A Larger View of Love

February, the “love month”… Our guest this week developed a larger view of love over thirty years ago. Sonia Solomonson shares her experience here. Solomonson, a former religious magazine editor, is a freelance writer/editor and also a life coach who can be found at www.way2growcoaching.com. Perhaps you or someone you know can relate to her story:

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I’m never allowed to forget. Every year, newscasters remember the day the Challenger blew up—32 years ago this past January 28. It also marks the day I was in divorce court.

As I think back to the years leading up to that day in court, I remember the mounting difficulties in my marriage. The first years seemed good, until things changed and I began to realize the high price I was paying for tamping down who I was created to be and letting my pastor husband control me and our life. It took me seven years to build up the courage to make a move, seven years of asking that we go to counseling and seven years of his saying “No.”

I knew no one who had gone through this, and my shame kept me from talking with family or friends. I prayed fervently for answers. I shed many tears through those years. Finally the fear of staying in the relationship was greater than the fear of leaping out on my own. In addition, I had looked into the future and seen myself as an unhappy, beaten-down and bitter old woman. I didn’t much like that picture. I still loved my husband; I just could not live like that anymore.

I’ll be honest: It was frightening, difficult and lonely at times. At times I felt like the cardinal in the photo below: I was skating on ice with no solid ground under me. My image was that of being afloat on a huge ocean with only an empty plastic milk jug to hold me up. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that jug was only a prop—and the ocean in which I was afloat was really God’s love holding me up! And I did come out on the other side of the pain—which is why the transformation of caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly is so meaningful to me today.

Now I realize things I didn’t know then. When I read Jeremiah 29:11, I see that God intends good for us all. God doesn’t want us to live in a harmful or diminished situation. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” God has created each one of us for so much more than what we can imagine. And I wonder if it doesn’t hurt God’s heart when we let our God-given gifts be squelched and put down? When we don’t care for our bodies, our selves and our gifts.

Another verse from Scripture surfaced for me in the post-divorce years, and I realized I’d misunderstood it. In Mark 12:30-31we read, “‘…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” For years I heard and understood that we should first love God, then love our neighbor; and if there were any love left, love ourselves. But read this carefully: “You shall love your neighbor AS [you love] yourself.” So, if I don’t love myself well, I won’t be able to love my neighbor or “the other” in my life. It is God’s love that allows us to love ourselves and thus, love the others in our lives. And so I trust God every day to teach me how to love and care for myself—and then share that love with others.

I remember worrying at first that self-love was selfish. We women are so wired for relationship, so the biggest challenge for us is not as much selfishness as it is to learn self-love and self-care. That is not to say we women aren’t ever selfish, of course. But most women I meet have a tougher time loving themselves. And so I throw out this challenge to each of you: Live with Mark 12:30-31 and Jeremiah 29:11 and let them settle deeply in your heart. See what difference those verses might make in your life.

Sonia C. Solomonson

February 21, 2018

Finding a Way

If you’ve seen my FB page from yesterday, you know that last weekend provided an incredible experience. My co-facilitator and seventeen other writers at our Pine retreat proved the truth of our title, Writing Into Daylight.

Whether through memoir, other nonfiction, or fiction, we’re moving out of the shadows. I could go on about that metaphor, but would rather share a photo my husband took this morning in frozen northern Iowa.

Clearly, an ice storm has put this bird feeder out of commission. However, a tenacious squirrel awoke this morning with one goal: food.

Yes, he thought, it’s frigid and miserable, but this furry creature’s willing to do whatever it takes to satisfy the hunger roiling inside.

What will it take to reach his desired goal? He’ll do it. The hunger drives him, despite all odds.

For those writers at our retreat, this squirrel provides a picture of the writing life. Challenging, goal-oriented, lonely, passionate. We might have to go out on a limb, pardon the pun:

The deeper connection is that for some of us, writing equals sustenance, nurture. It’s our calling, our vocation, and even though risks present themselves, we must write.

All kinds of doubts and questions assail us. Do our words deserve to be heard/read? Does what we have to say really matter to anybody out there? Will our stories touch, nourish, encourage or warn readers?

Like this squirrel, we cannot know the answers before plunging into the work. But we take the leap, ignoring the voices, inner and outer, that proclaim us foolhardy. Perhaps we feel we’re hanging on by one claw, but sitting back and watching just won’t do.

At times in my leapsthe odds against success seemed far too high, the struggle much more arduous than I’d realized. In addition to the laborious task of writing, we’re responsible for promotion? We’re expected to swing out there with no net underneath, to seek potential readers? Yep, it is what it is. Might as well accept it.

But somehow, this process sustains us. Such an intriguing journey, replete with opportunities to toss aside the torch and give up. Yet also brimming with adventures, new contacts, and opportunities to grow.

I’m very grateful for our weekend adventure, all the chances to step outside my comfort zone, think outside the. box, and especially, new writing friends. Doesn’t get any better!

Last but definitely NOT least, I’m so thankful for Lance’s expertise with the camera–what a perfect SHOW he provided for us this morning!

On Being Away…

That’s what I’ve been – away. We had company for a week, and went to see the beautiful Red Rock country around Sedona. Oh my…such glorious natural beauty.

The weather has been far too dry for safety up under the Mogollon Rim, but yesterday the rain came. Ahh…blessed relief. I’m so grateful, and also thankful that it came before and after I drove up the mountain from Mesa, where I met with a group of women intrigued by words.

Older women like me: I know I ought to label us mature women. But right now, only the magic of words matters. Oh, how words bound us together! Phrases and word-pictures enveloped us in shared wonder, reminded us of our moorings and our deep connection, and urged us forward in our private pursuits.

As in reading fiction, we allowed words to spellbind us, original words straight from the heart. Two members created incredible metaphors that still linger. One depicted life as an onion…being peeled, chopped, sautéed, and in the process, coming alive to one’s unique personhood. The other painted life as a sailboat gracing turquoise-blue waters, feeling warm wind wrapping one’s face and freedom bracing one’s heart.

Mmm…there’s nothing like gathering around words, working with them, playing with them, embracing them. Yesterday, we allowed words to infiltrate our consciousness and tie us to each other, or to unlock  memories.

This coming weekend, I get to embrace words again, with an eclectic group of writing retreat participants. I’ve been remiss at posting photos lately, but surely will after getting to know these seventeen other word-lovers better. We’ll see you then.

Red Sky Over America

Tamera Lynn Kraft shares with us the background for her novel, Red Sky Over America

When Ohio Almost Started the Civil War

By Tamera Lynn Kraft

Before the Southern states seceded from the Union in 1860, a small Christian college in Ohio almost caused the Civil War. It all started in 1850 with the Fugitive Slave Act. Before 1850, slaveowners in slave states could not easily retrieve their slaves if they escaped to free states. Many of the escaped slaves settled in Ohio. When the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted, slave owners not only could chase their slaves down in states like Ohio, but abolitionists in free states were forced to hand over these slaves or be convicted of a crime.

That didn’t sit well with most Ohioans, but the students at Oberlin College were enraged. Oberlin College was the only college at the time that allowed both blacks and women to graduate with a college degree alongside white men. A religious fervor had filled the campus, and Charles Finney from the Second Great Awakening had become the college president. Oberlin students felt it their duty to live out their Christian life in the culture of the times. Graduates became missionaries overseas, preached abolition in the South, and women’s suffrage and equal rights for all.

Since the Fugitive Slave Act, many escaped slaves settled in Oberlin and were warned by residents whenever slave catchers were around. In September, 1858, a federal agent arrested a fugitive slave, John Price, in Oberlin and transported him to nearby Wellington, intending to take him to Kentucky. Half the town of Oberlin chased the agent down and took Price back. He was secretly moved to Canada by an Oberlin College professor. Twenty men were arrested and charged with impeding the capture of a fugitive slave.

The trial caused such an uproar in Ohio, there were discussions about seceding from the United States. The federal agents were arrested for kidnapping because they violated Ohio’s constitution against slavery. Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase was an abolitionist, but he talked the crowds out of seceding. Many wanted him to run for president in 1860, but he stepped aside for a moderate anti-slavery candidate, Abraham Lincoln, who had a better chance of winning.

Red Sky Over America

In 1857 the abolitionist daughter of a slave owner studies at Oberlin College, a school known for its radical ideas. America goes home to Kentucky during school break to confront her father about freeing his slaves.

America’s classmate William goes to Kentucky to preach abolition to churches that condone slavery. America and William find themselves in the center of the approaching storm sweeping the nation and may not make it home to Ohio or live through the struggle.

“Red Sky Over America tackles the most turbulent time in history with thorough research and fascinating characters. Tamera Lynn Kraft has woven a tale about the evils of slavery that should never be forgotten.” — Mary Ellis, author of The Quaker and the Rebel, The Lady and the Officer, and The Last Heiress.

You can purchase Red Sky Over America at these online sites:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B079GQQ9KY/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B079GQQ9KY&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/red-sky-over-america-tamera-lynn-

Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States with strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest and has other novels and novellas in print. She’s been married for 39 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and three grandchildren. Tamera has been a children’s pastor for over 20 years.

 

You may contact Tamera here:

 

Website: http://tameralynnkraft.net

 

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cdybpb
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7334438.Tamera_Lynn_Kraft
Word Sharpeners Blog: http://tameralynnkraft.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/tameralynnkraft
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tamerakraft

Once in A Blue Moon

We just experienced a lunar eclipse, otherwise known as a “blue moon.” Lance set his alarm and caught some photos around 5 a.m. today.

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One of our slang terms comes from this phenomenon: To do something “once in a blue moon” is to do it very rarely: “That company puts on a good performance only once in a blue moon.” The phrase refers to the appearance of a second full moon within a calendar month, which actually happens about every thirty-two months.

Ties in perfectly with something I do as rarely as possible -prepare my part of our income taxes…ARGH! I put it off as long as possible, in spite of determining that this year, it’ll be different.

With far more right than left-brained tendencies, putting the past year’s activities into concise columns is no fun. But this necessary accounting is…well, necessary.

Yesterday I completed the final edit of my next novel, All For the Cause, before submitting it to beta readers. The cause, of course, is World War II, and now I have time to work on the cozy WWII mystery an author friend and I are co-writing.

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The moon holds a certain mystique…does it really affect human behavior as specifically as we often hear? For me, taxes have zero mystique, but almost always some mystery.

But sending my heroine and hero off to be critiqued also gives me pause. Have I been faithful to their their deep-seated motivations and goals? Have I taken into account their idiosyncrasies, even ones that might drive readers crazy? Have I honored their devotion to the war effort?

Stan, the hero, truly challenged me, since I’ve never fought my way through the jungles of Bataan, been wounded, or gritted my teeth and determined to heal completely so I could return and participate in the liberation of tens of thousands of G.I.’s taken captive by the Japanese in the Philippines.

I gave my best effort to comprehending what he went through, including interviewing an incredible WWII veteran who lives quite close to us. His story enlivened Stan for me, and provided details I’d never have found any other way.IMG_4666

So onward with this writing journey. We’ll see what my beta readers have to say and make adjustments. If past manuscripts are any indicator, there’ll still be plenty of editing to do.

No matter how much time and energy the process takes, I’d far rather do this than tax preparation! And just for good measure, here’s another intriguing photo taken two days ago from under the Mogollon Rim.

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Singing the Winter Blues Away

What a treat to have Margaret Kazmierczak, my online author friend from across the Atlantic, with us today. Brew yourself a cup of hot tea and enjoy her musings on winter. And leave a comment if you’d like to win an e-copy of her memoir – with a definite U.K. flavor and humor. 

Why do we call it the middle-of-winter blues – blue? I see no blue outside nor inside! Personally, I believe we ought to change it to the middle of winter greys. The sky is grey; the atmosphere is grey, people’s faces are grey, clothing is grey, the snow, if we get it in the South of England, is grey and slushy, and the days are grey with fewer hours of daylight – do I need to go on?

We eat more than we should and decide that we need to lose weight. So then we get the weight loss blues/greys.

Woe is winter with its rain, cold, damp, grey weather. Welcome to my England – actually, that’s not true as my winter is far from grey. The only grey is my hair! But it was not always like this. I too suffered from the blues for a long time until I realised that January 1st was just another day and February a step closer to brighter mornings–therefore, I didn’t need to put a blue-grey tint to these months.

Grey is a matter of opinion or perspective. Winter always leads to spring. Nature needs to die to reinvent itself. The gorgeous colours of Autumn give way to the life spine of a tree, its scars highlighted by the sun.

Landscapes become visible without the foliage concealing the beauty beyond. There is crispness as you walk, a fresh painting of a spider’s web glistening in the low sunlight. Ice producing dazzling displays of rainbows in fragmented puddles.

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Snowflakes whirl in the wind, dancing to the heavenly music of the angels.

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Birdsong greets me to a new awakening.

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The flowers now gone promise to rise again in Spring in a celebration of hope.How can this season be blue/grey?

We need a break in the seasons, to reassess our lives. Are we at the ending of a story, or at the beginning? Winter allows for both, the blues followed by the yellows. How long you remain in the blue will depend on your winter.

Winter is a great reminder; it tells me of how fortunate I am to live in a country where we have heating at the click of a switch. We can snuggle under duvets in the safety of our homes. Water comes out of a tap, and the air is relatively unpolluted. Christians can freely worship, and there are life choices we can make each day without fear.

I need winter to remind me that without death I cannot begin again. Nothing is permanent…only God.

January is often a difficult month for many, with the bright lights of Christmas doused. It is easy to sink into the dull months and respond accordingly. But what if we shone brightly during the downpours and sing in the rain, so to speak? How many sad faces could be turned upside down into a smile?

I don’t do New Year resolutions, but maybe this year I shall target the blues with a sunshine beam to get the happy juices going in my fellow human beings. Perhaps the seeds will break through early this year if we turn our faces to the Son and remember that after the blues (the passion) comes the resurrection. Now, that is something to celebrate!

One of my favourite experiences is walking into my home after escaping the frozen outdoors and feeling the warmth hug me. Peeling off my coat, scarf, hat and boots and flopping into a comfy chair with a steaming cup of hot tea. It is by far the epitome of joy in winter – a spirit lifter.

And that is indeed one of the greatest gifts you can give to someone else who is suffering from the middle-of-winter blues. To be a spirit lifter. To share a picture of hope in a person’s life. To show the beauty of winter in all its glory, because nature never stops creating breathtaking pictures.

Light in Darkness

We went to see an incredibly well-written/directed/acted movie yesterday. The Darkest Hour offers humor, honesty, riveting tension, and a challenge. My own personal challenge was to avoid crying through the last hour, and I failed.

It’s difficult to imagine the stress Winston Churchill experienced as Britain’s new prime minister in the dire circumstances brought on by appeasement: Hitler’s forces surrounded the entire British army near Dunkirk, and many in the government urged this new leader to seek a peace agreement.

It’s even more difficult to imagine our world today if Winston Churchill had cowed to the pressure and ignored his intuition that declared England must NOT negotiate with Herr Hitler. Unfortunately, he had no way of knowing how many British citizens agreed with him.

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This morning, my tea bag boasted just the right sentiment for Prime Minister Churchill’s predicament.

Many in Parliament were still controlled by the former appeasement-focused government, and felt nothing could be worse than the present situation. They were also quite aware of Churchill’s imperfections. The movie clearly and honestly shows these…and that’s part of its power.

Who among us is perfect? What leader has no weaknesses? Yet, certain leaders arise at just the right time to alter history’s course for the better.

My tears were for this imperfect leader’s loneliness in what seemed an impossible task. Yet he found the strength to persevere, to act courageously in the face of bitter adversaries on every side. He ordered the Admiralty to summon ordinary citizens with seaworthy vessels to rescue the men at Dunkirk. Kind of like the fishes and loaves…nobody thought the idea could possibly work.

But behind the scenes, the nation prayed…and a truly miraculous outcome afforded Churchill with the support the next difficult five years would require. This production also provides a down-to-earth example for us when anyone’s opinion threatens to dim our light.

I don’t often promote a movie, but this one stands out as UNMISSABLE, especially if the World War II era intrigues you.

 

 

Country Folk of Another Era

Reading Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale has given me an even deeper appreciation of the way simple country folks suffered in the early years of World War II.

When we say country, we visualize rural American farm families. But in France in the early 1940’s, thousands of peasants tended their gardens and vineyards, cared for their children, and enjoyed a simple pastoral setting.

Then, suddenly their freedoms were swept away by the brutal Nazi occupation.

What’s interesting is how people came from all walks of life to help the French Resistance change the tide of the war. One of these, from my Women of the Heartland series, hailed from Iowa farm country. Used to the sight of corn and soybeans ripening for harvest, Kate Isaacs is thrust into the midst of unthinkable horrors.

Unthinkable but very real. Her land-centered background serves her well as she treks back woods trails to avoid the Gestapo, delivering vital messages for the Resistance. So does her heritage of valuing hard work and tenacity. You can’t take the country out of a country girl, right?

Admittedly, this “country,” replete with mountains and deep valleys, is different from Kate’s moorings. Along the way, she views incredible structures like the Abbey of St. Pierre at Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, built in the ninth century. She gasps at this architecture and takes heart at the eternal message of hope engraved in this incredible structure’s entrance.

If you need some more historical fiction to get you through the winter, may I suggest…

 

Excited About Memoir

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Gail Johnson to Dare To Bloom this week. The two of us share a love for the genre of memoir, and she clarifies that here. What do I mean? The deep, underlying belief that our stories matter, and that the sacrifice involved in telling our stories has the power to free us…and others.

As I’ve often quipped when facilitating a memoir writing workshop: “Our stories are the best gift we can give.” Enjoy, and Gail will give one free print copy of her memoir to a commenter. Thanks for participating! 

Excited About Memoir

Nonfiction never entered my head until 2016 when I couldn’t shake the need to write my memoir.

Of course, I had no idea about writing a memoir. I had studied fiction for years. So how could I take those skills and write my story? Interestingly, the same skills I learned as a fiction writer can be used in nonfiction writing. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I would like to share why I’m excited about this genre.

Dig deep.Write scared. gailjohnsonauthor.com

Purpose

But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20 KJV).

Memoir writing is cathartic, exhausting, and painful. But through my journey, I realized scars can be a life-changing testimony of God’s ability to heal the unspeakable. I found purpose in spite of my pain. My memoir wasn’t about my story alone, but HIS story through the heartache, healing, and recounting of my journey. As a Christian writer, my purpose was to share the redemptive story in my own way. Mine was memoir. Yours may be fiction. Either way, there is a reader in need of hearing the good news.

Vulnerability

Memoir scared me. In memoir writing there is no hiding. The character was me. The story was mine. And the whole world would know the truth between the pages. But, I knew there was only one way to get to the heart of my reader. Vulnerability.

And from the feedback I’ve received from my readers, it was worth mining the deep.

Audience

As a reader, I love books that speak to my heart. As a writer, I wanted to speak to the heart of kindred spirits. What did I want to share with them? What did I want them to remember after reading my story?

Just as in fiction, I wanted to offer hope in the middle of my heartache. I wanted to give them a satisfying ending, and I did that by sharing the promises of God.

Vulnerability gailjohnsonauthor.com

Closure

Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed (1 Samuel 2:3 KJV).

Does this mean everyone must write a book to find closure? Not necessarily. But in my case, I needed to see the big picture. My thoughts and notes were scattered throughout multiple journals. When I had finished reading my manuscript, the words solidified the lessons learned. The simple task of closing a book took on a spiritual meaning.

So, if you have a memoir buried within you, I encourage you to write it. Connect the dots. Publishing it will be your choice. Write on, dear one.

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You may contact Gail at the sites below:
Gail Johnson Book Pic 300 dpi

 

 

 

 

 

https://gailjohnsonauthor.com/
https://www.facebook.com/gailjohnsonauthor/
https://twitter.com/GailJohnson87

The Ins and Outs of Life

A friend of mine wrote, “I really hope the New Year will see changes in my attitude. I have to stop w/ the pity parties, the hatred toward the consequences of my choices or lack thereof. There’s enough good in my life. I may not have all I expected to have in life at this age, but what I have, I want and I need to care for it.”

Perspective. That’s one of the gifts of aging. Of course, nobody wants to talk about aging, but things go better if we keep on learning.

Many birds here under the Mogollon Rim enjoy eating acorns – this one is a Stellar Jay one of the small, rounded nuts in its beak.

IMG_1923The woodpeckers have learned they can’t use our outer walls for a granary, to store the little acorns for winter food, although they certainly made hay while the sun shone. But our trusty bird netting surrounding the whole house has thwarted their storage intentions.

IMG_1829A few years back, we discovered about three hundred and fifty holes in our house…beak-sized and drilled with great intensity over the months we were absent. And each hole contained a treasure in woodpecker language: food.

These little 1/2 inch acorns pepper the mountain oaks around here, but who would have thought they’d end up in our house? Lance filled the holes with some foamy goo he found at the hardware store, and after it hardened, the netting provided a way OUT of being attacked.

A way out…just what we needed–we’d tried everything, hanging shiny CD’s from the eaves to scare the acorn-carriers away, etc. The birdies, of course, still sought a way in, but have had to accept what they cannot change, while we had to change the things we could. 

In this new year before us, and those two phrases depict many of our desires. Sometimes we seek a way in…into a deeper relationship, into a more serene existence, into success. Other times, a way out describes what we need. Still other times, we need to embrace acceptance.

Perspective…just another way of looking at things. I’m going to try to remember this in 2018.