Sunday, July 30, 2006

life upside down

We've had a lot of fun this summer... trips, camp-outs, sleepovers, cousins, friends, grandparents. It's been over a month since we've all been home together without anyone staying with us. And, while friends and relatives are certainly a blessing, I'm missing my own little family. I've lost touch with the kids and I've lost control of the house.

The next four days will be a challenge and a blessing. The kids will stay with a different family every day and my husband will have to figure out how to add transporting children to his already hectic schedule.

Meanwhile... I'll be at a writers' conference improving my skills and pitching my book. I'm excited about going, but the timing this year is awkward. I'd appreciate your prayers that I will be able to savor my time with Mom and in my classes and that I'll come home refreshed and energized.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Little Book

Of all the good things I took away this week, I've got to say Silas Shotwell's teaching was at or near the top of my list. Good, sound Biblical teaching that was both interesting and practical. He taught out of the book of Phillipians, using Dr. Darby's Little Book as his outline. Below is the entire text of that book. A very few words, but enough to chew on for a life time.


Be lighthearted and happy.

Page 1

Take care of your physical body.

Page 2

Don't fret.

Page 3

Don't magnify your problems.

Page 4

Don't say anything about anyone unless it's good.

Page 5

Control your thinking.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Off the edge of the World

Civilization is so over-rated. I'm in the middle of a week long family encampment in the middle of Nowhere, Oregon. We had to whack down some bushes to make a big enough spot to pitch our tent. Others who have attended camp for years have carved more complicated parking pads out of the woods.

So, while I've got a few minutes in town today, I'm headed back out to camp for another 3 days. Great Bible teaching, super fellowship, and all the pleasures of camping out.

See you all in a few days.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Let the Book Cover Judging Begin

"Don't judge a book by its cover," the old adage goes. But today, I'm asking you to do just that. Look at the 4 covers below, keeping in mind that each picture represents an entire book cover, front, spine, and back. (Imagine laying a book open on the table and looking at the whole cover). These covers are all possibilities for the same book. Which would you be most likely to pick up in the book store? Which one would you be most likely to buy? Please enter your votes and any thoughts on the different covers in the comments section.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Judging books by their covers

I know you're not supposed to do it, but I can't help myself. If I pick up a book and I don't like the cover, I'm not likely to read it.

I recently spent a couple of hours looking at book covers. I was scouring the Christian book store for novels that might have similar themes to my own. I noticed that you can actually judge books by their spines. Just by looking at the colors used on the book's backbone, I could tell if I was looking at a mystery, suspense, historical fiction or romance. The fonts give you even more clues, and if you read the back cover, you're likely to have a pretty good idea of what you're getting into.

Which is good since most of the books I looked at tonight cost between $14 and $28.

In the next few days, I'm going to ask you to judge a book by its cover.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Traveling Mercies

Prayer time ended yesterday with this thought: We have laid so many requests at your feet and have offered so little in return. All we can say is thank you. We didn't even pray for safety for our trip, leaving it in God's hands to teach and mold us through life's experiences.

Though Barb did call out "Traveling mercies!" as she left.

I was to pick up my two girls and two boys from two different families from their week at camp. I didn't plan on taking a passenger, but one of the boys' moms asked if she could ride along. I'm one of the only people in America without a cell phone. My passenger had a cell phone.

We headed down through I-5 traffic. Friday afternoon rush hour is a bear anyway, but an accident up ahead turned the freeway into a parking lot. A glance at the gas guage told me it was time to peel off the freeway and search for fuel. The surface streets were clear, but I didn't have a map of how to get where I was going. So I asked the gas station attendant, "How do I get to Hwy. 99?" He looked at me kind of funny and pointed to the road 5 feet out my window. "Your road is right there."

Back in the van, we took Hwy. 99 through several towns and out into the country. We pulled onto the gravel road that would take us the last 3 miles to the camp and slowed from 55 mph to 25 mph. Just as I was rounding the first curve, something snapped and we skidded toward the outer edge of the curve. As I tried keeping the car on the road, my passenger was thinking, "What a soft place to crash." For we were sliding toward a field of weeds, not a ditch or embankment or, worse, a cliff.

I thought we had a flat tire, so I got out and looked at each one. They all looked fine to me, so I got back in the car and tried to pull back into the middle of the road, but the tires couldn't get purchase. I was about to back up a ways to get a different angle when a black truck approached. The driver hopped out and kicked my tires for me, then backed up to get a look. He waved me out on the road to see what he saw. The front tires of the van were pointing in two different directions, like the van was pigeon-toed. "Looks like you broke an axle or a tie rod," he said. His wife hopped out of the car. "He should know," she said. "He's a mechanic."

I wanted to call my husband to ask him whether to get the car towed or leave it there to pick up later. "You'll never get service out here," the mechanic said. "Cell phones never work this far out." Just then, my passenger's phone rang!

I called Edwin and gave him the low down as my new mechanic friend felt around behind the tires. "Tell you what," he said, "you go on to camp and I'll see what I can do about fixing this for you." Another car pulled up, this one with a dad who was heading to the camp to pick up his girls. "Need a lift?" he asked. So I handed my keys to mechanic Bruce and his lovely wife Mary, forgetting to get any pertinent information from him like a last name or phone number, and went to camp.

The kids were glad to see me. We had fun at campfire. My friend arranged a ride for herself and the two boys. And I planned to camp out at camp for as long as it took. The other driver from my area was just loading sleeping bags in the back of her SUV when I got a call on the camp phone, my husband checking on me. I'd been okay up until then, but when I heard his voice, I got a little teary. Truthfully, I was nervous about driving home without a cell phone or another car following to make sure I made it. That is, if the van even got fixed and returned.

"Your car's here," someone shouted into the dark kitchen. I hung up the phone and went out to meet Bruce and Mary. "Here's your key," they said. "You'll need to get your tires aligned, but you're good to go."

"How much do I owe you?" I asked.


"Can I have your business card?"

"Nope. We don't want anything from you. We were headed out to dinner tonight and decided to leave a little early. Who knows? Maybe God needed us to be there for you. It's a blessing to be able to bless you. Have a great weekend." And they left.

Guardian angels or good samaritans? Either way, I'm thankful for God's traveling mercies.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

on writing

It took me over three years to complete a first draft on my first novel manuscript. This week, I finished my second one. It took six months. Does that mean my next one will take three months and the one after that only six weeks?

I don't write much about my writing here, but finishing a manuscript (even if it is just the first draft) is a huge milestone to me. I now have three weeks to get ready for my writers' conference.

To Do

Finish first draft of Home Fires manuscript.


Write a synopsis of the story.


Order business cards.


Draft and polish a book proposal.

Polish first three chapters of manuscript.

Research agencies, publishers, and editors who will be at conference.

Start 2nd draft.

Keep ears open for ideas for project #3.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Dead Yovo Market

yovo: n. (yoh-voh) 1)white man 2) cunning dog

The dead yovo market in West Africa is the best place to buy western clothing. Clothing vendors buy shoes, pants, and other clothes by the pound to distribute to the public. I once bought a pair of Christopher & Banks slacks for $3. Apparently, the clothing in the dead yovo market comes from the merchandise that Goodwill and other clothing donation sites are unable to sell.

People call this area of the regular marketplace the "dead yovo market" because they can't imagine people getting rid of such nice clothes unless they are dead.

I just discovered a dead yovo market right here in our town. A friend took me there and I'm completely hooked. It's behind our regular Goodwill and it's called the Goodwill Outlet Store. It, like the dead yovo market, sells the things that didn't sell at Goodwill, by the pound. My friend calls shopping there "dumpster diving."

This type of shopping is neither for the faint of heart nor for those who have a specific need. For example, if you're looking for a fancy dress to wear to your nephew's wedding, you might want to go elsewhere. But if you're in the market for used clothes for yourself, your family, or someone you met at a potluck (or if you're a bargain hunter and enjoy the hunt more than the final product), then this kind of shopping is a blast.

All the clothes are dumped in huge bins and it's every man, woman or child for himself. Yesterday, we bought 50 pounds of clothes between us, for a total of $37. My portion of this take was only about 7 pounds, but I'm happy with my finds: a pair of REI shorts for Edwin, some shorts and jeans and pajamas for the twins, 3 dresses and a vest for the little one, a pair of hiking pants for me. The piece de resistance yesterday was a burgandy silk cocktail dress with black beaded fringe that Jessica is going to drool over.

Total cost: $4.32, to be paid to my friend in the form of fresh lettuce.

Oh, and the other day, I bought a pair of brand new Christopher & Banks jeans. They probably cost me a quarter.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Vive la France?

I am NOT a sports fan, but all three of the countries I've lived in were represented in the World Cup, the biggest sporting event on the planet. The U.S. and Togo were knocked out early, confirming my suspicions that some teams are in the competition only to make the top teams look good. But France, bless her, made it to the finals.

So, today, Edwin and I cheered and hooted and hollered for France.

Until the second overtime.

Then, the team captain, Zinedine Zidane, affectionately known as Zizou, head butted an opponent and was red-carded out of the match. A national icon, a legend of French sports, a man who reportedly played for many years with skill and integrity spent his last few minutes before retirement on the bench because he lost his temper. Sure, he may have been justified, but it's still a horrible way to go. (If you want to see the incident, click here to go to YouTube.)

France lost. She lost the game and the title. But the country still stands behind Zizou and holds him up as a hero.

It's good to have people to look up to, but things like what I saw today remind me that mere men are neither worthy nor capable of living up to their idol status.

Venus razors tell me that if I use their product it will release my inner goddess. You know what? I'd rather not, 'cuz if I let her out, there's no telling what horrid things she might feel justified doing. Maybe she'd want to head butt a guy when over a BILLION people are watching!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Story Telling

This morning at 10, I got to read a bedtime story to some little girls, some of whom were in their 60's, 70's and 80's.

I read them a story called Something From Nothing. It's the tale of a little boy whose grandfather makes him a blanket. The boy loves his blanket and uses it until it's all worn out. His mother wants to throw it away, but the boy insists on taking it to his grandfather for repairs. His grandfather cuts away the bad fabric and uses the remaining material to make a jacket. The story follows in a rhythm, with the boy wearing out his things and the grandfather making smaller and smaller gifts with the remaining fabric.

At last, there is nothing left. Nothing, that is, except a story.

Isn't that the way our life is? We were fed and clothed, we've received some pretty special gifts through the years. But all of that wears out, and in the end, all we have left is our story. I've been thinking about my kids' story. What legacy am I leaving them? What will they have that's worth telling?

I can't wait to hear.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ken Lay "Released"

To say I was shocked to hear of the death of Kenneth Lay, Enron CEO and convicted felon, is a serious understatement. After several years in the U.S. criminal justice system and his recent conviction, Ken Lay still maintained his innocence in the collapse of the country's biggest energy company.

His sentencing hearing was scheduled for September 11, which struck me as a bad sign right off the bat. But not this bad a sign. Dead at the age of 64. Released from his obligations to court and country, but still, possibly, on the hook with a higher authority.

Mr. Lay was the son of a Baptist minister. He maintained his membership at a Methodist church. But who can say what his relationship was with God? Will he stand before God the judge or God the scapegoat?

No matter what those of us who work hard to do the right thing might say, our eternal destiny in not determined by what we do or don't do. It's not determined by how early or late we came to believe. It's not decided by the way we dress, the good deeds we've done or even the completeness of our understanding.

So, while we wait for the reactions to come out from people who think Ken Lay got what he deserved and others who wish he would have suffered longer for his crimes, let us pray for the day of our own "release" and beg the God of all mercy that justice not be served on us.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Fireworks, hot dogs, swimming pools and freedom of speech. It's easy to trivialize our liberties, but they are very, very precious.

On our drive through the Columbia Gorge this afternoon, we listened to a Broadway review called Capitol Steps. The entire show, while hilarious and well-rhymed, bashed the Bush administration, the republicans, the right-wing media and whoever else happened to be in power.

I've got to admit. I laughed. To be fair, I would have laughed if they were poking fun at the democrats, too. Inf act, the funniest song was the one of Al Gore singing "There's a Hole in the Middle of the Ozone."

And then I thought. What a privilege that we're allowed to say anything we want. Even with all the attention given to our loss of privacy, we are still incredibly privileged to have the right to speak out without fear of imprisonment or execution. We're even allowed to make fun of our president if we want.

The next news to come on the radio told of the missiles launched from North Korea. Now there's a country I don't know much about, except that their leader seems to be pretty cranky. I wonder if the North Koreans are allowed to say that.

My brother recently visited the People's Palace in Romania, built by order of Ceausescu. Talk about a cranky leader, but I don't think anyone complained out loud about him. Especially not on the radio.

Let's embrace our liberty, our right to speak out. And while we're at it, let's use that freedom to say something important.

Oh, and while we're talking about liberties, one freedom I'd love to see revoked is my neighbor's right to aim his fireworks at the top of my thirsty noble fir.