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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sign of the Times

Colorado is in the midst of a record-breaking heat wave.

Our annual visitors must not have checked the weather reports. Although it's still July, a flock of Canadian geese has returned. A reminder that although we're enduring day after day of 90+ degree weather, cooler weather will arrive and provide relief.

I'm holding on that image. This week soul-crushing grief has returned, reducing me to tears and even worse, whining. I knew pain would return; I didn't expect it to be so intense. Well, it is. And I'm ashamed of the things I've been thinking and feeling. Not the grief, but the selfishness that comes with it. (Did any of you see the animated movie where one of the characters said "It's all about me"? Jolene had a T-shirt with that slogan on it. Yet another reminder. Well, that's how I'm feeling these days.)

But just as the geese remind me that the heat can't last forever, I know this pain will also pass.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Encouraging Words

God ministered to me powerfully today.

This morning, I continued my study of the Lord's prayer (in the book Secrets of the Kingdom by Jennifer Kennedy). This morning's lesson focused on the phrase "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Kennedy connected the request with Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and Paul's words in Romans 12 about God's "always good, perfect and pleasing will."

And I realized that while I don't believe God willed my daughter to die, I do believe that His will is "always good, perfect and pleasing" through the situation. I can--and do--trust Him to do what is good and perfect and best for me in all that is happening.

A second word came from a sister in Christ I have never met. Many people contacted me to encourage me, but one email comforted my heart so greatly that I asked the sender for permission to reprint it in my blog.

Here is what Connie Stevens said:

I have followed your posts since March, my heart aching for you. I, too, lost my child-my son, two and a half years ago. While I didn't experienced the same pain you did when your daughter committed suicide, the loss and grief aren't that much different when you've lost a child, regardless of how they died. (My son died of cancer).

I realize you are facing your birthday coming up in a few day, and not hers, but it's still one of those "special days" when the grief is a little sharper. My son's birthday was in June, and I posted a blog on my website, describing some of the pain and joy connected with such a milestone. The blog is entitled "Choosing A Birthday Gift".

Sometimes I get angry because people just don't understand. Grief makes people uncomfortable and they want you to "get over it" so they don't have to deal with it. But I finally realized that the only way they can understand is if they sit by their child's bedside and watch him take his last breath, or if they get the call from the police telling them the unthinkable has happened. If that is the only way they can understand, then I can forgive them for not understanding, and I pray they never understand. (italics mine)

But I understand, Darlene. The hurt won't ever go away-it just gets different. But the hurt is a testament to how much you loved her, and love her still.

Thank you, Connie, for sharing from your pain. Thank You, God, for lifting my heart out of the depths of despair.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Birthday Blues

This week, the blues are back. (I knew the sunny feeling that dominated most of July wouldn't last forever.) I'm cycling back through deep grief.

Sunday will be the first birthday in thirty years I've celebrated without my daughter.

I will be 54. Jolene was 23 when she died. Another reminder that time has frozen for her. Not 29 years younger than I am (she would have turned 25 next March), not 30 years younger than I am (she would be 24 now)--but 31 years. An additional year that will stretch longer as time goes by.

Jolene and I both had birthdays on the same day of the week. A small thing that made us feel connected in some strange way, now broken.

This family holiday will be the hardest we've faced yet.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tonight's Tough

I've mentioned before that weekends are hard.

Friday and Saturday brought their share of good news, so I sailed through.

(Shameless self promotion): On Friday I received the contract for my next book, Paint Me a Puzzle, the third and final title in the Dressed for Death cozy mystery series. Yeah!

Then on Saturday, I finished the rough draft of Beacon of Love, a historical romance set during the "Great Gale of 1815" in Rhode Island. (They didn't call them hurricanes yet.) SUCH a relief.

But Mom did not feel well this morning; we arrived at Sunday school late and left before the worship service started. We are both missing the fellowship and the preaching of the Word. (Third week we've missed because Mom isn't doing well.)

And tonight, I am missing Jolene more than I have recently. Mom laid a pink doll blanket on the table. I held the soft cloth to my face and wanted to cry. Because, of course, it belonged to Jolene. It once wrapped a teensy baby doll that she laid in a equally small cradle. I want her back, I want her dressing her dolls, or saving them for her children, or even giving them away. I want more than something she once held.

I don't want her back. I wouldn't call her back from heaven. I want her never to have left.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Tonight I watched So You Think You Can Dance. Mom and I are big fans of the show.

If you watch the show, you know who Will is: a contemporary dancer trained under Debbie Allen. Tonight he was voted off (I still can’t believe it!) '

One night he wore a T-shirt with the logo "I Will" on it. It was one of those other unexpected reminders. Jolene's email address was "IWillRichard." She chose that name because if she had been a boy, she would have been named William Richard.

Jolene spoke from at least four different personalities. No, she didn't have multiple personality disorder, and she was always aware when she shifted her point of view. But it was disconcerting to hear her refer to herself in the third person. William Richard was one of those four personalities. A part of her desired the dominance and power often associated with masculinity.

I didn't understand the four personas. I told Jolene that as she healed, she would become one.

I miss you, Jolene, Jojo, Little Bit, and William Richard--and whatever is the new name God has given you in heaven.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Welcome Staci Stallings

Tonight it is my privilege to share the following article from Staci Stallings. It resonates with me--read and respond, if you wish.


My best friend had ovarian cancer in high school. She battled for two years from the time she was 16 to the time she was 18 before finally being declared cancer free. Recently, we were watching TV together, and someone mentioned the word cancer. Since she was heavily into planning for the Relay for Life, a cancer fundraiser, that word stuck in my head.
Several nights later, I was at church, and the pastor made an off-handed comment about suicide. It wasn’t a direct thing, just something about how bleak our life would be without God. At that moment a new understanding dawned on me about the power of words, and in particular, our words.

You see, my older brother died last year at the age of 42. It wasn’t a car accident or cancer. He died by his own hand. Suicide. Ever since then, I’ve heard the word “suicide” very differently than I ever had before.

Not that it was not a scary word to me before. My younger sister had gone through several near suicide attempts when she was younger, but she had pulled through. So suicide has been in my life vocabulary for a long time but not the way it is now.

Now, when I hear that word or references to it, it jars me like no other word out there. In one second I can have a flood of memories and feelings come back to me—that morning when I got the call, the house when I got there, the family, him lying in the coffin (that one I still have immense difficulty processing), and on and on. All of these are accompanied by the what now’s? With three children, what will he miss? How are they doing? How can I help in a situation that’s not fixable?

All of these and more in one heartbeat.

The trouble is, I never know when this word is going to pop up with all the stuff it brings with it.
Thinking about this later, that’s when I remembered my friend, and I started wondering if the word “cancer” does to her what the word “suicide” does to me. When she hears it, do all those memories come flooding back? Does she question why it was her and why then? Does she wonder why she made it back into the land of the living and others have not?
I suspect she does though I haven’t gotten the courage up to ask her yet.

Then I began thinking about other words and what they do to people. Words like: divorce and depression and overdose and alcohol or drugs. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you know words that aren’t even on this list. Words like: miscarriage or unemployment. Words like: bankruptcy or accident.

What I want to say to all of those silently grieving or hurting over these words is, please know that you are not alone. Don’t think that you are the only one who processes these words so very differently than everyone else. You’re not.

But also please remember that there are others among you, others you might not even realize who are doing the same thing with the words you speak. It is impossible to know all the details or even the situations involved, but please be aware that your words have power. And being sensitive to them is a step in the right direction for us all.

What words stop you in your tracks with memories you thought were gone or healed? Maybe if we talk about those words, we can all become more conscious of them and other words like healing and help and love can begin to take over. The conversation has to start somewhere.

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2008

Need words of healing, comfort, and encouragement, feel free to visit Staci Stallings, the author of “Words” at her publisher’s site or her personal site: You’ll feel better for the experience!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another Piece Lost

Somehow, a lack of communication has resulted in our losing another piece of Jolene.

I have debated about whether or not to write about this loss. It involves someone near and dear to us, who mistakenly did something that has hurt us deeply. I decided that I needed to. It's the most emotional, important thing that has happened in recent days.

Our kind, helpful neighbor moved Jolene's boxes from the storage unit to our apartment. We separated her things into four groups:
Keep: The boxes are stacked in our hallway.
Give away: Two resale stores picked up those items.
Throw away: In the dumpsters at the storage unit.
Store for Jaran, Jolene's brother, and John, her father. The problem involves this group.

Everything was clearly labeled except a large blue plastic bin for Jaran. We didn't need to. The only bin of its kind, he had claimed it and filled it with toys, books, videos, things that held special memories for him, others that he thought his girls might enjoy. The blue box belonged to him. Our neighbor took the things for John and Jaran into his apartment because, as he said, "You don't have space!"

On Saturday, we went to our neighbor to retrieve the extra boxes.

He'd given the large blue box away. We don't blame him. But his action stirred pain and loss into a frenzy again.

Intrinsic value, nonexistent. But Mom and I struggle with letting it go. For one thing, we hurt for Jaran. All the things he especially treasured--gone. Irretrievable.

But ultimately, we've lost another piece of Jolene. Remorse and new pain have diluted the good feelings I experienced all last week.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Grief Unveiled

Today I passed another minor milestone. I finished the second (and last) book I purchased on the subject of the death of a child: A Grief Unveiled by Gregory Floyd.

Although Floyd's son John-Paul died as a child in a car accident, the chronicle of grief echoes strongly with my heart. Time after time I paused and reflected, "Yes! Someone who understands! Someone who put it into words!"

I read another one of those statements today. Floyd says, "Often people think the theological reasons for hope displace the psychological reasons for grief. They do not .... One experiences heaviness, pressure, desolation, loneliness, sadness, disruption in patterns of eating, sleeping and relating. One is exhausted emotionally and physically. This does not mean one has no hope; it simply means one has an abundance of grief." (page 189)

Floyd speaks eloquently of seeing John-Paul again in heaven. His hope is real.

But so is his grief.

The same is true for me.

In some small way, I hope I can be like Gregory Floyd for those who read my blog. If I can help someone to feel less isolated, if I can allow people minister to me, I will have succeeded.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Marius Revisited

We postponed our monthly visit with Jolene's fiance when dizziness overcame Mom last Sunday.

Today, when we left our apartment to pick him up, Mom said, "I feel queasy."

"Of course. We're going to see Marius."

She took an anxiety pill. It helped.

The visits are hard for all of us, yet good at the same time. As Marius said, we're the only ones who truly understand his grief. We can be honest about our love and longing, the hole she's left in our lives.

Marius blames himself for Jolene's death. If only he had returned to her apartment ... if only they had already married ... if only ... We remind him that the decision to end her life was Jolene's alone, but he says, "I know, but--" My heart aches for him. How hard to carry that guilt, as well as his grief at her death.

I ask Marius if he believes in life after death. He answers that he can't think about it; it's too painful. I share how my faith comforts me. Jolene is alive in heaven; I will spend eternity with her, and one day, God will wipe away my tears when there is no more death or crying or pain.

We explore our shared memories, and all three of us tear up. "Some day," Marius says, "We will meet and remember the good times without crying."

Pray for this sweet man, with a poet's soul and an agnostic's struggle.

We honor Jolene's memory in maintaining our relationship.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thoughts on Anniversaries

This morning I apologized to God.

I prayed along the lines of "God, I know You're eternal, and outside of time, so You may wonder why I focus on these anniversaries."

Then I realized how silly I was being. God created time and seasons, for one thing. For another, Jesus lived and died in real time. Yet again, God created ceremonies around time. New moon festivals. The Day of Atonement. Passover.

So God created us with a need to commemorate events. What a relief. He understands. He welcomes it.

Still we scream at the heavens. Mom ran across Jolene's obituary in her papers today. She emailed me, saying, "It can't be true. I don't want it to be true. Yet I know it is."

Still, I come to tonight in peace.

My daughter-in-law is almost halfway through her pregnancy. Now, there's a date I welcome in advance.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Welcome Teena Stewart

This is my 100th blog! I am celebrating.

Tonight it is my privilege to welcome Teena Stewart as my guest. Teena shares about the loss of financial security and geographical closeness to family, especially for those involved in full-time Christian ministry. Anyone of us who has moved away from home or lost a job can identify with her struggles. Thanks for being my guest tonight, Teena.

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?

Over the years I’ve experienced numerous losses, as do most people, but the most significant ones include the death of my father at age 50 to cancer and the death of my sister to cancer at age 45.

I am married to a minister and one of the significant losses connected to ministry is that we often have to give up being financially secure and being close to family. We have lived away from extended family for years and have moved many times. I think these losses make you build up walls so that you don’t let people get too close and you try to pad yourself against being hurt or suffering more separation.

Most recently we gave up secure ministry positions in the Bay Area in California to move to Hickory, North Carolina to start a Christian coffee shop ministry. Though it has put us closer to extended family, it is much more isolated and financially challenging than we ever thought it would be. It is taking much longer than anticipated to launch the ministry, but it is happening in God’s time and not ours.

Once we do get it up and running we will have community, but right now we are merely attending local churches and haven’t plugged in to have that sense of friendship and belonging so it is a very lonely existence. And we are living a month to month existence trying to make ends meet not sure whether we will make it the next month or not.

What central truth did you learn through your loss?

I think some of the things we have been through have taught us to value the time we have with people who are dear to us and not to take it for granted. Most recently we left behind some dear friends in California. We’ve learned that if you plan to follow God’s call, even when you think you’ve counted the cost, it can be very costly and you’d better be prepared to grow—and sometimes painfully. You had also better be prepared for being isolated and lonely if you share your visions with people because a lot of people won’t get the visions, even if you are sure that you are within God’s will. Sometimes the most callous people are the ones you think are going to be your advocates.

And I guess also, most recently the reality again that we are meant to be a part of a community and not out there trying to be Christ followers on our own. It brings home again some of the main reasons I wrote my small group book in the first place.

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

I write professionally because I think God has called me to do that. Even if I tried to walk away from it, I think I would still have to write. But I also journal to express myself. Only then, especially when I am feeling cut off from people who really understand, can I put down my pain and what I am learning. I believe that some of this journaling, once we have traveled our faith journey a bit longer with Java Journey a bit more, might eventually become a book, or several books.

As for the loss of loved ones, I don’t know that that will ever be more than just my private pain on paper.

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

Well, I review books, mainly for Christian ministry. But I also read for escape and for spiritual growth. The only book that comes to mind is a recent review I did of Uprooting Anger by Kay W. Camenisch and I was surprised that so much of it resonated with me, even though I don’t see myself as an angry person. We all handle hurts and disappointments differently and they manifest themselves differently but her book helped me see some of my own hurts and work areas.

Most recently the story of Gideon has been speaking to me. I feel that we have so much in common with him on our current faith journey. God chose an ordinary person who wasn’t sure that God called him. And then he gave him very few helpers but provided signs and reinforcement along the way.

You have recently published Successful Small Groups from Concept to Practice. Please tell me a little about your book.

My book Successful Small Groups from Concept to Practice came about because I saw the value and importance of small group community. Healthy churches have small groups that almost act as mini churches. They are places where people can share their pain, their prayer requests, have a family away from family and learn biblical principles and also have accountability to stand firm in their faith and continue to walk the walk. I think it came about naturally because my husband, Jeff, who was a pastor of small groups and discipleship at our last church and I also was highly involved in ministry and small groups.

The book is intended as an encouragement and equipping resource for those leading small groups or those wishing to start them.

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?

I guess I would say to hold tight when it feels like to rope is unraveling because at the end of the rope is loving Father who is watching to catch you.

Two places you can go to find out more about what’s happening would be which includes a blog and ezine you can subscribe to (or will include the ezine subscription soon) if you wish to keep up with our coffee shop ministry progress. And then
There is also my blog

Thanks for letting me share.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dancing with Grief Plus Four Months

Well, almost.

Four months ago today I was knocking on the door to Jolene's apartment.

I didn't remember that this is "anniversary week" until this afternoon.

After one month--I was still very much in shock. On the one hand, numb, on the other, every feeling totally exposed.

After two months--I had survived the burial of Jolene's ashes and a difficult Mother's Day.

After three months--we had moved Jolene's things into our apartment and were struggling with the daily visual reminders.

After four months--I think of Jolene each and every day. She jumps into my mind, sharp and clear, memories of the good times we shared flooding me for brief periods. A word, phrase, sound, smell, prompt tears. But interspersed with those moments of intense grief are times of quiet joy. I am no longer seeking to survive for today, I am actually looking forward to tomorrow.

I wonder what another month will bring.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Listen for Her Voice

This past week, I have felt more joy, peace, return of life than I have at any time since Jolene's death. Praise the Lord! (And refuse to pay attention to the guilt that says "how can you feel happy?")

But like any good author, I know that conflict drives story. And a story that is all light and happiness offers little conflict.

So when I talk about the glimmers, the reminders each day of Jolene--they have been thoughts, sharp pangs in passing, felt and then gone. I wanted to share that with you.

Today, I felt that pang when I listened to voice mail--one saved message. And I remembered we had deleted every message Jolene had ever left on our phone. With that came came the realization I don't have a single recording of Jolene's voice.

How can I describe her voice? She had severe hearing problems as a young child, and had speech therapy all the way through school. She could speak clearly but it took effort. The more excited or upset she became, the harder she was to understand.

She also had a high-pitched voice. For a long time, that was an expression of her child-like nature. She had only recently begun to accept her status as an adult and put maturity into her speech patterns. I don't mean her word choice - Jolene was always articulate - but I mean in speaking with a more normal, deeper voice. Even then, she was a soprano (if only she could sing. But maybe she can now!)

What I miss most is her laughter and her giggles. I miss telling her, in my most uppity New England voice, "Mothers are never silly." She would respond, "Yes they are!" and we'd both laugh.

I miss joining her in singing "If you drink milk, you'll have Darth Vader after you." (I think the origin of that silliness was the ad campaign, "got milk?" with celebrities wearing milk mustaches.)

Emahay, Jolene.

Emahayati, Mom. I love you too.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mother and Child

The bond between mother and child is well nigh unbreakable. I know that some mothers have abused, neglected and abandoned children, and I don't want to downplay your pain. But for myself, I can say that I have never felt any loss as great as the deliberate death of my only daughter.

Two things I read this week echoed that sense of loss for me.

In a new book, Grace (Eventually) by Anne Lamott, she talks about teaching her teenage son to drive. I don't have the book with me (it's an audio book I'm listening to at work), so I can't quote her exactly. But she said how she has never loved anyone so much, or invested in anyone else as much, as she had her son. And at that moment in time, she felt like in spite of all her love and care and effort, she had failed him completely.

Oh, boy, do I relate. I suspect most mothers can. I poured myself into Jolene, trying without success to fill the void created by Borderline Personality Disorder, pointing her to the only One who could fill that hole. In the end, at that dreadful moment in time, it wasn't enough.

At least Anne's son is still alive. But for both of us, we trust God's grace to see us through those soul-crunching moments when we doubt our talent at the most important job we will ever have.

The other book was a sweet romance, based on a true story, written over 50 years ago. Mrs. Mike. A young 16 year old girl marries a Canadian Mountie and makes a home with him in the far north. They face many hardships, but the one that nearly tears them apart is the death, by diptheria, of their two small children.

I read the story, and didn't immediately consider the implications for my own life. Until I stared at the "Smash, Sizzle, Savor" logos on the wall of Smashburger, and sighed "Oh, Jolene." Tears came unbidden, unexpected, to my eyes.

My first book, Romanian Rhapsody, tells the story of a father who lost his son during childbirth. How could I know that the grief I wrote of with such power would become reality in my own life?

Love makes us vulnerable. The love between mother and child cuts the closest to our inmost being. Loving Jolene left me open to the pain of her death.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

To Fight or Not to Fight

God puts things together all the time. A friend and I do Bible study by email, answering the same set of questions from the Serendipity Bible. Right now we are alternating between Deuteronomy and Psalms.

I was struck by the synchronicity between Deuteronomy 1, which recounts Israel's refusal to fight for the land of Canaan at Kadesh Barnea, and Psalm 3, which David wrote while fleeing (i.e., refusing to fight) his son Absalom (see 2 Samuel 15).

The lesson from Deuteronomy? The Israelites should have fought, because God commanded them to.

From Psalm 3? Not as clear cut. David was running for his life--but he also wanted to avoid a situation where Jerusalem would be put to the sword.

There are plenty of battles, but today is not always the right time to fight.

Right now my biggest challenge remains my battle with grief. I don't mean that I seek to vanquish it. Only time and God can do that. I mean that grief engages all my energy, faith, and arsenal of prayer and writing and friendship.

For now, God will call someone else to fight larger battles on behalf of His church and our country.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Welcome Nancy Mehl

Tonight it is my privilege to welcome Nancy Mehl to my blog. Nancy is a fellow Heartsong Presents: Mysteries! author.

Anyone who has experienced loss can identify with Nancy’s story. Thanks for sharing, Nancy.

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?
As you say, all of us have experienced loss. Whether loss generates from the death of a loved one or the death of a dream, loss can leave us feeling that something is missing from our lives. I think I began to experience loss as a child. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up in a perfect home with a loving mother and father. Somewhere along the way, I learned to stuff my feelings inside. I was very good at it. Other things happened to me after I was married that caused me great pain. Again, I stuffed. No one would have thought that there was anything at all wrong in my life. In fact, people used to remark about how happy I was. And I was. I woke up with a smile and laughed throughout the day. Then I began to experience some strange reactions to things in my life. I could sense that something was wrong, but I wasn’t sure what it was. One day at work, something that had happened to me fifteen years earlier rushed into my mind as if it had just happened. It was one of the strangest experiences of my life. I immediately had to seek help and was almost hospitalized. A Christian therapist explained to me that I had filled my emotional closet full of painful experiences instead of dealing with them. And my closet had finally burst open. I spent a year in therapy and on medication. Neither of these things helped much, by the way.

What central truth did you learn through your loss?
God supernaturally led me to a Bible teacher who taught me that “feelings buried alive never die.” For a year, every day, it was as if she could see through the television and into my life. I’d never experienced anything like it before. Slowly but surely, I began to find my way out of the hole I was in. And then I learned the next lesson God had for me. Paul speaks about it in Philippians 3: 13. “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” I’ve learned that dealing with loss is a two step process. First of all, deal honestly with the situation. Grief is natural. God gave us the ability to grieve. Then allow healing to come – but it must be God given, anointed healing. Man’s healing is temporal. The Bible tells us that it is the “anointing that breaks the yoke.” Jesus said He came to set the captives free. Only God can provide real release. Then – we must forget what lies behind and press on if we want to fulfill the call of God on our lives. Looking backward only causes us to stumble. Keeping our eyes fixed on the prize is the only way to go forward. Of course, this doesn’t mean we ever forget people we love. But we can look forward to the day we are with them again – and that vision doesn’t exist in the past. It is only ahead of us.

Do you write to escape your circumstances or to process your feelings? Or both? Please share examples.
I certainly use situations in my life in my writing. I believe all writers do that. Bothersome situations tend to move into the background when you’re lost in a world you’re making up. It’s funny how you can feel better after a good writing session. And we can work out some of our frustrations through our writing. For example, I’m a snow nut. One of the reasons I created the town of Winter Break, Kansas was to make as much snow as I wanted! I got tired of being disappointed in Kansas winters.

As far as trying to escape problems through our writing – when we’re done writing, the problem will still be there. Jesus said that we were to have abundant life – and hiding from our hurt isn’t abundance. As I said before, we have to turn our situations over to the Only One who can heal us. Using our writing as anything more than a temporary distraction from our lives might eventually set up an unhealthy pattern. But while we’re healing – it’s a wonderful way to project our feelings into our stories. We need to remember that other people are hurting too. I always pray over my books that God will put a “word in due season” in them for someone else who needs a touch from Him. Your situation just might help someone else.

What books or characters resonated with you in your time of loss?
Of course, the Bible. There is no other book in the world that is actually alive and can change you on the inside. When you’ve suffered loss, it’s time to immerse yourself in God’s Word. When you have God’s Word, you have God.

Joyce Meyer wrote a wonderful book that I would encourage anyone who is dealing with loss to read. It’s titled “Beauty for Ashes.” I’ve seen some wonderful results in people’s lives from that little book. Very powerful. Very anointed.

You have recently published. Please tell me a little about your book.
“In the Dead of Winter” is the first book in my Ivy Towers mystery series. I introduce Ivy Towers, who is a student in Wichita, Kansas. She travels to Winter Break, a small town in the western part of the state, after her great-aunt Bitty dies unexpectedly. Ivy used to spend summers and holidays with Bitty, but since she’s been in college, she hasn’t been to Winter Break. When she arrives, she begins to suspect that Bitty’s death wasn’t an accident. She starts to poke around town, looking for clues to what really happened. Amos Tucker, a local deputy sheriff, and Ivy’s old boyfriend, joins in her search for the truth. Ivy is determined to do what needs to be done and get back to her life, even though Bitty left her old, rare bookstore to her only niece. Ivy will not only track a killer, but she will have to look into her own heart to find out what God’s will is for her life.

“In the Dead of Winter” became available to the public on July 1st. Book two in this series, “Bye, Bye Bertie,” has just been sent out to the Heartsong Mystery book club. There are two more books in the series, and in December, Barbour will release an omnibus edition that will include the first three novels. It is titled “Cozy in Kansas.”

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Time to Transplant

Some time back--a year? two?--Mom gave Jolene a shamrock for her birthday. Jolene added "Shammy" to "Baby Doll" and to her delight, the plant survived and thrived.

The people who cleaned out Jolene's apartment brought Shammy over. She joined our (unnamed) garden, the first time in Mom's life that she has found a green thumb. I give all the credit to her, because I don't take care of them.

Jolene's single shamrock now boasts 2 dozen leaves. Mom brought home a new pot to transplant it before it outgrows its current home.

A vibrant, green plant, a living reminder of the love between grandmother and granddaughter.

A reminder that like the plant outgrows the pot and needs to be transplanted, Jolene has been transplanted into the richest soil of all, her heavenly home.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Friends. What would I do without them?

A friend at work told me the other day that I'm always smiling.

"Really?" I asked. Surely my face has reflected the constant weight on my spirit.


What a blessing. If I'm smiling, it's God smiling in me, His abundant goodness and joy showing through. I can't say I've felt it. I don't know if Kathleen knows how much she affirmed by complimenting my smile.

Last night, a friend from our old church called. Like Joni Woelfel, who wrote to say she was praying for us over the holiday, Nancy asked how we had fared over the weekend.

Nancy lost a child twelve years ago. She knows how hard holidays can be. We talked for a long thirty minutes, ending our conversation with a celebration of God's goodness.

Nancy and Kathleen aren't the only ones. If I tried to name them all, I would leave someone out.

But just know every time you take the time to call, or write a card, or post a message (waving at Mary!), you make our days easier. Your prayers are the power that keep us moving forward.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

4th of July Memories

The weekend passed with mild pain. The greatest sting came when we walked into the theater (on our way to see Hancock--check it out) and ran into the cutout for the new Ice Age movie. I stared at the mammoth with Ray Romano's eyes, and the saber-toothed tiger, and remembered how much Jolene enjoyed the first movie. I don't know how long it will be before I can watch a movie Jolene & I would have enjoyed together. Not now.

But that was a passing thought, an example of several that sped through my mind through the weekend.

Jolene didn't handle crowds well; over the years, especially when we didn't have a car, we learned to stay away from people-crush-inducing events like fireworks displays and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival.

So we often went to see a movie for the 4th, and toasted marshmallows over a burners to make s'mores. I remember going to an all-day concert one year; another time, we spent the day at Lakeside Amusement Park. For several years, we lived in a 3rd floor condo where we could see fireworks from across Denver. Without the crowds and the ear-splitting rockets, which made Jolene cry as a baby and which she never could endure.

It's been a weekend of sunshine and Rockies' wins, relaxation and rest.

And fond memories of the girl who isn't here to enjoy it with us. She's celebrating true freedom in heaven.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th of July

In honor of the 4th of July, I am not going to blog tonight. Expect me back on Sunday night and we'll see how I've experienced this holiday without Jolene.

And as a footnote--I am writing about an independence day celebration for my historical romance, Beacon of Love--on the 4th of July! How cool is that!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Welcome Mary Connealy

I've known Mary Connealy for awhile as a fellow Heartsong Presents: Mysteries author, but I didn't really come to know her until after Jolene's death. She stepped forward to help me set up this blog, and she has been my most faithful supporter.

Thank you, Mary, for sharing your loss of your father to cancer.

I lost my father a few years ago to cancer. It was a really slow way to die. It was about ten years from the first diagnosis until his death and there would be good times and really low times. He had all the treatment, surgery, radiation, chemo. He’d get knocked down, get back up and be better for a while and always the tests would come back wrong. Numbers that should have been zero just would not drop to zero.
I prayed steadily for Dad through that time and one verse that I came to love and cling to, and use as a prayer was:
Isaiah 40:31.
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

During the low times, and toward the end, my dad was so weary. He had no energy and just standing up was a struggle, he even fainted a few times.
I would sit next to him and try to rest my hand on his shoulder when he talked and know that it was important to listen to every word he said. I knew I’d cherish these talks after he was gone. He was the greatest man to talk to. He had the most wonderful laugh and he was generous with it. He was funny and smart and so good hearted, such a loving father. Now that he’s gone the thing that catches me at unexpected times are those moments when I think, “I’d love to hear what Dad would say about this.”
I’d sit there and listen and pray Isaiah 40:31. “Dear Lord, you know Dad has always put his hope in You. Please renew his strength. Lift him up and help him soar. Help him run and not grow weary. Help him walk and not faint.”
My dad loved baseball. He played for the University of Nebraska Baseball Team in college, the B Team he always said. He never made the traveling squad. I remember so well how he loved baseball. Playing it and watching it on TV. He played on a community team after I was born and we’d go watch him. He always played the outfield and I remember him being so tall and young and fast and strong…later on he was older, slower and weaker…and shorter too, I wonder how that happened?
There were eight of us kids and people teased Dad about having his own baseball team, with all of us and Dad together. I suppose Mom was a cheerleader, huh?
Well, my dad finally died after a long, slow, painful battle with that awful cancer. It took me a while, about a year, but one day I was praying and I remembered how I’d prayed those verses from Isaiah, asking God for a miracle to heal my dad. And I had this vision of Dad in heaven going up for a high fly ball and catching it.
It came to me then that I’d gotten my miracle. The Lord had renewed my dad’s strength. He had lifted Dad up to soar on wings like eagles to a place where he’d could run and never again grow weary. Where he could walk and not faint.

My book Calico Canyon will be in bookstores July 1st. A lot of the humor in my writing is a gift I believe I inherited from my wonderful father.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mom's Corner

June was a really difficult month for both Mom and me. I don't know if it was the passage of initial shock, or the effort expended in taking care of Jolene's possessions. But it's been tough, from beginning to end. We're glad to see the calendar page turn.

So tough, in fact, that on Sunday Mom announced, "When people ask me how I'm doing, I'm going to give them an honest answer--it's been a hard week."

She wrote the following to a friend in Maine: We are still grieving. I was looking for a card for Jaran's stepdaughter. The one I found said, "To a dear granddaughter" Inside: "Even though you are far away, Every time I think of you, my heart gives you a hug." At first I thought, "I don't feel that way about Shannon.".Then I thought of Jolene, and started to cry.

(Shannon's birthday is next week.)

Jolene, you are far away, where we cannot see or hear or touch you. But in whatever way you can receive it, our hearts give you a hug. We miss you, dear girl.