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Monday, June 30, 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie

Mom and I ate at Marie Callender's after church yesterday.

No trip to Marie Callender's is complete without a slice of pie. They make the best pies in town, whatever pundits say about Village Inn. My personal favorite is German chocolate, chocolate filling with coconut and pecan pieces. Umm, good.

We took our seats in the waiting area, still emotional after the tear-filled worship service. What's the first thing that I saw?

"Pie of the Month: Lemon Meringue."

I looked at Mom, and she nodded. "Reminders everywhere." (I'm surprised we didn't bawl then and there.)

Lemon meringue pie was Jolene's favorite dessert. I think she would have preferred it to birthday cake.

Sour and sweet at the same time, just like my girl.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fly to Jesus

This morning, at the start of the worship service, I felt more joyful than I have for awhile. My strength is in you, Lord. The words of the praise song poured out from me.

Then we reached the final song, "Untitled Hymn," commonly known as "Come to Jesus" by Chris Rice. And of course the lyrics got to me. With your final heartbeat ... go in peace, and laugh on glory's side.

Oh, God. One heartbeat, Jolene was alive. The next, she was dead. My voice broke, and I tried to keep from crying.

Understand, I stand in the choir loft. I feel like I'm on display before the whole church. I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, one of the sopranos noticing my distress. She handed me a tissue. I blinked back the tears, wiped my eyes. By then, the song had ended.

All during the sermon, the Lord's Supper, lunch, I would remember the words, With your final heartbeat, and I would start to cry all over again. After we ate, the heaviness passed.

In A Grief Unveiled, Floyd talks about "the problem." It's not theological, he said. Amen. I KNOW Jolene is in heaven, in peace, and laughing.

No, as Paul says in Colossians--the faith and love that sustain me through the pain spring from the hope that is stored up for me in heaven (Colossians 1:5-6.) It's there, solid and sure. His grace for today is enough.

As a funny footnote, I choked on the communion cracker during the Lord's Supper and couldn't stop coughing. One of the deacons fetched water for me. This morning, I really WAS the talk of the church.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Welcome Cara Putman

It is my privilege to welcome Cara Putman to my blog tonight. Cara is a fellow Heartsong author and also writes for Love Inspired Suspense. We met through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers).

Please read as Cara shares about the heartbreaking loss of miscarriage.

In this blog, I have been processing the loss of my daughter to suicide. The experience of loss is universal. What significant loss have you experienced? How has it impacted your writing?

Until January 2007, I’d experienced what I now call candy-coated Christianity. Not that my life had been perfect – In fact there had been several tests to my faith as I grew up. But in that January I was confronted with a test that shook me to the core of my faith when I miscarried.

We already had two children, but my husband and I knew our family wasn’t complete yet. But this time it wasn’t a simple matter to get pregnant. We had tried for months, undergone basic infertility tests, and rejoiced when the test turned positive. We told family and friends before the end of the first trimester – we’d never had any problems with my earlier pregnancies, so we wouldn’t this time. Right?

Then I went in for my first prenatal visit and heard those words you never want to. “Either you miscalculated or you will miscarry. It’s simply a matter of time.” The next day we had an ultrasound that confirmed our worst fears. Then began the process of wrestling with God and trying to decide what to do next while battling grief at the loss.

No one in my immediate family or my husband’s had experienced miscarriage so no one knew how to support me. Yet God surrounded me with friends who cried with me and carried me through the experience, letting me know I wasn’t alone.

What central truth did you learn through your loss?

I struggled with how I could reconcile the fact that I firmly believe God is good and that He has nothing but plans for my hope and future with the reality of that loss. Especially as I dove back into the cycles of trying to get pregnant again. But even as I cried and questions and railed and felt anger and abandonment, I knew He was still God and I chose to believe He was who He says He is. Even as my heart felt fragmented.

It’s still hard, even now that I hold our precious daughter in my arms. She was my mother’s day present this year. But I still cry sometimes when I see babies that are the same age as my little one in heaven.

What books or characters resonated with you in your time of loss?

Lainie’s struggles in Sandhill Dreams were a direct result of the issues and emotions I wrestled with that year. And my next novel will tackle these issues head on because the hero and heroine are married and experience a miscarriage. I imagine those emotions will flood back as I write those chapters. But since 25% of recognized pregnancies end in a miscarriage, it’s critical that we understand how that impacts the families.

You have recently published "Sandhill Dreams” and “Deadly Exposure." Please tell me a little about your books.

Sandhill Dreams With her dreams shattered, will Lainie Gardner allow God and a soldier at Fort Robinson to breathe life into new dreams that will bring her more joy than she imagined?

Deadly Exposure: With a stalker closing in, will television journalist Dani Richards trust her former love and police investigator Caleb Jamison to help her and God to rescue her?

What last words would you like to share with my readers? How can they find out more about what God is doing in your life?

During life’s tragedies – because they will come – our choice is: will we trust God or are we going to turn inward and become bitter. I am comforted by Joseph’s words to his brothers in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done…” We can say the same thing to our Enemy. I pray God will let me see some of the fruit of my experience in this life (and I have), but even if I don’t see or understand here, I will in heaven. And someday I’ll get to meet that baby, and I can’t wait for that.

People can find me on the web at and at my blog where I review and giveaway books, talk about my writing, thoughts on life, and more.

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Darlene. I’m praying for you as you walk through this dark time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One Day at a Time

Lately I have been feeling that I don't WANT to live the rest of my life without Jolene.

In saying that, I don't mean that I'm suicidal. Depressed, probably, but in no way wanting to end it all.

Just a statement of pain. Of kicking and screaming that I don't want Jolene to be gone.

Perhaps that's why the following statement from A Grief Unveiled by Gregory Floyd resonates with me. Gregory lost his 5-year-old son John-Paul in a car accident.

"When I would think about living the rest of my life without John-Paul, of never seeing him again, the thought was unbearable. But when I would ask myself, 'Can you make it through just today without him? Can you make it from morning until evening?' I would think, 'Yes, I can.' One day at a time, I could handle. One day at a time was all there is grace for. I had hope for tomorrow, but grace only for today." (italics mine)

Amen! His words connected with a truth I learned a long time ago. When I couldn't expect a good day (24 hours) with Jolene because of her many problems, I looked for a good hour. Minutes, if necessary. God gave me grace moment by moment, day by day.

Grief will work the same way. I don't have to have grace today for my birthday in August. I only need grace to get through the evening and have a good night's rest. That's all I should petition God for.

One day at a time, I will make it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cycles of Grief

Last week sucked both Mom and me down into a vortex. Tuesday, three months had passed since Jolene's death.

Sunday, we moved the last of Jolene's things into our already-crowded apartment. We couldn't (and still can't) move without seeing the tangible, undeniable signs of loss. Her china cabinet stares us in the face in our living room and we push past her boxes in the hall. By Friday, we had both reached a breaking point and unfortunately took it out on each other.

Thank God for Mom. We were able to talk about what and why we hurt, and work past the hurtful things we had said to each other.

I've prayed for courage and comfort, peace and strength, patience and endurance. God gives me just enough to get through each day. Grief cycles through me, and this last 10 days or so have taken us back down.

Last night Mom and I pulled out a deck of cards and played Gin Rummy. We haven't played since May 25th; we usually play several times a week. May 25th, Memorial Day Sunday, also marked the weekend we sorted through the rest of Jolene's things.

Maybe we've reached the bottom of this cycle and we're on our way back up. I hope so.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A God-Incident

Friday I received a totally unexpected email. Joni Woelfel, author of Daily Meditations for Survivors of Suicide, wrote to me! (You may remember my frequent comments about the book.) What a God-thing, to connect me with a woman who lost her young adult son to suicide, who can understand so well the never-ending (although varying in degrees) pain—and tell me I will survive.

She said in part, “I remember well how utterly brutal those early months were . . . I'll be checking to read your thoughts as time goes on---such a long journey ahead of you. As a mentor said to me, ‘I promise you can make it.’ How I needed those words---and I only believed her because she had lost a child and had been there. One day that person will be you, saying it to others as I do now. Blessing your tears and applauding your valiant spirit.”

Thank you for coming alongside of me, Joni, for being God’s voice and hands. Through you, God gave me much needed strength, peace, comfort.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Love and Loss

For Christmas, I gave Mom a special calendar for mothers from Blue Mountain Arts. Each month features a different poem.

Mom didn't turn the page for June for at least a week. She told me she wouldn't, because the subject would make us sad. The poem for this month is titled "The Love Between a Mother and Child Is Forever" by Barbara Cage.

I won't copy the entire poem here--find it if you can--but it helps me remember the good times Jolene and I shared, and reminds me of things I could have done better. A whistle blew, ending our time together before I was ready.

Cage says, "It is a love of the present, interwoven with memories of the past and dreams of the future." Oh, Jolene, how I wish I had a future here on this earth with you.

However, in a strange sort of way, the wellspring of my grief affirms the depth of my love. If I did not love Jolene, I would not miss her so. Loving leaves us vulnerable to pain, and I would not have it any other way.

Footnote: Cindy Hickey reviewed Gunfight at Grace Gulch today at Fun Cozy-Mysteries and Riveting... -

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Welcome to Frances Devine

Tonight it's my privilege to welcome another Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! author, Frances Devine. Like me, she experienced loss at the same time as one of her greatest writing triumphs. I'll let her tell you her story.

In this blog, I have been processing the loss of my daughter to suicide. The experience of loss of universal. What significant loss have you experienced? How has it impacted your writing?
My mother went to be with Jesus a few months before I got my first contract. She was 98, and had been reading my stories since I was nine years old. Although it was bittersweet because I couldn’t share the joy with her, I think of her often when I’m writing and feel like she’s cheering me on.

What central truth did you learn through your loss?
We need to remember to cherish our loved ones while they are with us.

Do you write to escape your circumstances or to process your feelings? Or both? Please share examples.
Sorry, I’ve no idea. I write because I love to write.

You have recently published "Miss Aggie’s Gone Missing." Please tell me a little about your book.
Victoria Storm has recently inherited Cedar Lodge, her ancestral home in Cedar Chapel, Missouri, now a boarding house for a half-dozen opinionated, young at heart seniors. When Miss Aggie Pennington-Brown, one of the boarders, disappears on the same cold, January day the Cedar Chapel Bank is robbed, Victoria and the seniors don’t think it’s a coincidence. With help from Victoria’s childhood nemesis, Benjamin, and roadblocks thrown at them from the local sheriff, she and the boarders stumble from one adventure to another, searching for clues in an attempt to solve the crime.

Footnote: Andrea Boeshaar interviewed me today at The Write Word For Women - Stop by and check it out! Thanks.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Three Little Girls

I said I would tell my happy story tonight. Thank God I can. Yes, today is the 3 month anniversary of Jolene's official date of death. I have felt and grieved deeply for several days. Jaran (my son) just called and said, "We're the only ones marking these anniversaries." I am truly blessed to be here with Mom; we support each other.

But today the cloud has lifted, at least a little, and I have a little anecdote to share.

Before I forget: Lena Nelson Dooley interviewed me on her blog today at Stop by to sign up for a free copy of my book, Gunfight at Grace Gulch.

Back to the story. You know I enjoy watching children. So I noticed when Mom and three girls brought Dad & Grandpa to the restaurant for a Father's Day dinner on Sunday.

The three girls ranging in age from maybe four to nine couldn't have been more different.

The youngest wore khaki shorts, a big shirt (the kind that you wear unbuttoned and that flops around your hips) and sneakers. She looked like she was ready to go out and play softball or soccer, whatever her fancy.

The middle girl wore a flowery dress and dress white shoes.

The oldest? Dark leggings and a tunic, with sandals.

The only things they had in common was their fair hair--and the fact they shed their shoes as soon as possible.

On the way out, Mom complimented the parents on letting their children be themselves. They beamed at the comment.

Three girls I've never met...but I felt like I knew them just watching them share a family meal.

Jolene definitely had her own flare. Our three generations made an impression whenever we went places together. And yes, now she's missing ... but that wasn't on my mind on Sunday.

I just enjoyed the beauty and uniqueness of God's creation. We all have different personalities, and that's the way God planned it.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Happy or sad? Or both? Nah, I'll save one for tomorrow.

I'll continue with thoughts from yesterday.

A friend wrote to me today about her daughter's wedding plans. In a purely selfish moment, I said, "I'll never get to experience that." (Selfish because I don't want to diminish her joy.)

It made me think again of the feeling of amputation. Everyone who has two legs continues to walk. They feel badly for my missing leg, but ... they walk. They have places to go, things to do, life to live.

Whereas, I stumble around on one leg. Trying to figure out props will help me move. Knowing that nothing will ever be the same as having my own leg attached at the hip, no matter what I do.

Something as simple as looking forward to my next three-pay-check month (only twice a year). The next month falls in August, when I am paid on the 1, 15, and 29.

Mom said, "That means your birthday will be on a Sunday" (August 3rd).

And the same thought struck both of us at the same time. Just like Jolene's birthday was a Sunday. Our birthdays always fell? fall? on the same day of the week. Mom cried.

My next birthday reminded of us last year--the hours Jolene spent decorating the living room--she made and decorated the cake. I looked at the ceiling fan and said, "We'll never drape crepe paper from corner to corner again." Jolene worked so hard to make it a special day for me, that she was too tired to enjoy it.

A year of firsts. A new guests to my blog said today that birthdays will be hard. I believe it. But God will see us through. I hold onto that.

Tomorrow maybe I'll share my happy story.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Almost Three Months

Jolene has been on my heart all weekend.

It started with Jaran's phone call on Friday. He was going to her grave to leave flowers. "Do you have anything you want to say?"

Mom spent the rest of the day in tears. It didn't hit me until I connected the date--the 13th--with Jolene's actual date of death. I was thinking about the 17th, the "official" date."

Three months. Three months. Has it really been that long?

Anyhow, I am aching, hurting, wanting to wake up and find out it's all a bad dream. It's like an amputation. I keep looking for the phantom limb which is no longer there.

Add to the anniversary our pastor's Father's Day sermon: characteristics of a perfect father, based on God our Father from John 3:16-18. He pointed out that God is good; how do we explain all that bad things that happen to us? That led to another point: God allows us to make our own choices. And choices, good and bad, that other people make, impact our lives.

Jolene's choice to end her life is a prime example of a bad choice that continues to rip through my heart.

We also cleaned out most of the storage unit this afternoon. The last of Jolene's physical possessions.

A hard weekend. I ache, body and soul. I can only affirm that in some way I do not see or comprehend, God will work our tragedy into some beautiful good.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Two wonderful gifts today.

First of all--the contract for my next book! It's official. I will be writing Beacon of Love, the first book in the Rhode Island Brides series. It's a historical romance between the daughter of a lighthouse keeper and a doctor, set against the backdrop of the "Great Gale of 1816." The first hurricane to strike New England during colonial history, it destroyed 500 homes in Narragansett Bay and flooded Providence.

Secondly, a complete surprise. Some anonymous friend at church bought beautiful blouses for Mom and me, together with the receipt and gift card if we need to exchange something. We had quite a time of show and tell!

Wow. Wonderful gifts to remind me of THE gift, God's gift of love wrapped up in His Son.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Welcome Lynette Sowell

Today it is my privilege to welcome a woman who is not only a fellow Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! author, but also my critique partner and good friend. She’s always lent an ear when I’ve needed to talk during the loss of my daughter.

Welcome to Lynette Sowell

In this blog, I have been processing the loss of my daughter to suicide. The experience of loss of universal. What significant loss have you experienced? How has it impacted your writing?

While I was writing my second mystery, The Wiles of Watermelon, we lost my 42-year-old brother-in-law Eddie to liver cancer. The disease took him very quickly, within four months of his diagnosis. Our (My husband and I) relationship with him had been strained until the past year, when it seemed like things were turning around. Less than a month after losing Eddie, we lost one of our long-time pets right after Thanksgiving—“my” kitty of our brood of five felines. All of this happened while my husband’s business took a nosedive and his income was cut in half. Let’s just say the last six months of 2007 kept going downhill on many fronts.

As far as how loss has impacted my writing, I have to say it was hard for me to write about murder and be funny. When I submitted my manuscript in January, I apologized to my editor. I was afraid my book wasn’t remotely quirky or funny like a cozy mystery ought to be. We writers often joke about killing people off, but this experience showed me that loss is not a trivial thing. And when I have a character experience loss, I believe I’ll portray loss more authentically.

What central truth did you learn through your loss?

I didn’t have to hold onto God. I didn’t feel strong enough at the time, for one thing. He’s the one holding onto me. I couldn’t focus on my feelings or they’d swallow me up—anger at how Eddie wasted so many years of his life; sorrow at all the time we didn’t get to be family; anger at how his wife treated our family and tried to keep us from seeing him and saying goodbye; walking beside my husband as he went through a time of deep grief and depression, and I felt powerless to help him; discouragement at seeing our business in a slump while I waded through my own grief; frustration at circumstances; guilt over my feelings about losing my beloved cat—that really hit me hard, and I felt guilty because after all, my hubby had just lost his brother. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you understand. Feelings can sort of snowball, just like that one sentence did!

As far as dealing with feelings went, November, December, and early January were hardest. It was the Christmas season, usually our favorite time around here, but the whole time was just pushing through. One bright spot was the week we spent in Massachusetts for my sister’s wedding and Thanksgiving. We had a breather, a complete change of scenery, and we could pretend we hadn’t been through a loss. But then we flew home to Texas. The church was decorated, we attended the Christmas functions and programs, and we barely got the house and yard decorated. But I didn’t “feel” any of it. The same with New Year’s, when I found myself wondering, “Lord what comes next for us in 2008? Because I’m not sure I want to know.”

Do you write to escape your circumstances or to process your feelings? Or both? Please share examples.

I used to journal years and years ago, mostly to process my feelings. Or I’d escape through a book. During the past few years, though, with writing deadlines I had to write whether I felt like it or not. While I wrote, I did find a measure of escape. But it was more like the escape of going to work and leaving your troubles aside, if only for a few hours.

What books or characters resonated with you in your time of loss?

Honestly, during my toughest time of loss I didn’t really read anything other than the Bible. If I read any fiction from October through December, I don’t remember it. Once I’d worked through the hardest part, though, I read Brandilyn Collins’ thriller Amber Morn this March. I love Brandilyn’s books and the truths that resound in her writing. But what got me was the theme verse in the front of the book, Proverbs 14:32: “When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge.” While her book was the white-knuckled seatbelt suspense I love to devour in a day, the verse set me bawling and so did the story.

I think what impacted me most was the fact that even in death, when we belong to Jesus, nothing can touch us. Eddie wasted lots of years, and we lost him too soon, but he made the most important decision anyone could ever make before he died. He knew he’d messed up and asked the Lord for forgiveness and a fresh start. The last night we saw him and said goodbye, his home was filled with peace. It almost made the air hard to breathe. When I got to hold Eddie’s hand and pray with him while he held onto life by his fingertips, I felt as if I’d stepped a couple of footsteps into Heaven with my brother-in-law, if only for a few minutes.

You have recently published A Suspicion of Strawberries. Please tell me a little about your book.

My book is set in the town of Greenburg, Tennessee along the Tennessee River. It’s what I like to call “a comfortable distance between Nashville and Memphis.” My heroine, Andromeda Clark, has bucked expectations by not marrying, settling down, and having a gaggle of kids like everyone else. She’s still dating the same long-haul trucker boyfriend and has finally found a business she likes—running a homemade soap shop. But then notorious bride-to-be Charla Rae Thacker keels over and dies from anaphylactic shock in Andi’s store, and Andi must scramble to save her business. But then Andi discovers strawberries, a deathly allergen to Charla, in the soap that killed her. She doesn’t just have to save her business. She has to prove Charla’s death was no accident.

Footnote: Look for a series from Heartsong Presents featuring Lynette, me, and Tamela Hancock Murray.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mom's back

Mom is home,safe,sound,relaxed. It's good to have her back.

How did I handle four days of "empty nest"?

I slept well and relaxed and allowed myself some freedom in my normal writing routines. (I think that was as much to avoid the next project as to take a break.)

All without my normal writing buddies, who were on trips or otherwise unavailable. No umbilical phone cords.

I thought about Jolene on the drive home tonight and tried to remember if I had thought of her throughout the day. Not a great deal. Which partly makes me feel guilty, and part of me is thankful that it no longer overwhelms me 24/7. At least not every day.

Monday, June 9, 2008

We Live

On the way home tonight I was listening to the song "We Live" by Superchick.

The first verse describes a mother who lost her son in a car accident. What would she trade for another few minutes with her child?

The parallels are obvious.

Her advice? "We live. We love. We forgive and never give up."

In other words, don't crawl in a hole when things go wrong. Keep reaching out. Keep our hearts open and vulnerable, even though that may bring pain. We never give up. Because "the lives we are given are gifts from above."

I guess that's what I'm doing with Marius. We went out to dinner together on Sunday, and we talked about getting together again in July. Last year he lit fireworks on the terrace of Jolene's apartment. The fun is gone without someone to share it. But being together helps both of us.

Don't let grief shackle my heart with bitterness.

Instead, keep it open as a portal for God's love.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Invisible: The Widow’s Mite

This week I’m studying the story of the widow’s mite in Desperate Woman of the Bible by Jo Kadlacek.

We all know the story. Jesus warned His disciples against teachers of the law who made a show of piety. They sat and watched people give offerings. Mark says simply “Many rich people threw in large amounts.” (Mark 12:41)

Then a widow came and put in two copper coins, almost as worthless then as it is now. Jesus drew attention to her offering. “She, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43)

For almost two millennia since that simple offering, the widow’s sacrifice has challenged us to give more, to give all, to our Savior.

Here’s a thought: the woman never knew God noticed her offering. Not this side of heaven, anyhow. Jesus didn’t announce it with a bullhorn. He pulled His disciples aside and told them privately.

She felt, I’m sure, invisible. Loving God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength—and believing no one cared. Except in some deep part of her heart, hoping, trusting, believing that at least God must care.

Of course she was anything but invisible. If only she had known.

I have probably mentioned before that at times I feel invisible. I write, sing, work, care for my family, and wonder if anyone notices. Honor—in terms of promotions or major book contracts or solos—come to others, not me. If someone mentioned me at a team meeting or among Christian writers, they wouldn’t recognize my name. I long for the honor accorded to the teachers of the law, and chastise myself for it.

I have probably also mentioned that the days following Jolene’s death smashed that worldview. How could I feel invisible and unknown with hundreds of cards and emails flowing in from every corner of the globe?

Through that experience, I glimpsed what God has always known. I am visible to the most important audience possible. He has seen, He has chastised when needed, He has encouraged and commended and comforted. And He has pointed me out to others.

Invisible no more.

Footnote: Mom’s having a ball at her reunion!

Thursday, June 5, 2008


God choreographed different parts of my quiet time into a beautiful song of comfort. A song that reminded me that although I suffer, Christ went there first; that God prizes the brokenness I am experiencing.

I looked at two passages in connection with the story of a woman crippled for 18 years.

Start with Psalm 51:17: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. It resonated with the meditation that said our tears of grief are a gift to others. My broken, grieving heart is a pleasing sacrifice to God. Take it, take me, oh Lord, and let it be useful to You.

Add Isaiah 53:10: Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer. (italics mine) A tiny glimpse into the “why me?” God willed to crush His own perfect Son, one who had never done anything wrong. When I suffer, when I feel crushed into dust, I am only following in the footsteps of my Savior. No wonder James says “count it all joy.”

Top those two verses with the next hymn up, Tell Me a Story of Jesus. The third verse says in part: Tell of the years of His labor, Tell of the sorrow He bore, He was despised and afflicted, homeless, rejected and poor.

The words are a paraphrase of Isaiah 53. Jesus knew sorrow, affliction, homelessness, poverty. Again, in my sorrow, in my affliction, I follow in His steps.

If I want to be like Christ—that must include the valley of shadows where the darkness tries to crush all light out of me.

Oh, and for you writers out there, I was already considering a story about a homeless woman. Hmm. I’m not sure how to develop a light-hearted Christmas story about a homeless woman but I think I’m headed in the right direction.

One last thought: Mom is going to her 55th college reunion this weekend, flying crosscountry to Hartford. Please pray for her, for her safety and her health; and for me, in my alone time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Welcome to Cynthia Hickey

Tonight I welcome my second guest blogger, Cynthia Hickey. Her cozy, Fudge-Laced Felonies, is scheduled for publication with Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! next month. Welcome, Cindy!

In this blog, I have been processing the loss of my daughter to suicide. The experience of loss is universal. What significant loss have you experienced? How has it impacted your writing?

This question couldn't have come at a better time. We just had to let my mother-in-law go. Very difficult, and I must confess that during the week we made arrangements, my writing was set to the side. Something she would not have approved of. I believe experiencing this temporary loss, we'll meet again someday, will help me create more in-depth and emotion characters.

What central truth did you learn through your loss?

God never leaves nor forsakes us, no matter how long and rough the road. He is faithful in tragedy down to the tiniest detail. Not expected to live once my mother was taken off her ventilator, God prolonged her life for ten hours. She woke and saw her children and grandchildren gathered at her side. What a wonderful gift He gave all of us.

Do you write to escape your circumstances or to process your feelings? Or both? Please share examples.

This question is a bit more difficult to answer. My mother-in-law hasn't been gone long enough to say. But I believe it would be to escape. During the past week, I escaped into books.

What books or characters resonated with you in your time of loss?

None. The words on the page were to fill the empty time until God called her home.

You have recently published "Fudge-Laced Felonies." Please tell me a little about your book.

Summer Meadows entered church on Sunday, not to find God, but to search for a killer.

While transplanting the rosebush her church's handsome Sunday school teacher, Ethan Banning inadvertently killed, Summer and Ethan discover a hidden stash of diamonds, a rusty can full of cash, and a bloody gardening glove. This discovery sets Summer and her candy-making aunt on a search for a killer.

As Summer gets close to the truth, not only of the theft, but of her true feelings for Ethan, the diamond thief hatches a plan to hush the feisty sleuth.

Ethan's love for Summer stays buried beneath his teasing, waiting until God tells him it is time to declare his feelings. Meanwhile, Summer's quirky and daring resolve to solve the case has him acting in a heavy-handed manner in order to protect her, and almost pushes her away.

Thanks for sharing out of your recent loss, Cindy. What a beautiful testimony of your mother-in-law's homegoing.

I look forward to reading Fudge-Laced Felonies!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I've always been a very organized person. Organized with my time, that is, although not with my things.

So I was looking at my schedule. Realizing that I am pushing the edge of emotional exhaustion, needing to find more time to rest, to grieve, to attend one of those grief support groups (understand that none of them are terribly close).

It can't be done. I get home at 7 at night, and go to bed between 9-10. In those hours I eat, blog, and unwind with an hour of television. I NEED to relax at night, or else I don't fall asleep easily.

So in the mornings ... working backwards from leaving for work at 11:45 ... I quit writing at 10:45 to take my shower and eat a good lunch.

I want a minimum of three hours writing time. That means ... at the computer by 7:45 at the latest.

Move forward 9 hours rest (and for now I could use more) from 10 PM: 7 a.m.

That gives me 45 minutes to get out of bed and have my quiet time and maybe throw in a load of laundry.

Really, the only thing with any give is my writing time. But I try to hold that time sacred.

God, teach me to number the hours and minutes aright ... show me when to do and when to be. Teach me to trust You when I feel like I must use every minute to meet deadlines.

Monday, June 2, 2008


I promised I would write tonight. So I am trying to write something, anything, that won't sound like a bad copy of a tape you've heard before. It's not happening so far. I could write about the long lonely weekend hours, when my faithful readers spend the days away from their computers and my most heartfelt cries go unread. I could write about the sudden sharp pang of loss, of wishing I could spend even one more day with Jolene. I could write about the numerous mistakes I made at work last month, when I thought I was doing okay.

Why has today been so hard? I rested well. It's June. Almost three months have passed since Jolene's death. The sun shines and warmth at last seeps into my sore bones.

I'll hazard a guess. I have zeroed in on my finishing my second mystery, A String of Murders, in the weeks since Jolene's death. At last, for all intents and purposes, it's done. Maybe the need to finish the project kept me going. Perhaps now that it's finished, my mind and body are reminding me of the surgical removal of my daughter from my life.

Oh, Jolene, I miss you so.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ignored Survivor

There is one thing (at least) I have not handled well during this period of grieving.

I have expended very little energy in reaching out to Jolene's boyfriend, her almost-fiance. The truth is, I had no energy or comfort to spare. It's taken everything I have to go on with my own life. That, plus Mom and Jaran. That's all I can handle.

Also, to be honest, Jolene seemed ambivalent about Marius. At times she would talk dreamily about their future together. Other times, she would say "I tell him to go away and he won't leave me alone." At times they brought out the worst in each other. I'm not blaming Marius. I'm just saying that their disorders made their relationship difficult. And I was never sure if Marius was as serious about Jolene as she was about him. Does that make sense?

Whatever my excuse, I've neglected Marius, who grieves in a way I cannot comprehend.

This weekend we finally met up together. He went to the storage unit with us; we had a pleasant talk. I asked for his permission to share a letter he had written to us. His voice deserves to be heard.

"I hope the days are getting better for you. That maybe forlorn has become a foreign word. I, myself, am still swimming in a sea of melancholy. Everything has begun to fade to grey. I miss Jolene (my queen). Everything seems to empty without her. Every day (or night), I tell her that I love her . . . and that I am sorry. Somebody from MHCD, that I had not seen in awhile, asked me how Jolene was doing. That is always a hard situation. I'm sure you know all about it."

We agreed to set a time to meet, once or twice a month. If I don't plan for it, it won't happen.

So when you think of me and my loss, send up an extra prayer for Marius.

Footnote: Since almost no one reads this blog on the weekends, I have decided to publish Sunday nights - Thursday nights. On Wednesdays, I hope to post guest blog from fellow authors. We can all learn from each other.