDS will be nothing but a lesson, and a memory.

Until there’s a cure,
Amy Fadden, MSW, LCSW
Clinical Social Worker
Levine Children’s Specialty Center
On behalf of the families of the Pediatric HIV clinic
* * * * *
Tomorrow, I'll post the notes of appreciation directly from our families.
Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In Search of Thanksgiving

(this is the final installment in our Thanksgiving Saga. Thank you for joining us this week)
The boys shouted, "Restaurant!"
It wasn't a true restaurant, not in the sense that we mothers classify an eatery as restaurant. It was in actuality a singles bar. Finding the parking easy, we cautiously marched single file through the guarded entrance. A big bouncer stepped in front of me, blocking us from entering.
I asked the bouncer, “Would it be all right if we ordered something to eat?”
I don’t remember that he answered us in actual words. He looked down at me as if I was a pathetic nuisance. Then when he herded us inside—far corner to the left along with two other starving groups of parents from England--that we came to understand that we had misguidedly stepped outside the bounds of permissable culture. The bouncer implied in no uncertain terms that we should sit still and not agitate the unattached customers with our familial bliss.
Unblinkingly, the waitress told us, “You have to leave by ten. It’s kareoke night.” She glanced nervously up and down the row of single customers who stared at us from the barstool gallery, their eyes glowing like jittery rabbits.
“We promise to leave by ten,” I said. “We just need food and then we’ll be out of the way.”
The British father said to me, “We didn’t know about Thanksgiving. There’s not a restaurant open in the entire city. Our kids are about starved, as are we.”
How well we knew. We had phoned to the farthest edges of the county. Even the Cracker Barrel and the Chinese restaurant were shut down.
The bouncer explained to every incoming single customer that we would be gone by ten, locking gazes with me as he said it.
After we huddled around our table, my eyes took in the surroundings. Almost surreal, a smoky haze torched our senses while our oldest son grumbled, "This is only the worst Thanksgiving we've ever had."
“Here’s what we’ll do,” I said, feeling that somewhere in the choking cloud of fried chips and Texas Pete’s hot sauce that each of us surely had something for which we could be grateful. “Everyone share one thankful thought.”
First there was the collective groan. Then, we found a consensus. We all decided we were thankful for our family and for God's comfort. As each one spoke, my eyes kept roving to the shelf of items for sale behind the guys. Not so anyone else would notice, I made out the bar’s retail offerings--a whole plethora of little nude ceramic women clinging to cups, their limbs curving to make coffee mug handles, some upright, others upside-down or spraddle-legged with long bare-legged handles. Turquoise colored ashtrays formed to look like beds held more of the naked ceramic girls, only these ladies were sprawled across the ashtrays, gazing up flirtatiously from their tiny stark white faces. The bouncer was still managing us with his eyes. I imagined leaping in front of the display case and covering it with what fragments remained of my maternal instinct when all at once a tyke escaped from the herd of friends and siblings at the table next to us, the Londoners. The fugitive English child headed straight into a group of frightened singles. The bouncer lunged forward and grabbed the little boy, tossed him up over his head as though going for a long pass, and hurled him back at the astonished parents.
The dad, using his most distinctive British elocution turned to me and said, "They're bloody well good kids, really, once you get used to them!"
But I was too shaken by the bouncer’s cat-like reflexes to respond. Not wanting to be hurtled through the air myself, I stayed in my chair, bound to the rules for people packing children. To try and cover the nude ceramic girls with a mom’s fiery-faced quintessence was kin to social suicide. So I asked Jared to please not look at the shelf behind his brother. My youngest son sat rigid fearing who-knows-what while his twenty-two year old brother turned completely around in his chair to gawk.
Finally our food arrived. We wolfed down our Thanksgiving meal of buffalo wings and homemade potato chips, bid farewell to the mollified Brits, and headed home.
Randy surprised us by pulling into the take-out lane of a Krispy Kreme donut shop. These places are all over the eastern seaboard, turning out donuts assembly-line fashion behind an clear acrylic wall so that patrons may watch in plain sight the wondrous birth of perfection; we’re talking hundreds of donuts filing past, dropping into the log-flume-like vats and then finishing up perfectly browned and coated in melted icing. The most extreme climax of elation however is found in nearing one of these establishments and finding that the assembly lines are moving and the donuts are hot off the rollers and you know because the Krispy Kreme donuteurs alert you by flipping on the shop’s bright red neon sign that, when turned on, reads Hot Now!
We pulled into the take-out lane as the boys yelled, "Hot Now!" We ordered a dozen hot ones to-go to top off our Thanksgiving feast. Warm, delectable morsels melted on our tongues, finer than chef’s pastry.
Driving down the darkened interstate, we all told funny "Jessi" stories like the one we always told on Christmas Eve, how she used to plead for us to tell Santa to just leave the stuff outside on the porch. She never wanted a strange man in a red suit slipping into her house while she slept. Or the way she insisted that serving scarcely eaten meat on holidays was cruel to animals. Or the manner in which she saw the handiwork of God in every living thing.
It should have been our worst Thanksgiving. But somehow it was the worst and the best. Our family realized that Thanksgiving did not embody a fancy spread of poultry and stuffing but instead a feast of the heart. A thankful heart could be drummed up as simply as faith itself if we measured our blessings by the breadth of our love for one another rather than the girth of our stomachs.
Before we pulled onto the ramp that would aim us toward home, I heard Randy whisper, "Thank you, God. Just . . . thank you." I echoed the sentiment. Instinctively, he and I joined hands. Our youngest son sang another carol and his brother joined him in harmony. It sounded otherworldly and peaceful. Then all grew quiet and I thought I detected the music of stars, distant yet not so far away.

I was thankful for my family and our time together. I realized that God's grace is present even when my holiday feast is reduced to buffalo wings and hot donuts.
When served with a side of grateful love, all fare is choice. All fellowship is meat for the soul.
I hope and pray your Thanksgiving was simply joyful!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In Search of Thanksgiving

(Part two of a three part holiday saga)
The day, overcast and gray, reflected the undercurrent of our emotions. We both refused to allow the tide of loss to draw us under. Our talk instead embodied our vision for the meal. Soon we would return home with the prized booty--sacks that brimmed with poultry, cranberries, and fresh thyme. But after a half hour of circling our little township north of Charlotte, we realized that all of the grocery stores had, without ceremony, closed up shop and sent their employees home to be with family.
The realization of my lack, my failure to prepare a traditional meal disappointed our two sons, aged twenty-two and eleven, whose ages had surrounded their middle sister and who now had to learn to live without the sister in-between. Our missing feast stemmed from the fact that I had not come fully awake from my walk of grief. My usual take-charge vigor had stalled out months earlier. Whatever idea the boys and Randy suggested to me, I simply agreed, as though all I had to do was lift my feet and be dragged along by the current of their desires.
Randy, always the warrior of the desperate cause, convinced us all that a restaurant was out there waiting to nosh us with our annual share of turkey and yams. He prodded us out to the family car and drove us toward Charlotte.
By this time, the boys sat silent in the rear seat, glum and grumbling to one another about how poorly we, as family heads, had planned our holiday feast.
After we had passed dozens of dimly lit restaurants, a parking lot that overflowed with parked cars sparked a degree of emotion.
“Look Dad, something’s happening! Over there!” Our youngest son pointed in the direction of the parking lot of uptown Charlotte’s largest mall.
City cops directed us into the flow of traffic. We followed the stream of cars, not at all certain where we were going but glad to be in the flow of anything remotely smacking of life.
In the daylight’s melting candle, we had been drawn into a tree lighting ceremony. We watched the magic along with thousands of full-bellied families. On the lawn of the new symphony park, a children's choir serenaded us with tomes of “Joy to the World” and “Silent Night.” Just after the last ray of Thanksgiving light kissed the Blue Ridge Mountains good-night, a gigantic tree hidden by night suddenly shone with a million lights. It was as though angels had appeared out of nowhere to paste the stars among us. We smiled, warmed by the glory of children, electricity, and good will. For a moment we even forgot our growling stomachs.
I had finally begun to count my blessings when the broadcasting guy on stage shouted, "Hey kids, I'll bet you are all so full of turkey you won't be able to eat for a week!"
En masse, all of the bright eyed tykes shouted with bloated bellies, "NOOOOO, no more turkeeeey!" while over a foot away two Hickman boys groaned, "We're starving because our mom didn't cook us turkey."
Suddenly, the sky thundered like a hundred rockets. A hum of approval rippled through the audience as all eyes lifted to watch a spectacular fireworks display. The autumn night sky was festooned with lights that bloomed, glittering from fiery centers only to magically dissipate before hitting earth. During the extravagant finale, Randy led us backward through the crowd to aim us out once more in search of the phantom restaurant.
Back inside the quiet of our minivan, we wove in and around the Christmas throng and rounded a bend. I blinked, not sure of what I was seeing. From the center of a shopping strip, we saw the sign--a modest neon light flashed open . . . open.
The boys shouted, "Restaurant!"
But it wasn't really a restaurant. Not really.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In Search of Thanksgiving

(part one in a Thanksgiving saga)
November in the south is a mix of summer and winter, the reason that so many southerners catch cold. We layer our clothing in the morning and peel it off in the afternoon. A cold front can blow in a dusting of snow atop freshly planted pansies that melts away by dinner. That first Thanksgiving without our daughter Jessi, November was stuck in that weird gear between autumn and winter. A gray mist hung in the neighborhood along with the rumors that continued to circulate about the fallen Twin Towers of New York.
Jared, our youngest, stood in the landing of our circular staircase, pensive, wanting me to come downstairs but unsure of how to say it. “Come see to Dad.” He said and ran downstairs.
My husband Randy was a tent maker, meaning that he was working odd jobs while starting a new church. He delivered fireworks, he measured houses for carpet, he watered plants at the home improvement store.
“Mom, Josh is carrying Dad in the house. He forgot to make our reservations.”
Jared’s voice sounded troubled. He was always the non-emotional child, so to hear worry tainting his matter-of-fact tone brought me to my feet.
“Why would Josh carry Dad?” I asked, following Jared down the circular staircase.
Josh burst through the front door, Randy’s arm around his neck. Josh’s arms were wrapped around his dad and he was hefting him along.
Randy was working a second job to make extra money; church planters call it “tent making” after the Apostle Paul. He was delivering fireworks to various vendors around town. He had pulled off the interstate on the side of the road overcome with grief. Disillusionment sucked all life out of him. By the time he pulled up in our driveway, his fingers were frozen to the steering wheel. Josh looked out and saw his dad sitting frozen in the driver’s seat of his truck. He ran out of the house and pried his fingers from the steering wheel before hoisting him out of the truck.
Randy’s face was haggard. His eyes were half-mast. He kept apologizing. “I didn’t make the reservations. I knew I was supposed to.” He kept saying, “ I’m sorry,” to the boys.
“We’ll do something else,” I said, as if I could think and plan.
I made a few phone calls to restaurants. The first three I called closed for Thanksgiving. It was no matter, I thought. Plenty of restaurants would offer a Thanksgiving buffet. I would call in the morning after some rest. I went to bed, racing the elephant of holiday grief to dreamland.
Josh awakened me the next morning. “I’ve called a dozen restaurants in Charlotte. None of them answered the phone.”
“The staffs are busy. It’s early,” I said. I threw on my robe and joined Josh, making calls on another line. We called until noon without reaching a single restaurant.
Thanksgiving is important to restaurants, I thought. We would have no trouble finding a place to eat. “It’s ridiculous to worry, Josh.”
It is considered in modern culture wrong to disappoint our children. We forget how disappointed pioneers often had to sit down with their children and tell them, “I didn’t get that bear today. It’s gopher meat again.” But by noon, the guilt that accompanied the disappointed look in both boys’ eyes moved in and sat down on me, squashing me like a too-small sofa.
As I crossed the threshold of that first Thanksgiving without my daughter, I learned the practice of counting the disappointments. I counted them at first as personal failures as a mother.
Josh hung up the phone again and said, “Not a single restaurant is open in the entire county.” Irritation was spilling out of him.
“We’ll go to the grocers. Let’s make a list,” I said.
The pain chafed against me as Josh and I bundled for the brisk gray day and went out into the city in search of an open store.
(To be continued. . .)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Thanksgiving Big Give

This week, the Secret Angels Project will distribute Thanksgiving food boxes to our families who are affected by AIDS/HIV. We are being stretched beyond what we’ve ever been stretched as triple the families are requesting boxes this year. If you can give to the SAP, we will make sure that these families are blessed beyond measure. After the Thanksgiving Give, our Christmas campaign will begin. Our goal is to provide at least $50. $75 in gift cards to 163 infants, children, and teens affected by AIDS. Our goal is to raise over $10,000.
in contributions between now and Dec. 13, 2008. Thank you for helping us meet this goal. Many
of the children we serve need clothing and coats. A toy under the tree is greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What to Wear for the Holidays

If true humility comes from a heart submitted to Christ and dead to self, then false humility is born of a desire to exalt self so that others believe we are good. The first act requires the death of self; the second only requires a few acting skills and a little finesse. The first creates room in the heart for a true love and benevolence for others. The second causes others to be used to promote the hungry little idol of falsehood. And it takes over devouring whatever good works are accomplished to exalt the self rather than exalting Christ who dies to offer us a covering for our naked soul.

“Clothe yourself with humility toward one another for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you.”
1 Pet. 5:5,6
Verse 10, a little further down, reminds us that God will one, perfect, two, confirm, three strengthen, and four, establish each of us. It is a wardrobe that will not go out of style, year-to-year

Monday, November 17, 2008

You Concord FA Ladies Rock!!

My goodness, did I have an awesome time at the Concord FA A Gift For All Event! You ladies know how to put on a spectacular event! What gorgeous facilities and then, your awesome ministry team worked so hard to make your event so special—made me want to put up my tree. I think at last count for the dual event there 865+ women in attendance. The electricity was amazing and that made it all that much easier to share my story of a life restored.

I pray that God continues the process of SUPREME ELEVATION in all of you, from start to finish!

Please drop by my Facebook and post a big hello and let me know what the Lord is doing in your life!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

When Did You Know

Welcome to the writers of the NC Network of Writers. I look forward to our discussions and reciprocal learning experiences.
If you have not yet signed up for this comprehensive and annual writer's event in the Carolinas, do visit the link and get into some workshops. Many, many talented authors will be presenting.

In her book For Writers Only Sophy Burnham asks the question “When did you first know you were a writer? Did you always know?” Oftentimes, the writer is the last one to know.

I once edited a student writer’s essay; I’ll call him Larry. Larry was assigned a report, a factually supported essay about a problem within any culture that either lacked a solution at present or if the student so desired, a potential solution. The point was that I wanted the students all writing about a topic for which they felt passionate. Larry turned in anything but a report. His essay, if you want to call it that, rose to the level of edgy prose. Setting, dialogue, descriptive prose, narration, and expository writing, were all roughly lumped together in a story he told about a friend of his who had gotten into some trouble with the law. There were police dogs, local cops, guns, handcuffs, and a delightfully drawn character that was compelling and psychologically complicated.

When I selected a few “shine” papers to read aloud to the class, Larry’s mouth fell open as I read his name in front of his classmates. He was mystified. I was delighted. I had found a gem among the requisite essays and was the first person to tell Larry, “Yes, you are a writer and probably a novelist.” Hang the assignment! Larry was a storyteller and up until that moment, did not know.

For years as I struggled in misery in real estate, I recalled the day that Professor Francis Gwaltney, III pulled my freshman essay out of the stack and asked my permission to read it aloud. He asked me, “What is your major?”

My father had insisted that I major in elementary education. I told him and he said, “You’re no grade school teacher. You are a novelist.” Like Larry, I was mystified. His words nagged at me, nipping at my Nikes until the day I gave my words story form. I had loved literature and writing, but in all my years at an Arkansas high school not once had any teacher noticed my abilities. I was overlooked and had grown comfortable with being overlooked. Years later when I got my first little book deal I remembered Francis Gwaltney and was still mystified. How had he known that I was not simply a writer in the raw, but a novelist? As I read Larry’s essay to the class, I finally realized why. Author Francis Gwaltney, also the best friend of Norman Mailer, was at that time writing his thirteenth novel. He knew like I knew that Larry was a storyteller. Nothing profound, but it takes one to know one.

It could be that each of us write because we have been prodded into the writing arena by a writer who first saw us as a glob of potential. During the long nights as we bend over our keyboards writing for the audience of one, pondering words and their meaning, behind us is a voice of encouragement that won’t stop nagging at us to keep trying until we get it right. The words have formed like a thunder cloud overhead—you are not a baker, a butcher, or candlestick maker; you are a novelist and won’t be satisfied until your life takes the form for which you were made.

When did you know?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Secret No Woman Should Keep

Native Americans believe the soul journeys south after death, thus the meaning behind the term “going south.” Outlaws using the phrase might mean that they plan to disappear into Texas or Mexico; it denotes the idea of journeying into a place where one might disappear. Perhaps going south represents a mixture of longing and succumbing, of giving up on this present life for a life less complicated; the death of an old life in exchange for the possibilities that lay ahead in an unknown landscape; a longing for anonymity.

But there is a shadow that is going south as we speak. It is a shadow that stigmatizes and wrecks this present life, leaving in its wake an uncertain landscape. It is the shadow of AIDS stretching from Washington D.C. to the Mississippi Delta and into the Southeast.

The research triangle in North Carolina contains the highest number of Ph.D's per capita in the US and is the biggest research park in the world. One would think that with all of that super brain power here in the Carolinas, we would enjoy a built-in immunity from this creeping death. Instead, we’re facing the news that we have the highest rising demographic to hit this nation since the plagues. North Carolina alone is believed to have over 35,000 people living with AIDS.

The Secret Angels Project was established by a group of local Christian moms who organized a gift giving campaign every Christmas for local children and teens affected by AIDS/HIV. We believed that because of the optimism of drug treatments that in a few short years AIDS would be a myth in America. We still remember when we talked about the near future, how we dreamed of when the Project could leave the Carolinas and head for Africa. Instead, our gift giving drive had to take on new complex facets. With over one million people now diagnosed with AIDS in America and over half a million having died from it, the Secret Angels Project has become a charitable organization, still very driven by moms, that offers crisis and domestic support to southern women, children, and teens affected by AIDS. There’s one thing that we want women to know—AIDS should not be a woman’s best kept secret.

If you would like to sponsor a child, teen, or mom for Thanksgiving or Christmas, you can visit our website, check out the resources page, and bless an angel for the holidays.
“’For I will restore you to health and I will heal you of your wounds,’ declares the LORD, ‘Because they have called you an outcast, saying: “It is Zion; no one cares for her.’”
Jer. 30:17

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In Search of a Transformer

We’re told in church growth circles and how-to-succeed-in-ministry books that we first need to realize that there’s not only a sin divide but a cultural divide. The cultural divide gets talked about as though it’s something new.

Paul, Peter, Timothy, all of those guys waded into Christ’s ideology dripping wet with culture; but then following their respective transformations, were nudged by God right back into the cultural pool. But what they came out of culture possessing, and what they returned newly containing, had to be subjected to Christ’s scrutiny and infused with the Spirit’s Power. Without that, when they organized the Church into groups that did everything from waiting tables to sewing clothes for the needy to feeding the poor, the works could have become what I guess we mean by a social gospel. But they didn’t, and from that point forward the message of Jesus Christ literally infected the globe. The difference was the Big Invisible that infused the visible.

Without the Power of the Spirit steering and transforming me, I might naturally embrace helping the poor and lending grace because I sincerely leaned toward those things early on; but pursuing that work without God’s Spirit is empty of transformative power. I can’t transform a soul, especially my own. While helping the poor and the sick and the displaced person with God’s Power on my life “ministers grace” through the delivery system of works, it’s the Spirit that causes a life to turn around and go a different direction. While the Spirit inscribes the good work, he also identifies me to others as genuinely His. People can sense/feel the Spirit’s presence (or whatever you want to call that identification with God that people detect in us) and that’s what draws them, that courting thing that God does that is personal and often unseen by us. But while the avenue of good works compels people, we must consider motives. We can use those who were first drawn to Jesus as an example. Some came out of curiosity, some came desperate but all gathered around Jesus waiting to see if he might meet their personal needs. Humans may be drawn to our works out of a care for that work or a need for it; it could be that their interest is piqued by our good works and that’s not a bad thing. But we can easily take credit for good works. We can’t take the credit for God’s power and Spirit performing human transformation through the imperfect conduit of bones and flesh.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
2 Cor. 3:18

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote and Trust

There are many reasons to get out and vote today. But one of them should not be fear. There are always going to be fringe elements in the Body of Christ that want us to believe that the world is coming to an end if the wrong leader is put in place. By the same token, I’m not naïve. I do not want to see laws against human life grow even more lax. Nor do I want to see our rights eroded. But with America’s system of checks and balances, we’re not going to be turned into socialists, not with Patriot’s blood still pumping through our veins. Too many watchdogs are in place.
So today you can vote with confidence, having prayed for God to continue to guide us as a nation. Even if your favorite candidate does not win, your favorite God is still in control.
“For the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”
Prov. 3:26

Monday, November 3, 2008

Waiting for the Finisher

Yesterday I discussed practicing the presence of God. That’s not to be confused with abiding in Christ. Abiding exercises a different spiritual muscle than practicing God’s presence, that of patience and even more aptly stated, resting in Christ.

Hebrews 3 has as its keyword, rest. Before the connotation summons up a picture of a Sealy mattress, we first have to get a grasp of the meaning of Christ’s rest. To do that, we have to realize what Christ has done for us in advance.

When my father was very ill, my mother having already passed on, Dad asked me to step in acting as his power of attorney. He suffered his whole life with pulmonary disease and then acquired Alzheimer’s Disease in his final years. In the meantime, he had a relative who had designs on the money he had saved over the years. This person was a very violent person who had gone to blows even with her own children. Because she had not planned for her retirement, she was desperate to finagle money her way. When I arrived in town, I found her selling off my mother’s belongings to neighbors to raise money. I had to work very wisely to get her out of my father’s house and to get him into assisted living care. Then Dad asked me to take him to his attorney where he finalized a will that would leave his estate to my sister and me. Until he signed on the dotted line, there was a great deal of tension and pressure on me. I knew this relative would return to try and gain access to my father’s assets once I left town if I did not put in place safeguards. Because my father’s mental condition would soon deteriorate, he would be vulnerable.

But once the will was in place and signed by Dad, I could relax. No amount of scheming or threatening would do this poor individual any good. Finally, I could rest. When he died, I could execute his last will and testament knowing that my sister and I were protected.

When Christ signed my redemption with his own blood, I accepted that new covenant and became God’s newly adopted daughter. My rest is now knowing that my covenant with God is irrevocable, when the testator, Christ, exercises my rights as heir in eternity.

What does that have to do with patience? Everything. All of the work I do, because of Him, for Him, to point others to Him is a long road of work. I have to be patient with myself, knowing that God is finishing a work in me. I have to be patient with His Body because people tend to grow slowly. I have to trust that God is working to finish His work, not to my satisfaction, but to His perfection. Here’s a good verse:
“Let patience have her perfect work, that you may be
perfect and complete lacking nothing.” James 1:4

As God works me through the tapestry of His plan, I can rest knowing that I’m secure while abiding in it. That is a true source of patience.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Seeking the Whisperer

If you’ve ever attempted contemplation or meditation or any of the worship practices that can only happen in solitude, you might find it’s not easily embraced. We’re accustomed to noise and activity. The first time I went away on a retreat to practice solitude, I couldn’t wait for the time to be alone and not be needed by anyone. But what awaited me was a surprise.

When I was alone for the first day, I did what I imagined. I knelt in a quiet room overlooking a rose garden. I had taken prayer retreats with my church, so I was acquainted with practicing God’s presence or seeking God in a waiting posture, not asking for anything. So I did that for a bit and then the silence became nearly deafening. Restlessness caused me to pace. After two days of solitude, I moved out to the rose gardens where I journaled. By the third day, though, I was finally beginning to relax and become accustomed to the silence. That is when I first noticed God speaking to me. Had he been doing that all along? When I leave behind the noise of everyday life, I find out things like that, that God has been talking to me after all. But the place where I live prevents me from hearing him.

The first thing that God showed me was the condition of my own soul. I don’t feel that God does this to make us feel condemned. Women are already innately racked with guilt, so understand that when God does this for me, I sense a benevolent soul hovering over me, guiding me, and helping me to understand why I stumble or why I keep taking the same hills. It’s a necessary examination. Then as I begin to repent of said sin, there is a deep sense of sorrow, especially if my sin has hurt another human. It's when I first understood a true biblical grief.

When I’m home and allowing my life to spin out of the busyness of activities, then I can easily adopt a pseudo-spirituality. I justify my actions, anger, judgmental attitudes by measuring my life by the life of other flawed humans. I might tell myself I had a right to say what I said or think what I thought because that person was in error and as a result, their error was hurting me or someone else. But when I go away for a time of contemplation, then I no longer have those people around me as my measuring stick, just the measure of my own sin-sick life against the radiance of Christ. That is why I think such deep sorrow accompanies the first day or so of contemplation.

"The Lord said, 'Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.' Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper … " (1 Kings 19: 11-13)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pirates, Dragons, and Other Exciting Road Adventures

Randall and I are making plans to head to Oriental, NC in a couple of weeks. Oriental is part of the setting of my current WIP, The Pirate Queen. I haven’t seen cover artwork yet, but know the good folks in the WBP art department are going to have an interesting artistic interpretation for my story about an Outer Banks heroine, Saphora, who finds treasure and love in the most unusual places.

I love researching the Outer Banks. While the sailing research is different from the historical nautical language used in my Australian series, it adds such great color to the story. Also, the town artists perpetuate a myth about the local mythical dragon that has chosen Oriental for its natural nesting grounds.

I’ll post some other blogs from Oriental too. Today’s featured blog is The Dinghy Dock. You can journey through the wealth of posts about the animals, fowl, plants, boats, and even some Oriental history.

We’ll make landfall around the time of the annual Mum Fest right around the corner from Oriental in historic New Bern. Mum Fest is an event that draws over 80,000 visitors to this Outer Banks event centered around, well, mums, of course! A haven for a gardener like me with plenty of seaside places to visit and new sojourners to meet along the way.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of The Pirate Queen. Thanks for all of the feedback and book club inquiries regarding Painted Dresses. The word is spreading and its due to reader friends and fellow bloggers spreading the word about this southern tale of two sisters taking a road trip through the south delivering a trunkload of painted dresses.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Living in Reality

Okay, I promised to get back to how a Christian takes that first step away from God. This is the thread started last week as I continue to pray for my friend who may be tempted by a platform mentality, or the desire to be admired by others. It’s a daily struggle for most Christian leaders because so many people look up to them. They have to take those encouraging words you give them and put them through the Holy Spirit processor—all for the sake of the cross and all accomplished through God’s power and might and not our own abilities. To allow a little praise to inflate into something else is a big step away from reality.

1 Corinthians 7 is a treatise on how not to take that first step away from God. There is first a list of types that are not “washed” or made righteous for eternity spent with God. But then Paul discusses those who are washed, the sanctified who, only through Christ, are made just in God’s sight. Then the rest of the text is cautionary. We are not living under legalism now; we’re not made clean by “not” doing something. But that doesn’t give us a license to live for self.

What Paul is saying is that we’re not to be mastered by the things that can drag us back to the starting gate. In the first place, that impedes our maturity. Then he compares those kinds of weights to the person who is “made one” by sleeping with a prostitute. In short, instead of becoming like Christ that person is made like the prostitute.

So as we join our body to Christ’s Body, we are made one with His Spirit. We can’t be one with His Spirit and one with immoral choices. We become like the choices we’ve made. Today I either choose to be one with Christ or one with what is luring me away.

We are a continual work in progress. The easy way in life is to take the first step into the swamp of whatever we want to do, be it cheating in business or cheating with someone’s spouse. Then there are the lesser lures, but just as debilitating, like lacking in discipline or never exercising and developing our spiritual gifts—all a waste of a perfectly good day. Or as I discussed about a friend who is being tempted as a “celebrity” Christian leader, the temptation to be worshiped like a little idol. As believers, we can’t dupe ourselves into thinking that we can do anything we want and not become like that choice. To decide to do that is to purposefully stumble into vulnerability. That is how we become as Paul says, like a man who sins against his own body. It’s like perpetually shooting ourselves in the foot. My husband and I deeply regret the years as a couple we lost so much ground because, even though we claimed to be “Christians”, we chose wrongly.

That is what we’re seeing when we see a Christian leader fall. They’ve practiced making bad choices in secret and it has now been made public as they have become the thing that they chose to do. There is a cure for celebrity preachers. Just do like Jesus told us to do. Be a servant to all. Love others and treat them better than you do yourself. And remember to pray for your leaders and give them the same grace that you need in your own life.

Monday, September 15, 2008

You Had Me at , "Hello."

The one thing that my husband defaults to in church outreach is old fashioned door-to-door evangelism. It's an annoying hold-over from the 70's and 80's that, for him, is still effective. But in the beginning, it was just the two of us; we had started the church by knocking doors on Sunday mornings. One lady opened the door and I smiled and before I could say a word, she yelled, “No!” and slammed the door. It was so dehumanizing that I walked back to the car in a huff and told my hubby, “It’s not for me.”

Then nearly a decade later, after a few years studying as a bible teacher had given me more confidence, I gave it another try. Again, it was a Sunday. My husband had started another outreach where he covered our church sign with a banner announcing we had gone out into the community to serve others.

This time an older woman opened the door and I smiled and she smiled back. I told her that I was a minister’s wife and that a few of us had come to help out in the neighborhood. Behind me, a group of children were busy sweeping leaves off her walk. I handed her a bag of oranges and she was so taken off guard that she let me talk for a bit. I had a Bible in my hand, but mostly I just chatted for a bit, telling her a story of how I had come to know God. My story interested her, so I was feeling relaxed and confident. I asked her what she believed about God. There were so many things she believed that it was difficult to connect the dots. She didn’t know any foundational truths and the longer she talked the more I realized that she had skirted the whole gospel message trading it for a lot of philosophical beliefs. I told her that I was not a know-it-all but that I’d be glad to discuss any questions she had about God or faith. She asked me one question after another. So far so good; I actually knew where to find each answer in the Bible. I was thumbing backward and forward when she stopped me and said, “Excuse me. But if I don’t believe the Bible, what good does it do for you to read from it? You had me when you were telling me your stories.” I laughed, mostly at myself for thinking she'd be impressed with my biblical knowledge. Then I returned to what she had requested. I told her a story that showed how God had been with me even when I thought he had abandoned me. By that time our group was leaving. She seemed sad that I had to leave. But I had enjoyed getting to know a woman who, up until that Sunday, had been a stranger to me.

What I learned that day was that the distance between one person and God is not wrapped up only in what they believe. Yes, the distance between her and God was huge because she couldn’t accept the basic truths of God’s Word. But the distance was swallowed up when I crossed her walk, got some kids sweeping her walk, and handed her a gift of love and friendship.

Last week I said that I would discuss the things that put distance between us and God. In the beginning it’s usually something as small as one person reaching out to another in friendship to help them cross the chasm of disbelief. When that happens, suddenly it doesn’t matter any more what they don’t believe. What matters is that they opened up their heart to ours so that the Holy Spirit could begin the gentle work of wooing that person closer to God’s heart.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Move Toward God

This morning I was thinking about a friend who has made a success of her ministry. You could say she is at the pinnacle of success if measuring monetarily—and we all need financial backing in our ministries. I haven’t heard from her in years. She was one of those friends for a season; we’ve both gone down different paths that have separated us geographically. But it seems that she has made some vain choices that are affecting her ministry. It could be idle gossip. Sometimes when a person finally makes a success of her work, jealous, not-so-true friends exaggerate a person’s choices; the resulting stories circulate out of a smug justification born of envy. But the facts point toward the evidence that she’s gotten caught up in the celebrity web. I hope that’s not true. To have known her earlier forthright stance about humility, I can’t imagine her allowing that kind of temptation. I’ve seen this happen to really good ministry folks but I also have friends who refuse the temptation of celebrity, like the apostles when the public tried to worship them. And their ministries are thriving. From what I can glean from the Word, to step into that mire is the same as taking the first step away from God.

I thought I would blog a few posts next week about the ways that we can choose to either step away or move closer toward God. I need it if for no other reason but to remind myself that if my godly, beautiful friend can stumble blindly into a pit, then how much more can someone like me, fatally flawed woman.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Writing: For the Work-At-Home Mom

What is your idea of a successful life? Mine has changed greatly over the years. That’s due in great part to the deep well of grace I’ve needed as a work-at-home mom.

When I started writing my first book, the week I received my contract was also the week my hubby hauled into the living room three sweet children in need of long term care. In addition to our own three, ages twelve to two, three more kids was a load. The baby had attachment issues and a stomach disorder that caused him to cry well into the early morning hours. We had planned and sacrificed to be debt free so that I could come home and build a full time writing career. To have the tables turn on me so suddenly made me feel like a dispensable pawn in life’s scheme. I invited a young single woman to move in with us for that season and she took on the task of sitting up with the baby until he fell asleep. But I still had all of the others to care for and a book to write.
I’m not good at writing with any noise at all, not like some writers that peck away with the earphones on. My only choice was to get up at three in the morning when everyone was sleeping. I wrote until dawn and did that for six months until my first book was finished--almost exactly the length of time we cared for those children.
It taught me that I didn’t have to have the perfect circumstances to write. It also helped me to build some disciplinary muscles, to be aware of the down time of my family so that I could grab some up time at my computer. Best of all, I learned to work feet-on-the-ground, realizing what I could still accomplish and have the life I really wanted, to be at home and watch my family grow while I grew in the career I loved.

Success for me is not about having a New York Times bestselling book, but about building the life you want. Funny how the training season helps transform not only writing but personal goals. Funny too, how the training season never ends.

“Trying hard can accomplish so much. If you are serious . . . you will have to enter into a life of training.” John Ortberg

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Patty Discusses Painted Dresses in Your Area

This week Patty will discuss Painted Dresses on these radio stations:

KNEO 91.7 The Word
Host Adam Winkler
Neosho, MO

Host Ron Hanson
Duluth, MN

Host Fred Young
Camdenton, MO

Host Diane Summers
St. Louis, MO

Christian Work-At-Home Mom
Internet Radio
Jill Hart
Fri. 10:30 a.m. EST

Some will be taped and played later while some are aired live. Check your local station’s listings for times and dates.

Painted Dresses Generating Reader Buzz

I’m hearing great news through a reader who told me the Barnes & Noble associate told her that they’ve ordered yet a third large shipment of Painted Dresses. Then another reader reported that she asked to have her name placed on the waiting list at a large municipal library and was told that she would have to wait—she was number 46!

With all of this buzz, though, I still haven’t heard about sales in many other places. If you have a story to tell about trying to find Painted Dresses, just email me at Be sure to tell your local store managers—Stock up!!

Thank you, dear readers, for continuing to spread the word about Painted Dresses!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Come On People

Since I first watched a mesmerizing and funny man demonstrate his Picture Pages on children’s television, I’ve been a fan of Bill Cosby. That might make my only claim to fame the fact that I’m Bill Cosby’s oldest fan. I’ve eagerly enjoyed his stand-up comedy, his Fat Albert cartoons, his own brand of Kids Say the Darndest Things, and then the show that made everyone else sit up and take notice--The Cosby Show. Bill Cosby proved that you can make people laugh on an intelligent level without taking your material down into the sewer. He reminds us that we are flawed humans but he doesn’t leave us there. Bill Cosby goads us into change and then into teaching others that they too can change. Bill Cosby is the reason I went back to school and finished my master’s degree.

Following my years volunteering in the inner cities of Baton Rouge, I became aware of how enabling through hand-outs rather than mentoring in a reciprocal fashion was what the parents needed more than our free milk and shoes (although it felt good to provide them--but ministry should not be focused on a "warm fuzzies" theology). At the end of the documentary The Boys of Baraka, Bill holds court with a litany of opinions that has, for some really strange reason, made him a lightning rod of controversy. But since I’m a person who agrees with most everything he says, I’m ordering his book Come on, People.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Happy and Sad State of the Empty Nest

Jared, our youngest, is moving onto the UNCC campus today. He's the caboose. I was excited when our first two moved into college dorms, but there is something about
packing up the youngest that leaves a mom both sad and elated. If I could bottle this feeling, I'd be rich.

We parents gathered our sons for a final dinner out here in Birkdale Village where we live. As the guys scarfed down pizza, we parents discussed our melancholy. We had all resolved
as parents to keep our homes open for the boys throughout highschool as a safe place for them to gather. Therefore, they could only group date and absolutely no drinking--they said they
wouldn't have done that anyway. So while our friendships have formed a bond as guardians of our coming of age sons, we've all gotten so close that we're going to start fellowshipping
outside of proms and PTO's. We're going to plan some biking and picnic outings.

So the empty nest is not just a place of good-byes but also of some new doors to walk through. But as I look at Jared sleeping in this morning with his Pokemon critters packed away and his
iMac ready for heavy duty, I can't help but smile through the tears and thank God for the blessing of a son who loves Jesus and the life God gave us on loan.
sniff. . .

Monday, August 18, 2008

In Memory of Elizabeth Mae Moore

Photo is of my nephews and nieces. L to Right, Tim Moore, Elizabeth, Michael, and in front, my little namesake, Patricia. Elizabeth passed suddenly, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008. Lizzie, you are missed so very badly. We will see you on the other side.
(Info on donations/memorials, just run cursor over header and click.)


Aunt Patty

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Painted Dresses the Most Talked About Book on the Internet

I’m back from the Windy City. If you can possibly get away mid-summer, I encourage you to wade into the Karitos Festival of the Arts experience in Bolingbrook. I enjoyed our fiction “tribe” immensely. And we liked each other so much, I organized a Fiction 201 workshop for the returning group next year.

On the home front, last week Technorati, a blogger tracking site listed Painted Dresses as the Number One Talked About Book on the Internet. But to my great surprise, Earthly Vows was listed in the number 2 slot while right behind in number 3 slot was Whisper Town.

If you’ve already devoured Painted Dresses in a week, then the townfolk of Millwood Hollow would like to invite you to drop in and pay them all a visit, especially if you like to follow series. I recommend starting with book one, Fallen Angels. This series has gotten top reviews from critics and readers across the board.

Friday, July 25, 2008

See Patty in Chicago at Karitos!

See Patty in Chicago at the Karitos Festival of the Arts, July 31-Aug. 2!

Directions, Lodging and Food Info for Karitos 2008
How to get to Living Waters Community Church

190 Lily Cache LaneBolingbrook, IL 60440(630)759-5799From the north:
From I-355 South, get off at the Boughton Road Exit. Head West (right turn) 1.9 miles on Boughton Road to Route 53. At Route 53, make a left and proceed 1.4 miles to Lily Cache Lane.

Turn right onto Lily Cache Lane and proceed 0.2 mile. Church is on right.
From I-55 South, get off at exit 267, which is the Route 53-Bolingbrook exit. Proceed North two blocks on Route 53 to Lily Cache Lane. Turn left onto Lily Cache Lane and proceed 0.2 mile. Church is on right.
From the south: From I-55 heading North, get off at exit 267, which is the Route 53-Bolingbrook exit. At the bottom of the ramp, turn left and go to Lily Cache Lane. Turn left onto Lily Cache Lane and proceed 0.2 mile. The church is on your right.
From the east: Take I-80 West to I-55 North and follow the directions listed from the South, listed above.
From the west: Take I-80 East to I-55 North and follow directions from the South, listed above. Take I-88 or I-90 to I-355 South and follow the directions from the North, listed above.
Living Waters Community Church website
HotelsThe hotels listed below are all located within ¼ mile of the conference site. When booking rooms, ask for the Karitos rate. Some hotels offer free shuttle service to Living Waters Church (arrangements must be made in advance). Ask your hotel whether breakfast or continental breakfast is included.
AmericIinn Lodge& Suites - Phone 630/378-5300175 Remington Blvd., Bolingbrook, IL 60440.Single or Double $84 + tax
Comfort Inn - Phone 630/226-1900 1235 Lakeview Dr., Romeoville, IL 60466Two Queen beds $69 + tax
Hampton Inn & Suites - Phone 630/759-7100 165 Remington Blvd., Bolingbrook, IL 60440One King Bed $89 + tax, Two Queen Beds $94 + tax
Holiday Inn - Phone 630/679-1600 205 Remington Blvd., Bolingbrook, IL 60440One King Bed $119 + tax, Two Queen Beds $129 + tax
LaQuinta Inn - Phone 630/226-0000225 W. South Frontage Rd., Bolingbrook, IL 60440Single or Double $89 + tax
Ramada Inn - Phone 630/972-9797520 S. Bolingbrook Dr., Bolingbrook, IL 60440One King Bed $74 + tax, Two Queen Beds $80 + tax
SpringHill Suites by Marriott - Phone 630/759-0529 125 Remington Blvd., Bolingbrook, IL 60440All $89 Suites have been booked. We have a limited number of suites available at $109 + tax (Note: Ask for "The Karitos Group" rate when making your registration
MealsYou will find many of your favorite family as well as fast food restaurants just a short distance from the church, several within a five minute walk. There is also a coffee shop located in the foyer of the church.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Win Your Own Free Copy of Painted Dresses!!

Artistic Blogger is offering a chance to win a free copy of Painted Dresses! Just log on and read the blog about Painted Dresses, and then post your comment with your email addy. Good luck!

“When Patricia Hickman's new release arrived at my house, I opened up the package and kissed the cover. I love her books. She does relationship sagas with just the right touch of tension and fulfillment. . .” Read on at Artistic Blogger.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hear Patty Talk Live About Painted Dresses

You may listen to Patty talk with radio show hosts this week, possibly in your area:

Tuesday, July 22
7:15-7:30 a.m.
Coastal Daybreak Show
Ben Ball
Newport, NC

Medicine Lodge, KS
Kelly Long
9:20-9:30 a.m.

Online Radio Show
The Steve Bonenberger Program
12:30-1:00 p.m.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Want a Free Copy of Painted Dresses? Here's How!

Would you like to earn a free copy of Painted Dresses for your very own?
This is a simple contest and campaign in support of Patty’s “Painted Dresses Road Tour” beginning early fall.

Patty will be traveling and not only promoting her critically acclaimed novel Painted Dresses, but will also be sharing the story behind her story, “Stranger Than Fiction.”
After a dark season in her life, and while in the middle of writing Painted Dresses, she embarked on her own inward journey, finding out about the pain of her childhood. This is a healing message of redemption and joy and even some laughter. Patty has been a speaker for as long as she has written books. She has been mentored by great talents such as Patsy Clairmont (Women of Faith) and Steve Arterburn (Every Man’s Battle author and Women of Faith founder)

So here’s your chance to get your own free copy of Painted Dresses. Just let your favorite conference leader or women’s ministry director know about the “Painted Dresses Road Tour” for their next event.

If Patty is scheduled for an event because of your referral, simply ask that leader to mention your name as they schedule the event with the Ambassador Agency. Patty will send you an autographed copy of Painted Dresses immediately.
If you would like for us to send you a beautiful e-announcement to email to all of your friends announcing this event. just post your request here on this blog and you'll be sent the info through email. Or we can mail you some jumbo postcards to pass out or mail.

For scheduling info, event leaders may contact Naomi Duncan at 615-370-4700 or email Naomi at

To confirm your free copy of Painted Dresses, call Beth Lehman at 615-370-4700 x 236 or email Beth at .

Jeane Wynn of Wynn-Wynn Media is the contact person for publicity for Patty’s events and may be reached at 918-283-1834 or email,

Spread the word and get your free copy of Painted Dresses! (Free copies limited to the first 250 events, but that's a lot!!)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Faithful Reader Reviews Painted Dresses

Painted Dresses hit the bookshelves Tuesday, so be sure to run in for your copy today!

Here's a review just in this morning from Cindy Crosby at Faithful Reader:


Patricia Hickman

WaterBrook PressFiction

ISBN: 9781400071999
About the Book
Patricia Hickman shines in her novel PAINTED DRESSES, a poignant story of sisters who are drawn back together after a death in the family, only to discover a shattering secret that has changed the course of their lives.It’s a slow-paced story, but nonetheless enjoyable for this, and Hickman’s best writing since KATRINA’S WINGS. Gaylen Syler-Boatwright is a 20-something woman separated from her husband, plagued by nightmares and trying to make sense of her life. When her father dies, she returns to her home in Boiling Waters, North Carolina (population 2,972) and must deal with her scattered, one-french-fry-short-of-a-happy-meal sister, Delia Cheatham. When her sister gets a little trigger happy, events begin to unravel, and in a Thelma and Louise-like scene, they leave the scene of the crime, hole up for a bit in a relative’s cabin and then take off on a cross-country drive.As they travel, they deliver unusual works of art --- dresses dipped in paint and mounted on canvas and framed, crafted by their deceased Aunt Amity Syler --- to the family members and friends named on the back of each canvas. Each dress stands for an event in the recipient’s life. Gaylen finds that her dress helps her unlock some traumatic secrets from her past.As the symbolic journey unfolds, Gaylen’s life also unfolds to the reader in bits and pieces. Gentle faith themes are interwoven throughout as Gaylen wonders about God, and she describes in first person the odd piecemeal church experiences she and her little sister were raised on. “Mother thought of religion as something you lay in front of children like a doormat,” Gaylen recalls, and “Delia threw off my mother’s religious accouterments as fast as our little toy dog threw off the jingle-bell harness we fastened to him one Christmas.” Hickman uses conversations between Delia and Gaylen to more deeply explore their relationship with God and also with each other. In one early and telling exchange in which Delia bemoans her inability to be good, as she believes Gaylen is good, Gaylen says, “Delia, life isn’t always about being bad or good. Sometimes people get stuck in situations and no matter which way we choose, it turns out wrong.”Hickman shows that Delia may be smarter than she seems: “Maybe I’m not as dumb as you all think, but just so smart I’m just on to all of you. I know what you all say about me, that Delia’s trash. What if I’m just happy to be me? What’s the harm in that?”The author challenges the reader to grapple with the complexities of family and especially the cost of family secrets. She also explores why evil things happen to innocent children and the complex way marriages are constructed, maintained and sometimes fall apart.Occasionally, Hickman overwrites (“A band of pink dimmed on the horizon like fading influenza fever”), but more often she describes her scenes well. She shines in illuminating her characters’ motivations and internal struggles, and how the influences of upbringing, trauma and family keep us from sometimes seeing things as they really are. Fans of southern fiction and those who like a literary story with well-crafted characters should find this latest Hickman offering a thoughtful look at families and faith. --- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at
Click here now to buy this book from

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Most Important Thing

There’s a lot of activity that goes into moving a group of people from scattered to unified, from loose cannons to the Body of Christ. That activity is translated differently by many Bodies that become the Local Church. One particular pastor has placed on his website a list of these activities. They are typical of what we see—children’s ministry, youth meetings, discipleship and membership classes. But then there was this one strange activity that drew my eye. It was labeled only “The Most Important Ministry.” When I clicked on that, the page opened to a gathering to pray. It had replaced the midweek service normally reserved for group studies and children’s meetings. Imagine that: the most important meeting was not ministry to the poor or to children or to one another, but ministry to God.

Oswald Chambers said:
“When a man is born from above, the life of the Son of God is born in him, and he can either starve that life or nourish it. Prayer is the way the life of God is nourished. Our ordinary views of prayer are not found in the New Testament. We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible’s idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself.”

When ministry becomes about anything else, I get sidetracked. When ministry is focused on ministering to God, then out of it springs life and fruitfulness.

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
--Jer. 33:3

Friday, July 11, 2008

RT Gives Painted Dresses 4 Stars!

RT Rating: 4 stars

Painted Dresses

Award-winning author Hickman weaves a wonderful tale of women who have triumphed over adversity in this sensitive, caring, heartfelt story. It's a story readers will remember long after they have finished the book.

Summary: Gaylen Syler-Boatwright heads to her late Aunt Amity's house to get her life back on track. She discovers a gallery of dresses in frames with the names of her relatives on them and hits the road with her sister to find some of them. Gaylen discovers long-buried family secrets and, through the grace of God, learns the hardest lesson of all -- to forgive and move into the future with a clean slate. (Waterbrook, Jul., 352 pp., $13.99)
—Patsy Glans, Romantic Times

Monday, June 2, 2008

Painted Dresses and Publishers Weekly!

Publishers Weekly is the top general market trade pub for book reviews. PW has now reviewed Painted Dresses for its July issue and it’s a stellar review! Woo-hoo!

Painted Dresses Patricia Hickman. WaterBrook, $13.99 paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-4000-7199-9

Hickman's slow-paced but best novel since Katrina's Wings begins with protagonist Gaylen Boatwright, whose life is a mess. In her late 20s, she's called home to Boiling Waters, N.C., because of her father's death. When her unbalanced sister, Delia, shoots a woman, Gaylen decides to flee the law with her. Along the way, Gaylen and Delia deliver some unusual painted dresses their deceased aunt bequeathed to family friends and relatives, each dress symbolic of an incident in the past. These visits provide clues to the puzzle of Gaylen's life. With divorce papers in her pocket, she wonders about love, God, her sanity and the role of an incarcerated older brother in her nightmares. When the law catches up with Delia, Gaylen must determine whether her past will define her and what her future will hold. Hickman gamely unpacks the lies families tell each other, the cost of family secrets to ourselves and others, the bonds between sisters and the walls between husbands and wives. Her sparkling talent is evident in this engrossing story. (Publishers Weekly, July)