Boondock Ramblings

Fiction Friday: Harvesting Hope (formerly The Farmers’ Sons) Chapter 16

Before I share this week’s chapter, I just want to thank those who read my stories on here and comment, or even don’t comment. This past week I became very overwhelmed with thoughts of where I am in life versus were I think I should be in life. I guess I was being a bit like Ellie and Molly. I thought about how I should be further in life and how I wish I had started this writing stuff much earlier in my life. Then I started to feel down because sometimes my work isn’t recognized, even though I don’t mind it isn’t recognized (it’s a weird condundrum in the life of an introvert – waiting to be noticed, yet really, really not wanting to be noticed at the same time).

I started to compare my journey to the journey of other writers and those other writers are so far ahead of me in their journey so I feel less than. It’s all silly, of course. We all have our own path to take and some of us will be wildly popular and successful and some of us will just be moderately so or not at all. In the last few years I have looked at success in a different way than I used to. I used to base it on how popular I was or wasn’t.

Now I base it on whether I am having fun or feeling fulfilled in what I’m doing, even if my audience is small or non-existant. By the second definition, I am successful right now. I’m finishing novels I started and learning more each time. I’m having fun teaching my kids and taking photographs and cooking dinner and occassionally (very ocassionally) remembering to wash and fold my laundry and load the dishwasher (it’s my husband’s fault for being so good at all of that. *wink*)

I have enjoyed the connections I have made through my writing. I may have only one or two people who comment on my posts a week but after a couple of years of not having any in-person friends, those comments mean more to me than any award or any wide-spread popularity do. You may think I’m just saying that, but if you knew how lonely I’ve been since 2017, then you would know I am not just saying that. I truly mean it.

But enough of the sentimental ramblings. On to the continuing story of Jason and Ellie’s stubborness and internal struggles. What will happen this week? Will they be reminded they still love each other, or instead realize they are further apart than they ever were? Read on to find out.

If you are a new reader here, I share a chapter from my WIP each Friday, and sometimes Saturday, on my blog. There are typos, grammatical issues and even plot holes at times because this is a first, second, or third draft that hasn’t gone to my editor yet. If you see a typo, feel free to kindly let me know in the comments. Sometimes the error has already been fixed on my copy, sometimes not.

To catch up on the rest of the story click HERE.

Chapter 16

The majority of the guests had wished Franny a happy birthday and said their goodbyes leaving the Lambert and Tanner families the only people left in Franny’s backyard.

Molly propped her chin on her hand and frowned at the wood pile on the edge of the property. “I miss that old tree already.”

“Yeah, I do too,” Franny said with a sigh. “But it needed to come down. It could have blown over onto the house or the chicken coup. It was old. Older than me even.”

She nudged Molly in the side with her elbow. “Your granddaddy and I had our first kiss under that tree.”

“Really? I didn’t know that. How old were you?”

Franny stared at the spot where the tree used to be, her gaze wistful. “I was 16. He was a mature 18.” She winked. “He was a good kisser, I’ll tell you that. A year later he was in Vietnam.”

Ellie propped her chin on her hand. “How long was he there?”

“He did two tours. So, he was over there a year, came home for six months and went back for another year. We got married during his leave.” She reached across the table from her seat in a lawn chair and patted Walt’s hand. “Walt was conceived during that six-month break.”

Walt winced. “Mom. Did you really have to use the words ‘Walt’ and ‘conceived’ in the same sentence?”

Franny scowled. “Good grief, Walt. Grow up.”

The rest of the family laughed, and Walt joined in.

He pointed out toward the woodpile. “Seriously, though, Jason, Alex, Brad. There are axes in the woodshed. I bet you could have that chopped up for us and stacked in less than an hour.”

Jason leaned back on the picnic table on his elbows. “Yeah, we probably could but I’ve got to head up and see if the guys have delivered the supplies for the goat barn yet.”

Brad smirked. “What’s wrong, cuz? Afraid of a little competition?”

Jason’s eyes narrowed and Ellie caught the edge to his response. “Everything doesn’t have to be a competition. I thought we’d just do it as a team. Working together. Like a family.”

Brad laughed. “What’s the fun in that?” He pounded Jason on the back.  “Come on. We’ll split the logs into piles of even sizes and see who can get done with their pile first.”

Alex cracked his knuckles, keeping his eyes on Brad. Jason had told Ellie years ago the two had never really hit it off. She had a feeling Alex was itching for a chance to show Brad up.

“Now we’re talking.” Judi climbed up on the top of the picnic table, using the bench as a place for her feet. “Pull up a chair, girls. This is going to be a good show.”

Ellie’s chest constricted as she swung around on the bench to face the wood pile. She had a good feeling Judi was about to embarrass her. As usual.

Molly moved to sit next to her. “Men. They never grow up.”

Franny chuckled. “I’m surprised my boys didn’t pick up axes themselves.”

Molly nodded toward her dad. “Dad probably would if it wasn’t for his leg.”

“And my dad probably would if it wasn’t for his ribs,” Ellie added.

A second later Ellie sucked in a sharp breath as Jason tugged his shirt up over his head, tossing it to the ground, and reached for an ax. She glanced at the women sitting around her to make sure her gasp hadn’t been loud enough for them to hear. They either hadn’t heard her, or they all had good poker faces. She knew Judi wouldn’t have held back if she’d heard that unguarded response.

Brad laughed and shook his head. “Apparently, Jason can only swing the ax if his shirt is off.”

Alex smirked, slapping Jason’s bicep. “He never misses an opportunity to show off all that hard work from the gym.”

Ellie didn’t have to turn her head to know the whistle she heard was from Judi. She’d heard the same sound last week in the barn, right before Judi launched her one-woman heckling onslaught against her. “Wow, El, look at that. Maybe he’s trying to woo you back with his amazing six pack. Or is that an eight-pack.”

Ellie glared, glad the men were smack talking and couldn’t hear Judi.

“Be quiet, Judi.”

 “Seriously, how did you let that go? He’s even more built than the last time I saw him.”

Molly made a face. “Please. This is my brother we’re talking about. Talking about his abs is making me queasy.”

“This should make you feel better, then.” Judi jutted her chin toward the men as Alex pulled his T-shirt over his head. She propped her elbow on her knee, her chin on her hand. “Heeey. He’s not half bad either. Now who else do I get to ogle? Oooh. There he is.” Brad’s shirt was suddenly missing as well. “Bradley’s not looking half bad himself.”

Ellie rolled her eyes and dropped her head against her hand. Why couldn’t Judi just shut up already? She wanted to crawl into a hole somewhere. A hole where she could privately admire Jason’s physique, but still a hole. And why did these men always have to be so competitive? One takes their shirt off and all of them have to? Good grief. Molly was right. Men never do grow up.

Robert stepped on the other side of the pile of logs with Walt, folding his arms across his chest, propping his good leg on the stump. He and Walt and Bert, Jason and Molly’s uncle by marriage, had already separated the logs into even wood piles. Robert looked down at his watch. “Alright, boys, I’ll tell you when to start. The first one who finishes their pile wins.”

For the next twenty minutes there was a good deal of grunting, flying wood, and sweaty backs and biceps as the three men worked their way through their individual piles. The contortion of Brad’s face showed he had underestimated the effort behind chopping logs into wood stove sized pieces. Jason had clearly chopped wood before. His pile was shrinking exponentially faster than the piles of the other two. Alex was slightly ahead of Brad but was beginning to lose ground and Ellie wondered the sweat on his hands making his grip loosen.

Ellie tried to pretend she wasn’t enjoying the show, but her body’s reaction was giving her away. She knew without even looking at a mirror that her face was flushed both from the pleasure of watching Jason and the effort to not let anyone know about that pleasure.

“It’s clear milk does a body good, isn’t it, Ellie?”

She would have expected that comment from Judi. The fact that it came from Franny both startled and amused her. She cleared her throat and shifted her body away from Franny to avoid giving the woman the satisfaction of seeing her smile at the remark. It was clear she wasn’t fooling the older woman by trying to pretend she didn’t care about what was happening in front of her. She snatched her empty cup up from the table and walked back to the punch bowl. Franny watched her with a wry smile the entire way, but Ellie didn’t make eye contact, knowing if she did, she might burst into laughter or cry. Her emotions were so fragile at this point she wasn’t sure which would happen.

“Looks like Jason’s got it,” Walt announced. “One more chop and — yep! Jason’s finished first! Do we want to go for second?”

Alex swung the ax over his head. “Might as well. We’ve got to get the rest of this pile chopped up anyhow.”

Ellie kept her back to it all, not wanting to see Jason wipe the sweat off his face and — she blew a breath out — his chest. She was also definitely not interested in watching Alex and Brad’s show down.

“I’ll take one of those.”

Blast it. She couldn’t catch a break. She poured a cup of punch and silently prayed, “Please, Lord, let him have a shirt on.”

Jason’s shirt was back on, a fact that gave her both relief and disappointment. He drank the punch in one gulp and dragged a hand across his mouth. “Good punch. Molly said it was your grandmother’s recipe.”

She shrugged and smiled. “It was probably a million grandma’s recipe from the 80s. Not exactly rocket science.”

He looked inside the empty cup. “Actually, I remember this punch. I’m pretty sure we had it at more than one of your birthday parties over the years.” He leaned over to place the cup on the table, his hand brushing her arm. He was a few inches away from her now, his eyes locked onto hers. His voice dropped into a deep, smooth tone that sent a tingle up her arms. “Brings back a lot of memories.”

That one sentence shouldn’t have caused her brain to spin, but it did. Her body was betraying her again. She touched her hand to her throat, tried to brush it off that she was scratching an itch, but really, she could feel her heartbeat pounding wildly underneath her fingertips. She willed her mind not to focus on those memories, some more passionate than others.

Instead of answering with words she simply nodded and slyly moved her gaze from his to the

grotesque display of masculinity across the yard. She tipped her head in the direction of the competition.

“Looks like Alex will pull out a win.”

“He should. He was close behind me. I knew he wouldn’t beat me though.”

Jason lifted an arm, curled a bicep, kissed it, and winked. He laughed as she rolled her eyes. “Sorry. I couldn’t resist joking. To be honest, I was a little nervous. Alex has been working out himself and working even harder on the farm. Those guns of his might rival mine soon.”

Ellie snorted a small laugh. “Which should make Molly happy.”

Jason winced and made a face. “Don’t remind me.”

“Still not comfortable with it, huh?”

“About as comfortable as I am with sleeping on a bed of nails.”

Cheers and applause rose up from the tables. Alex had already raised his arms in victory and Ellie wrinkle her nose in disgust, only imagining what smells were emanating off him. Then again, Jason had been working hard too. Sweat still beaded his forehead and stained the armpits and collar of his shirt, but the smell coming off him  . . .

Well, it wasn’t bad at all. Not at all.

It was — good grief. Dare she even think it?

Intoxicatingly masculine.

She pulled a strand of her hair back and hooked it behind her ear. Her thoughts were getting out of control. Her heart was trying to overrule her mind and she knew that could spell disaster in the future. Disaster because she might forget about Jason withholding his past from her, about how that might be a pattern he’d carry into their future, even if he said it wouldn’t.

It was time to head home. Her parents had driven her and Judi, though. She had to convince them it was time to go too.

“Welp, girls, shall we head home and get the milking done?”

Her dad’s question was perfectly timed.

Ellie glanced at Jason who was watching her while he drank more punch.

“We should,” she said, trying to calm her breathing.

Judi, standing next to Brad, looked less than pleased at the prospect of leaving but followed along dutifully.

“Pick you ladies up at 6?” Brad called after them.

Judi’s dejected expression brightened. “We’ll be there.” She smirked, pushing a hip out. “With bells on.”

Ellie inwardly groaned and outwardly glowered at Judi. She hadn’t agreed to go, but part of her felt like she should, to keep her younger sister out of trouble.

“You going too, El?”

There was no way she could miss the way Jason’s eyes narrowed as he watched the exchange, waiting for her to answer Brad.

She’d lived most of her life barely living, only doing what was safe and easy. She needed to branch out and at this point, Jason really didn’t have much to say about where she went or who she went with.

“Sure. It will be fun.”

Even as the words left her mouth, she wondered how it had become so easy for her to lie in the last several months, if not the last two years when she’d started lying to Jason about her doctor’s appointments. She tried not to notice Jason turning away, walking toward his truck, but she did. What was he thinking? Was he upset she’d agreed to go somewhere with Brad and Judi? Especially with Brad? Did he even care? Maybe he simply had a goat enclosure to finish building and what Ellie did wasn’t even registering on his radar. Maybe her repeated rejection had pushed him to the point where he simply didn’t care anymore.

She slumped back against the backseat and pulled the door closed, her throat aching at the thought he didn’t care anymore because she knew, no matter what facade put up in front of him, she cared for him as much as she ever had.

***

“You can go with us, Jason, if you want.”

Brad’s invitation hadn’t been sincere, and Jason knew it. It’s why he hadn’t even turned around to answer but instead kept walking toward the truck. He’d already kissed his grandmother’s cheek and said his goodbyes. He had work to do.

“Got a barn to build.”

“We’re not going until later. It’s not a sin to go have some fun once in a while, you know.”

A sick ache rolled around in the pit of Jason’s stomach as he drove away, knowing Brad didn’t actually want him to ride along. His invitation had been mocking, a way to remind Jason that Ellie had agreed to go somewhere with him.

Between seeing Brad and Ellie talking on the front porch and catching Brad smiling at Ellie more than once throughout the day, his gaze roaming the full length of her, Jason had a very good feeling that Brad had lied to him that day in the barn.

There was no doubt about it in Jason’s mind.

Brad had his sites set on Ellie.

Ready, aim, fire.

He was trying to step in and take Jason’s place.

Jason gunned the engine.

There was no way that was going to happen.

Randomly Thinking: I am socially awkward. Surprised? Yeah, me either.

Welcome to my random thoughts and events for the week. Enter at your own risk.

Well, it looks like I might make it to 25 days consecutive posting on this blog by Monday, but I’m not doing it on purpose now. I simply had these future posts ready to go. Next week I don’t care if I post consecutively or not. I have a lot of reading to catch up on, blogs and books both.


When I talk to my neighbors, I feel the need to apologize repeatedly for my social awkwardness, which simply makes me even more socially awkward. Someone help me. I need someone with a taser down the street who just zaps me when they see me talking to a neighbor, so I don’t any more of an idiot out of myself. Actually, the taser zapping me wouldn’t help that situation, would it? Never mind.


My 14-year-old son and I were talking about the differences between men and women in the bathroom. Men do not talk to each other in the bathroom under any circumstance. Women? Yeah, we often do. Or, I should say we used to. These days women don’t talk to each other out of the stalls or the bathroom. Since last year I’ve found most women to be very paranoid and unfriendly. But, back in the day, as we old folk say, women would chat right along with the women next to them in the stall, especially if they knew each other.

A conversation between women in the bathroom might go something like this:

Woman Number One: “I love those shoes. Sorry, I just couldn’t help noticing them.”
Woman Number Two: “Thank you so much. I got them at JC Penny years ago.”
Woman Number One, coming out of stall: “It’s so awful how JC Penny is going out of business.”
Woman Number Two: “I know. I used to love to shop there.”
Woman Number One: “Me too. I got the best perfume there.”
Woman Number Two comes out of the stall: “I did too! I have it right here! Let me wash my hands and then you have to smell it!”
Woman Number One: “Oh my gosh! That smells amazing! I used to have one like that. An ex-boyfriend gave it to me, and I didn’t want to ask him where he got it because then that would mean I’d have to talk to him.”
Woman Number Two: “Yikes. I hear you. There are some men I dated that I wouldn’t go near if they offered me a million dollars.”
Woman Number One: “Seriously. Did you get that purse at JC Penny too?”
Woman Number Two: “Ha. No. Speaking of exes, this came from my ex-husband. He probably spent a mint on it, but not as much as I make him spend in child support.”

And then they laugh and the conversation keeps snowballing from there.

My husband and son say that men get in and get out and they can’t figure out why we’d want to talk to anyone in a bathroom.


I took my mom to a doctor’s appointment recently and while there she ran into a young woman who works there and whose mom used to rent from my parents. The girl immediately kneeled next to my mom, who was sitting in a chair, and asked her how she was doing. In the next few moments, my mom transformed into one of those slightly nosey elderly ladies right before my eyes.
“I hear you have a new special someone in your life,” my mom said to the young woman.
“Why, yes, I do,” the young woman said.
“My husband was showing me the photos on Facebook.”
“Oh, I have some more here,” the young woman said and pulled out her phone.
The conversation switched to the young woman’s sister’s children and then my mom showed she wasn’t done grilling the young woman about her “special someone” by saying, “So, are you and this young man serious?”
I finally butted in. “Mom! You can’t ask that stuff!”
The young woman laughed and said, “It’s okay. We’ve been dating for about five years.”
My mom’s eyebrows shot up. “Ooh. I see.”
I knew what Mom was thinking. “So, you’ve been dating five years and he hasn’t proposed yet?”
Thankfully the young woman in question was called off to help a co-worker so Mom couldn’t ask the question.
A few minutes after the woman left my mom leaned over to me and said, “Well, I could have asked her if she was living with him unmarried, but I didn’t so . . .”
So, I guess I was supposed to be proud of her for holding her tongue this time.


The woman who took my mom back to her appointment that day, by the way, was a Victoria’s Secret model on the side, I swear. Tall, blond, and I couldn’t see her face because of the facemask but I guarantee she was gorgeous under there. I’d never felt more short, fat, and troll-like in all my life. Well, at least in a few years.


A bloggy friend had her own random thought-moment this week and had me snorting with laughter when she told me about it. First, she woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t find her husband, so she texted him but the text back was blurry so she thought she was going blind. Oh gosh, if she only knew that this is my life story. I worry about my eyesight all the time, especially after experiencing ocular migraines once or twice a year for the last few years. I’m always sure I’m a second away from going blind.
Anyhow, after she found the husband (who had to deal with some work issues remotely), she laid awake thinking about Taming of the Shrew and “as I was falling back asleep I realized that the title Taming of The Shrew had the same cadence and rhyme as Ten Things I hate About You, that Heath Ledger movie based on Taming of The Shrew.”
It’s scary how similar her and my brain works. No, really, it is scary.


I have a serious problem. I am obsessed with watching this YouTube channel I originally started watching for research for my book. It’s about dairy farming in Pennsylvania. I am fascinated by it. I can’t stop watching it. Help me.

The young son (about 24) runs the channel and sometimes he makes his dad talk too. Dad always looks a little nervous at first but then shares about whatever the son wants him to share.
Mainly the kid shows what he’s doing day in and day out on the farm.
I will say I have been able to glean a lot of information about dairy farming, some that I have incorporated into my story.


In addition to the YouTube channel, I’ve also been obsessed with trying to design my own book covers. I have known how to use Photoshop for years, but mainly on the basics. Now I’m trying to learn more than the basics and honestly, it’s making my head hurt. I won’t lie, I’ve also cried more than once. Yes, in the end, I may break down and pay someone to design my book covers, but I’m not some successful Indie author who can afford that right now, so I doubt that will be an option at this time.


You ever see those Indie authors who say they put one book up on Amazon and they immediately made tons of sales? Yeah, I’m convinced they are full of it. I have four books up on Amazon and so far, even with begging people to read it and buy it, I’ve made about $8 a month. It’s not as lucrative as some claim, but it is still fun because I’ve met some super cool people on this writing journey. At this point, I will take that over the money any day.

So those are my random thoughts for the week. Share some of yours with me in the comments, or send me private messages like my other bloggy friend does because random events and thoughts crack me up and I often need that during the week.

Was Pa Ingalls trying to always find something better, or was he trying to provide for his family?

After re-reading the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder as an adult, I have a different view of Charles “Pa” Ingalls than I once did.

In my child’s mind, Pa was fun and spontaneous and always looking for adventure.

As an adult I still see Pa as those things, but also as a little bit irritating and maybe somewhat irresponsible at times. From what we read in the books, he was always looking for the next adventure or opportunity, instead of finding stability for his family. Then again, maybe traveling from place to place was how he was finding financial stability for his family – he had to go where the work and food was.

It had to have been hard for him to stay still, I realize that. He was a person who was always looking for a new experience. When more families pushed into the west to find new experiences, he wanted to join them.

Pa reminds me a lot of a family member of my husband’s who is always seeking a new opportunity that she is sure will bring her riches. Each scheme fails and she’s left right where she started. In some ways, this is Pa.

He moves the family to the prairie, but the government threatens to move them out so he leaves and moves on to Plum Creek. They are there several years but as soon as Pa is offered another opportunity to build a new life in a new land, he’s gone again, moving his family hundreds of miles across the country.

Living with him must have been hard for his wife and children, more so his wife Caroline. Even though the books are more fiction than non-fiction, it’s clear that Laura probably wrote some truth in the pages when it came to her parents and her father’s constant urge to move the family. There were many times Laura described her mother as worried or tired and who wouldn’t be when their spouse is constantly coming home with a new idea and when they live in unpredictable places where life can change on a whim?

“Laura knew that Ma had never wanted to leave Plum Creek and did not like to be here now; she did not like traveling in that lonely country with night coming on and such men riding the prairie.” – On the Shores of Silver Lake.

When Pa did come back from his trips, he always had some crazy story about why he was delayed or what happened during the trip. The stories were most likely true — except that far fetched one on Plum Creek when he fell in a snowbank/cave and had to stay there for three days until he was able to dig his way out and then found out he was right up the hill from their house. Come on, Pa, really? You were in town hanging out with the blacksmith or the general store owner. Don’t lie, dude. *wink*

He also left his family alone in some dangerous situations where angry Native Americans (I mean, the Ingalls were building homes on their land half the time, so of course tthey were angry), wolves, rowdy railroad workers, or other threats could have harmed them.

Charles and Caroline Ingalls

Despite Pa’s propensity to launch the family into an insecure situation, it was clear he loved them. I don’t believe he was always rushing off to something new simply for himself. Sometimes he might have been, but mainly he was taking new jobs, trying new things in farming, and moving to new places to help provide a better life for his family, not gain riches and fame for himself.

Even if he was doing it for his family, it couldn’t have been easy never knowing when he might come home and suggest they move again.

Luckily, Pa sacrifices his desire for adventure more than once for Caroline and his girls, something Laura touches on in The Shores of Silver Lake.

When Laura’s cousins leave to go further West, both she and Pa look after them wistfully, wishing they could follow them into adventure. Pa, however, says he won’t continue into the west because a town his being built where they are now and with a town will come a school. Caroline always wanted her children to attend school and Pa says he promised her he would calm down and settle down so the children could be educated.

In the end, it was the love of Caroline and his girls that kept him at least a little bit grounded.

Have you ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series? What is your impression of Charles Ingalls based on these books? Was his desire for adventure a detriment or a benefit to his family? Did he drag them all over the country too much, even if he did do it for the right reason?

Flash Fiction: Strike It Rich

I am still working on this one, but still thought I’d share it for fun.

It was rejected for a flash Fiction magazine but I was given some pointers to improve it. I may share it again when I touch it up.

Strike it Rich

“Holton Fields, you can’t be serious.” Her voice grated on his nerves like a baby rabbit stuck in a garden fence. “Put that contraption down and get back in this camper.”

But he wasn’t going to put that contraption, as Lulabelle called it, down. No siree, he was not. That contraption was the key to his fortune, and he aimed to use it tomorrow up there in those hills right in front of him.

“Why do you think I brought you all the way out here to Wyoming, woman? Just to sight-see? No. I’m here to make us some money. Just like Charlie Steen.”

Lulabelle propped a hand on her hip and tipped her head. “What crazy stories you been listening to?” Wearing a pair of thigh high denim jeans and a sleeveless red and white checkered shirt tied above her belly button, she looked like a movie start to him. If he hadn’t been so annoyed with her, Holton would have been turned on.

Now her arms were tight across her chest. “And who is this Steen fellow anyhow?”

“That guy I read about in the paper. I told you. He’s rich now. Made all that money when he found the uranium over there in Utah.”

Lulabelle rolled her eyes. “Uranium sounds like a disease.”

Holton slapped his hand to his forehead. “It’s a metal, Lulabelle. An expensive metal that Steen made a bunch of money from and now I’m going to do the same thing.” He shook his head and twisted the knobs on the machine he’d bought from George Kissinger before he left.

“It’s a waste of time, Fields,” George had told him. “It’s all wishful thinking. A pipe dream. There ain’t no way to strike it rich looking for that stuff. Steen got lucky. That’s all.”

Holton ignored him though. He was going to find uranium. He’d been studying how to do it. Read all the books he could find at the library. Read all the articles in the paper about that Steen fellow. He’d even talked to a professor at the local college.

All he’d needed was that Geiger machine and George had sold him that. He’d cashed in his life savings, bought the camper and took off for Wyoming. The land there was ripe for picking. That’s what it’d said in the newspaper.

“How you going to use that thing anyhow?” Lulabelle was looking over his shoulder now.

“I’m going to go up in those mountains and do some digging, and this machine will tell me when I strike it rich.”

His wife pursed her lips together and played with a dark curl draped across her shoulder. She looked past him at the mountains. “Those mountains don’t look safe to me. I don’t think you should go. You might fall down a hole and break your neck, and then what will I do? I’ll be all alone. All alone in this camper with no way to get home to my mama.”

Why did women always go to the worst-case scenarios? Break his neck. Good grief. What Lulabelle needed was for him to paint her a positive picture.

“Now come on Lulabelle, baby.” He hoisted the machine against his shoulder and turned to face her. “Don’t think that way. I’m out here for you. I promised you the moon when we got married, didn’t I? Told you I’d find a way to give you everything you wanted. Don’t you want to be living high on the hog like those Rockefellers? Don’t you want a fancy house on the river? A fancy car to drive and a mink coat to wear? I’m going to go up there tomorrow so I can give you all that and more.”

Both hands dropped to her hips and her eyebrows dipped down. “I’m allergic to mink, Holton. It makes me break out in hives. All over my body. You know that. Or you would if you ever paid attention to anything other than all these hairbrained ideas of yours.”

Hairbrained ideas. That’s gratitude for you. Didn’t that door-to-door book salesman thing do okay? Before he’d left the books out in the rain and had to pay the company back all the money he’d made?

Fine.

So that idea didn’t work, but what about buying those hens and selling eggs? That worked for a few months.

Until that he’d left the door open, and the coyotes ate them all.

“Yeah, well, you might be right.” He set the machine in the back of his pickup. “I made some bad decisions over the years. This ain’t one of them, though. I’m going to find uranium and buy you a genuine diamond. It’s what you deserve, Lulabelle. It’s what you deserve after all these years of putting up with me and my crazy ideas.”

Lulabelle sighed and shook her head. “Holton Alexander. When you gonna realize that I don’t want anything in this world except you?”

He squinted at her, studied her face. She’d never said anything like that before. Did she really only want him?

Even now, 40-years after that conversation in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, he couldn’t believe it, but it was true. She really had only wanted him.

He’d never found the uranium, even though he’d tried for two weeks straight. He’d never bought her that mink coat. Good thing, since he never forgot again that she was allergic to mink. Who ever heard of anyone being allergic to mink? He shrugged and laughed.

He’d never built her a fancy house or drove her around in one of those pink Rolls-Royce cars either.

None of that mattered to either of them now.

Love had made them richer than any of those men who went looking for their fortunes in the hills.

“Grandpa?” A little voice pulled him from his thoughts. “Tell me again about driving to Wyoming in a camper and seeing those coyotes and Buffalo and how grandma fell in love with you again.”

Sunday Bookends: Rooms, Blooming Flowers, and finishing Harvesting Hope

 Welcome to my weekly post where I recap my week by writing about what I’ve been reading, watching, writing, doing, and sometimes what I’ve been listening to.

What’s Been Occurring

As I wrote last week, I have been on a streak of posting on here and I think I’m on day 17 at this point. I’m not sure how long I will push the posting streak for, but I think I might aim for 20 days in a row and then stop. That will be Wednesday. I don’t think I’ll have much left in me after that, but we will see. I may not even have anything in the tank for these last three days. My little mind is a bit empty, which is not uncommon. Ha! Maybe some more blog post ideas will pop up and I’ll keep pushing on to 30 days. I doubt it, however.

Our flowers are in full bloom around our house. They are only here for a short time so I have been trying to enjoy them as much as I can. I’ve been taking photos to remember how beautiful they are. It’s so sad that they are only in bloom for about two weeks before they are all gone again.

The roses in the backyard have been in full bloom but yesterday I noticed they are also starting to fall away. The peonies have fully opened now ,and they will hopefully last for a couple of weeks before they are gone. I should learn more about how to plant flowers so I can see flowers all year around, but I’m not really great at plants.

My neighbor is wonderful at it, so I simply sit back and enjoy her flowers and reap all her hard work. She really is a hard worker too. Her and her husband are always in their yard, making it look beautiful. I admire them and maybe someday I can do the same. I won’t hold my breath, though.

I’ve been busy trying to finish up Harvesting Hope. Scenes for the story run through my mind constantly. I often think about giving up and not writing these books, but I’m simply having too much fun, even if no one reads them. That’s been my goal all along with writing – “just have fun.”

I hope to have the first draft of the book done this week and then start going through it for the second draft in the next couple of weeks.

I really need to finish this book because Ginny The Librarian has been screeching at me to finish her story. She is stuck in limbo right now. Liam Finley, the editor, would also like some happiness beause right now he’s a raging drunk, depressed newspaper editor in my head. Then there is Randi who lost her job in her field and is now back home in a dinky town applying for a job at her small town paper with before mentioned raging drunk at the helm.

And in the background, always, is Josefa, daughter of Jairus, raised from the dead by Jesus, literally. She was what kicked this all off and she’d like to know what life held for her after Jesus told her to rise.

What I’m Reading

I finished Rooms by James L. Rubart this week and it was different than most of the books I read, but it was really interesting and thought provoking.I considered abandoning it a few times. I am not a supernatural fan when it comes to books. In life, I am, of course. But in books I was getting a little annoyed with all the weirdness. Then, as I read, I got wrapped up in the weirness and I ha to find out what happened. I could not get this book out of my head and still can’t. It truly makes you think about God’s love for us, even when bad things happen or we make bad decisions. It makes you sit and ponder what God things of things you’ve done, mistakes you’ve made and hope he has the response that he does in Rooms. I am not sure in what category to place it in, other than speculative supernatural fiction.

The description from Amazon (a little long, but worth it to undertstand the unusual plot(:

What if you inherited a brand-new mansion on the Oregon coast—from a great uncle you never knew? Would you blow it off? Or head down there to check it out?
Micah Taylor isn’t stupid. He’s made a fortune building a Seattle software empire. But he can’t figure out why he’s been given a 9,000 square foot home right on the beach.
And not just any beach.
The one beach he loves more than any other.
The one beach he hates more than any other.
Both at the same time.
Micah drives down to check out the house. On the surface, everything seems legit. He instantly feels at home and then he meets a beautiful young woman at the local ice cream shop.
Now there’s two reasons to keep coming back to Cannon Beach. But the house still feels off. Things start happening that Micah can’t explain.
That Micah doesn’t want explained.
Because he’s slowly realizing the house isn’t just a house.
It’s a physical manifestation of his soul.
He begins a journey into the most glorious rooms of his life, but also the darkest.
Rooms where terrible things happened.
Things that must not be remembered, but scream out to be heard.
Micah can’t run. Can’t hide.
Because the memories aren’t just memories.
They’re real.
Memories that can heal and set him free.
But that can also destroy him
And there’s no way to know which side will win in the end.

This week I am continuing an advanced reader copy of Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas, as well as The Heart Knows The Way Home by Christy Distler.

Little Miss and I have finished On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and we are now on The Farmer Boy.

What I’m Watching

On Friday I watched the replay of the K-Love awards, which are Christian music awards. I enjoyed every performance on there. Some of my favorite artists performed, including Danny Gokey, Cory Asbury, Elevation Worship, Zach Williams, Matthew West, Crowder, Kari Job and Cody Carnes, and Casting Crowns.

On Saturday, my husband, daughter and I went to see Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway. It was a cute, family movie with less off-color jokes than some of the so-called family movies I see these days.

The theater we went to is about 45 minutes from our house and it is really nice inside. They have these large, black and white photo of old actors or scenes from old movie up on the walls. I had to take photos of two of my favorite actors, Paul Newman and John Wayne. And then The Philadelphia Story, of course.

At home I’ve been watching some Jonathan Creek, but not much else. I’ve been reading more than watching this week.

What I’m Listening To

This week I’m listening to Zach Williams, Crowder, Elevation Worship, and CeCe Winans.

What I’m Writing

I mentioned a little about my writing and what I’ve been working on, above.

If you followed the blog the last 17 days, you know I’ve written a lot. Probably too much.

This week on the blog I wrote:

A Book review of Amanda by Sarah Monzon

My To Be Read list just grows and grows and grows

Faithfully Thinking: Why aren’t some people healed?

Randomly Thinking: The Scarewoman, mouthy first-graders, and creepy Christmas music

Fiction Friday: Harvesting Hope (formerly The Father’s Sons) Chapter 14

Special Fiction Saturday: Harvesting Hope (The Father’s Sons) Chapter 15

So that’s my week in review. What have you been up to this week?

Fiction Friday: Harvesting Hope (formerly The Father’s Sons) Chapter 14

I have been working quite a bit on this story this week and I have this feeling I am going to stress some of my readers (okay, like all three of you lovely ladies who follow and support me) out with this one. It can’t be helped. It’s the way the story needs to go, but, well, brace yourselves. Luckily, for today’s post, you don’t have to brace yourselves quite as much. Today will be a little less stressful.

For anyone who is new here, this is a continuing story. It is a semi-first draft that I edit more later through a few more drafts before it hits as a self-published ebook and paperback sometime in the future.

If you’d like to catch up on the rest of the story, feel free to click HERE.

Chapter 14

Fingers trailed up the back of his neck, the tips of them rubbing the side of his head where he’d buzzed the hair to keep him cool during the summer.

The sweet smell of the vanilla rose perfume he’d bought her for Valentine’s Day circled around him. He’d watched her roll it on the inside of her wrist a few moments before.

Her mouth moved from his neck to his cheek, and she giggled as he pulled her down onto his lap and wrapped an arm around her waist.

A cool breeze cut across his skin warm from the summer sun as her mouth found his. His mind was clouded with her, the smell of her perfume, the feel of her skin against his, the way she nibbled at his lower lip.

A loud thud startled him. Panic surged through Jason as black spread across his vision like sentient ooze. The bright blue sky, the sun stretching gold across the rising corn in the field, and Ellie’s beautiful face and long dark hair faded until all that remained was pure black.

In one second he’d felt her warm, soft, and yet solid against him and in the next he felt nothing, other than the softness of his mattress under him.

 He was alone.

Flat on his back. Staring at a pale white ceiling his great-grandfather had built and painted sometime in the 1920s.

Jason groaned and pressed the heel of his hands against his eyes, wishing he could fade back into the dream, back to that summer day with Ellie on his lap. A different time. A beautiful time when Ellie had still loved him.

The thud must have been Alex trying to cook breakfast downstairs. That couldn’t be good. If he didn’t get up, the whole house might go up in flames.

He stretched his arms over his head as he sat up on the edge of his bed, wincing as the muscles in his back contracted painfully. What remained after that pain subsided was the dull ache that had settled between his neck and shoulders over the last few days.

Between going out on calls with the fire company, helping Tom in the morning and fixing fences that had been damaged over the winter in the afternoon, he barely had time to think and that was exactly what he wanted. Patrick Donavon had come back from his school trip yesterday and planned to be back to help Tom this morning. That had taken one thing off Jason’s plate but not wanting to have too much down time in his schedule he’d volunteered to pick up the supplies for the goat enclosure early that morning and then finish the day by clearing the land before the contractors came later in the week. In between, there would be a birthday party for his paternal grandmother, Franny.

When he stumbled into the kitchen, Alex stared at him over a coffee cup. “You look like hell.”

Jason glared. “You haven’t exactly looked like model material either lately.” He snorted a tired laugh. “Or ever.”

Alex handed him a mug filled with something that closely resembled the tar the department of transportation used to patch the highway.

Jason sniffed it and made a face. “I’m going to need a lot of creamer and sugar to choke this down.”

Alex slurped a mouthful of the sludge from his mug. “Consider yourself lucky I made the coffee. You’ve been falling down on your job.” Alex winced and frowned at the cup, then shook his head and shrugged. “Besides, you’re going to need the extra caffeine if you’re going to keep working at this pace.”

Jason grabbed the creamer from the fridge, pouring it until the coffee turned a golden brown. “I can’t work as long today. We’ve got Grandma’s party this afternoon.”

Alex stretched his arms over his head and yawned. He’d become more muscular in his arms and chest in the last few months. His belly had also lost its small pouch and was instead flat and toned. Jason had a feeling it had to do with him trying to impress Molly. While Alex had once established a staunch campaign against attending gyms, he started going three times a week with Jason shortly after starting his relationship with Molly. The development brought Jason a great deal of amusement considering how many times Alex had made fun of him for keeping up the gym tradition he’d started when he played football in high school and college.

“Trust me, I know about the party,” Alex said, snatching an egg from the basket next to the fridge and cracking it in the pan on the stove. “Molly has me carrying the food up to Franny’s in about an hour and setting up the tables in the backyard. I think I’ve also been pegged to set up the tent. I could use your help for that.”

Jason dragged a hand through his hair. “I wonder if Gram knows about all the effort being put into this. She never has liked a lot of pomp and circumstance when it comes to celebrating her. She’s been even more on edge about it since Grandpa died.”

Alex shrugged. “I don’t know but hopefully if she’s unhappy she’ll take it out on Molly and Annie and not me. My ears are still blistering after buying her that winter coat last year. Most people thank me for gifts, not tell me I shouldn’t be spending that kind of money on them.”

Jason tossed a piece of bread into the toaster and pushed the lever down, smiling and shaking his head. “That’s Grandma. You know she loved it, though. You remember her at the Christmas cantata. Showing that coat off, telling everyone what a,” Jason made air quotes with his fingers and rolled his eyes. “sweet boy you are. It was sickening really.”

Alex drank the last of his coffee and playfully punched Jason in the upper arm. “Ah, you’re just jealous because she likes me more than you these days.”

The knife scraped across the toast as Jason buttered it. It wasn’t a very filling breakfast, but his stomach had been too messed up lately in the mornings for him to eat much more.

“She’s going to like me even less after today when I tell her that Ellie and I are officially not together anymore,” he said with a grimace as he sat in the chair and a muscle in his back pulled.

Alex tipped his egg onto a plate. “Good luck with that, dude. Just be glad she doesn’t have a cane yet. She’d probably be beating you around the head and shoulders with it if she did.”

When he heard his grandmother call his name from the kitchen a few hours later, Jason was happy she didn’t have a cane. The sharpness in her tone warned him he was in trouble. He was outside the back yard and still heard her call.

He felt like a boy of 12 not a man of 30 when he saw her narrowed eyes and lips pressed tight together. Her short-cropped hair still showed quite a bit of color mixed in with the gray, despite turning 73 two days earlier.

“Hey, Gram. You’re looking good.”

Franny hummed, “mmmhmmm,”, folding her arms across her chest and leaning back in the kitchen chair she was sitting in. “Did you just get here? Because I didn’t see you come in here earlier and give me a hug.”

He shot a look at Molly standing at the counter cutting up watermelon. She was trying not to laugh, glancing at him but avoiding his gaze.

“No, ma’am.” He hugged his grandmother and then slid into a chair at the table. “I was outside helping Alex finish setting up the tent. I’m sorry I didn’t come in first.”

Franny rolled her eyes. “Oh yes, the tent. Your sister here apparently thinks I’m some kind of queen who needs a canopy to stand under so my subjects can come pay homage to me.”

Jason laid a hand against his chest and bowed forward. “You deserve all the honor you are shown, m’lady.”

His grandmother gently slapped a hand against his cheek. “Don’t you try to butter me up, Jason Andrew. Your sister here was just telling me that you and Ellie aren’t talking right now. What’s that all about?”

Jason scowled at Molly who shrugged her shoulders and winced. “I thought you told her already. Sorry.”

He rubbed his hand across the back of his neck and held it there a few moments, pulling down, imagining if he pulled harder his whole head would come off and he wouldn’t have to have this conversation.

“We’re taking a break.”

Franny snorted her disapproval. “A break. What’s that mean? There’s no need for a break from the woman you’re in love with.”

Jason sighed and propped his arms on the table, pressing the tips of his fingers together in a triangle. “She wanted the break.”

One eyebrow raised as Franny folded her arms across her chest. “And why would she want a break?”

The Tanner family was notorious for interrupting during important moments and Jason wished someone, anyone, from his family would walk in at that moment and distract his grandmother from her interrogation. There was no way he wanted to share his past mistakes with her. The drinking, maybe. His grandfather had struggled with that for a few years himself. Everyone in the family knew that. But telling his sweet grandmother — either of his grandmothers actually — about his night with Lauren Phillips? No way. He decided compromise would be the best policy in this situation.

“I messed up in college and didn’t tell Ellie about it until recently because I was ashamed,” he said finally. “She’s rightly upset at me and said she’d like some time apart to think about things.”

Molly placed slices of watermelon on a platter, and he watched her out of the corner of his eye, wondering what she was thinking, if she thought he should tell their grandmother all of it. He knew Molly had been able to piece together what he’d done from the part of the conversation between him and Ellie she’d overheard that day at the church. Alex had already told him he hadn’t told Molly, even when she’d asked him if he knew. He’d told her to speak to Jason because it was Jason’s story to tell, not his.

Franny unfolded her arms, but her eyebrows were still furrowed, and she was watching Jason with eyes like a hawk trained on its’ prey.

“Jason.” She leaned back in her chair and tilted her head. “I know you love Ellie. I know Ellie loves you. There is no doubt in my mind you two are meant to spend the rest of your lives together.”

He stared at the top of the table, drumming his fingers lightly against it, afraid to look at his grandmother.

She spoke sharply. “Look at me.”

He looked up and his chest constricted at the unexpected sight of tears in Franny’s eyes.

She leaned forward and pressed his hand down onto the table under hers, stopping his tapping. “She’s worth fighting for. Do you believe that?”

He swallowed hard and nodded slowly.

Without taking her eyes off Jason she gestured toward the hallway leading to the stairs. “Molly girl, I want you to go up to my room and grab the blue box that’s on top of my dresser. Would you do that for me?”

“No problem.”

Franny kept her hand on Jason’s, wrapping her fingers around his. “Life throws us curveballs, kid. This family has had a few in recent years between losing your grandpa, almost losing the business, and your dad’s accident. Sometimes we can’t catch the balls being thrown at us fast enough. I know I’m still reeling from the one that hit me.” She squeezed his hand tighter. His eyes stung at the sight of a tear slipping down her cheek.

“Grandma, I’m sor—”

“Shh.” She shook her head and wiped the tear away quickly. “This isn’t about me.”

Molly had returned with the box and laid it on the table next to her grandmother. “I’m going to step outside,” she said. “And help Alex set up the tables.”

Franny gestured for Molly to sit down. “You can stay for his. Go on, sit down.”

Molly sat in the chair across from Jason and the siblings looked at each other questioningly and shrugged as Franny opened the box.

She took out a gold ring with a diamond, turned Jason’s hand over and placed it in his palm, then folded his fingers around it. “This is my engagement ring. I haven’t been able to wear it for a few years now thanks to arthritis swelling up my fingers. I want you to take it and hold on to it.”

He shook his head. “Grandma, I can’t do that. Ellie doesn’t want anything to do with me and —”

Franny’s palm was smooth against his work-roughened hands. “Take it. You’re going to need it one day soon. I’m sure of it. It won’t be long before you both realize how much you need each other and start running toward each other instead of away.”

“Grandma, I can’t take your ring.”

Franny shook her head. “I don’t need it anymore. Your grandfather is right here, in my heart. That ring is a symbol of our engagement, and this ring,” her wrinkled finger touched the gold band with small diamonds embedded in it on her left ring finger. “This represents our union, our life together after we said, ‘I do.’ It represents love, passion, tears, joy, sorrow, heartbreak and eternal hope.” She reached over and laid both hands on his. “But both of them are just a symbol. What our marriage truly was lives on in our children and grandchildren.”

She looked at Molly, a small smile tugging at one side of her mouth. She pointed to the ring still on her finger. “That’s why I’m holding on to this ring for Molly someday.” The smile broadened when Alex stepped up to the screen at the back door. “Or should I say for Alex to give to Molly.”

Alex opened the screen door and walked inside, his eyebrows dipping in confusion. He took a sip of the soda he was holding. “Holding on to what for Alex to give to Molly?”

He looked between Jason and Molly and then at Franny. “What did I miss?”

Jason stood, the ring still in his hand, and patted Alex on the shoulder with his other hand. “You’ll find out one day, bud.”

He leaned down and kissed Franny on the cheek. She handed him the box and he set the ring back inside. “I’ll take it for now, Grandma, but I can’t make any promises.”

She smiled, reached up and patted his hand. “The only promise I want from you is that you’ll fight the good fight for Ellie. She’s worth it and so are you.” She stood slowly and moved toward the back door. “Now, let’s get this party over with. I’m not getting any younger.” She looked over her shoulder, patted her hair, and winked. “Obviously.”

Faithfully Thinking: Why aren’t some people healed?

Before I start this post, I want to explain that it is not a woe-is-me-post. It is not a “my life is worse than others” post. This is a “you’re not alone” post if you also face chronic health issues, big or small. This is also a post pondering why some receive God’s healing and others do not.

My issues are nothing compared to those who have struggled with chronic pain for much of their life. I’m also not claiming an illness. This is simply what’s happening in my life now. And what is happening now is I am dealing with a bladder issue off and on that often keeps me up at night, as well as pain in my sciatica nerve and lower back. Both of these issues have recently been improving and seem to go through spurts of being there and not being there.

This issue, along with several others involving muscle aches and extreme fatigue, has been happening off and on for over a decade now. In the midst of all of this, I have seen some other health issues I’ve dealt with for years improve some. So, it’s not all doom and gloom in my world, thankfully. 

I was diagnosed with reoccurring Urinary Tract Infections as a child. I was placed on antibiotics even if the test showed I didn’t have an infection. I had two exploratory procedures to see what was happening and why I had so many infections and discomfort. No official diagnosis was ever made, other than one doctor saying my bladder was small and had never fully developed. 

In my mid-20s I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which means my thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone, which leads to all kinds of “fun” medical symptoms. The thyroid issue was not addressed until I was in my early 30s because I was told by an endocrinologist I wasn’t really hypothyroid. Instead, I was a woman, newly married, and had anxiety. The thyroid condition was then masked for a few years by antidepressants. Once I took myself off the antidepressants, after gaining more than 50 pounds, and all my energy, I began to have massive panic attacks and was finally told (again, by a new GP) that my thyroid was off and I should be on medication. My original GP was correct all along. Some of this may explain why I have a healthy distrust of doctors and the medical profession as a whole.

All of this rambling is to explain that I have prayed for healing from various symptoms stemming from these medical issues for years. My mom has prayed for healing for me as well. My mom also suffers from some near debilitating health issues, and I may have inherited some of that, though my issues are nowhere as severe as hers. We have also prayed for complete healing for her as we did for my grandmother, whose issues were even worse than ours.

It can be hard when we pray for healing from issues and that healing doesn’t come.

It can be hard to watch other people receive healing when we don’t. We may be happy for the other person, but we wonder where our healing is. Or maybe it isn’t our healing we are praying for but the healing of a loved one. 

I can’t say I’ve ever felt jealous of someone who has received healing when I haven’t. I suppose I have figured that this chronic health stuff of mine is simply normal for me. It’s what I was born with and it’s what I just have to deal with. 

Still, there are days I ask God, “Why me?” 

Why do I have to be the one who looks like I’m afraid of life when really a health symptom is holding me back from some things?

Why am I the one Christians scold for not having enough faith, for not simply “picking up my mat and walking in healing (John 5:1-18 ), for not rebuking Satan enough, for claiming sickness when I should be rejecting it?

Why am I the person who was told by a well-liked Christian in our community that I like being sick, that being sick means I get out of responsibilities so I hold on to the symptoms and talk about them to bring attention to myself. Apparently, she didn’t understand that I don’t want attention, especially when that attention comes from people shaking their heads at me in pity or looking at me like I am a sad, lonely, pathetic person whose whole life revolves around my “made-up” chronic illness. 

I should mention this same Christian also said my mother and grandmother wanted to be sick and enjoyed the attention. Trust me, my mother and grandmother do not and did not enjoy being in excruciating pain from fibromyalgia and if they could have simply said, “I don’t want this, thank you very much” and it would have been gone, they would have.

I have heard about and known many people who have been healed of their afflictions — mental, spiritual, and physical afflictions. Then I have seen others who were prayed over by people all around the world who were never healed and passed away, crushing the faith of many in the process.

What was the difference between those who were healed and those who were not? I have no idea.

All I know is that it happens for some, and it doesn’t for others.

In my own journey, full healing has not come, but there have been small moments of triumph and victory. There have been days, after nights where bladder spasms or back pain has caused me to wake up every hour or 90 minutes, that I have still felt good and been able to accomplish what I needed to accomplish, and then some. 

While I once spent most of my days shaking and feeling weak all over, I’ve had more and more days where I don’t have that weak feeling and go all day without feeling light-headed or without fighting brain fog. If you don’t know what brain fog is, it’s when your whole head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton (literally) and your thoughts are battling to push their way through that cotton.

When I do have some of those symptoms, I know how to manage them better than I once did. I have a litany of natural supplements or solutions that get me through the days when the symptoms flare. 

There are days, even with the victories, I still cry out to God and ask Him, “Where is my healing? Where is it? Where is my miracle like the man by the pool in Bethesda? Why can’t I have it? What am I doing wrong? Which sin is blocking me?” More than wondering about my own healing, though, I often want to know why the healing hasn’t come for my mom. She’s suffered for more than 25 years, maybe even longer. And why didn’t it come for her mother who I clearly remember leaning over a couch in her 70s sobbing and crying out in pain and asking God what he had abandoned her?

If I am asking this question, I can just imagine the anger and frustration someone like Joni Tada Erickson has felt over the years. For those who don’t know who Joni is, she is a Christian speaker who was paralyzed at the age of 17 when she jumped into a shallow lake. She has spent almost 50 years without the use of her arms or legs and also battled cancer twice, but she has also spent 50 years preaching, painting, writing, and encouraging people to focus on the small things of life when the big things seem too much to bear. 

I read a blog post from her recently where she pondered the conundrum of why some are not healed by God and others are. She was writing to Christian doctors and dentists, encouraging them so they could encourage patients who don’t find healing.

After asking for healing for years, and even attending a service specifically for healing, Joni cried out to God for answers.

“Finally, one night in desperation, I cried out to the Lord, “Oh, God, I can’t live this way! Please, if I’m not going to die, show me how to live!” It was a simple plea, but at least my heart was turning God-ward, rather than inward. I felt a glimmer of hope.”

She says she began reading her Bible more, seeking a closeness with God she might have before the accident.

“With time, my perspective on healing began to change. I came to understand that God had a higher priority for my life than an instantaneous physical cure. When we look at healing in the Bible, we find that while it is true that Jesus took time to physically heal many people, He was most interested in their spiritual healing. In sending the 10 men with leprosy to the priests to be declared “clean,” He was also restoring them to fellowship with their community (Luke 17:11-14). Only after offering forgiveness of sins to the paralytic lowered through the roof did Jesus then offer physical healing (Mark 2:1-11). And most importantly, Jesus didn’t physically heal everyone. When it was time to move on, He did so, leaving behind multitudes unhealed (Mark 1:38).

His larger mission took priority—“to seek and to save the lost” and to bring spiritual healing to a broken humanity (Luke 19:10, ESV). It wasn’t that Jesus did not care about the problems among those He didn’t heal physically; it’s just He was more concerned about their spiritual welfare than their physical hardships. As Jesus famously pointed out, it would be better for a person to be maimed than to live in a state of sin and rebellion (Matthew 5:29-30).”

I believe God wants us to have healing, but maybe, as Joni suggests, that healing won’t always come as physical healing.

This post doesn’t mean I feel I have this issue wrapped up in my mind. It doesn’t mean that I think, “Welp, there’s that issue solved. There’s the answer to why I still suffer, and so-and-so doesn’t.” I don’t know if I will ever figure this question out until I am on the other side of heaven. What I hope this post does offer is the comfort that we all have questions like this and that there are times we will see the good even in the midst of the bad. 

My To Be Read list just grows and grows and grows

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I started reading books more (again) in the last couple of years. Before that I was always too busy with raising my son, blogging and photography. And before that time period, I was too busy working at smalltown newspapers. When you’re busy writing words, you don’t always enjoy reading them in your down time.

In high school I read a lot, almost all fiction.

When I started reading again I started hearing the acronym TBR. I had no idea what that meant and then someone finally let me know it meant “To be read.”

Oh.

I’m a bit embarrassed by how large my TBR list is.

There are simply too many books out there and I’m not a super fast reader.

I thought I’d list some of my current TBR list, but let’s be honest, our list will always grow because there are simply so many good books out in the world to read. There is a mix of Christian fiction, non-fiction, and general fiction (mysteries, thrillers, etc.) here:

My (partial) list so far:

The Heart Knows the Way Home by Christy Distler

Lavender Tears Sandra Cunningham

The Love Coward by Naomi Musch

More Than Honor by Carol Ashby

Sarah’s Choice by Pegg Thomas

Fortitude: American Resilience in the Age of Outrage by Dan Crenshaw

So This Is Goodbye by Jodi Allen Brice

Relative Silence by Carrie Stuart Parks

Leora’s Letters by Joy Neal Kidney

The Number of Love Roseanna M. White

Another Man’s Moccasins by Craig Johnson

Ready to Trust by Tina Radcliff

Distortion by Terri Blackstock

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

When Jesus Wept by Bodie and Brock Thoene

The World Ending Fire by Wendell Berry

What Is True? by Charles Martin

The Five Times I Met Myself by James L. Rubart

Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

The Mysterious Affair At Styles by Agatha Christie

I also have a stack of Coleen Coble books that are currently at my mom’s house that I want to dig into at some point this summer. So, fellow readers, how large is your TBR list? No need to list them all for me, but give me a round about number in the comments.

Book Review: Amanda by Sarah Monzon. Eye-opening, humorous, and touching all rolled into one.

Genre: Christian romantic comedy

Amazon Description:

“The devil made me do it” is a phrase that will never pass my lips. Why would it when I have Delores, my undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, to make all my decisions for me? (Yes, I named her myself since the doctors couldn’t do it for me.) A get together with friends? Delores says no. I’ll have my prescheduled daily afternoon fever and fatigue at that time.

My two biggest regrets with having Delores direct my fate? One, my family thinks my illness is all in my head. And two, I set the love of my life, Peter Reynolds, free from my anchoring tether so he could fly. I never thought I’d see him again, but five years later he’s soaring in the limelight as one of the most talked-about defensive players in professional football. Oh, and did I mention he also happens to play for the team my boss just assigned me to as a social media manager?

Meanwhile, nothing much has changed for me. Delores still bosses me around, and I’m still hopelessly in love with Peter. What’s a girl to do?

My Review:

Amanda by Sarah Monzon was a spur-of-the-moment read for me after I read about her in an online forum for Christian Fiction readers. The covers of her recent series caught my eye, of course, but the obvious talent for writing an engaging story was apparent in the first few paragraphs and caught my attention even more. 

Amanda Murphy has spent a good deal of her adult life dealing with an invisible enemy — an undiagnosed autoimmune disease she has nicknamed Dolores. Because Dolores rears her ugly head at the most inopportune times, Amanda has learned to push people away, to keep them from having to deal with Dolores the way she does.

One of the people she’s pushed away is the hunky, now NFL star Peter Reynolds. Of course, Peter wasn’t an NFL star when they first met, but now he is one of the hottest and most popular professional athletes in the country, and Amanda’s boss wants her to work with him to create a social media presence.

The only problem? Amanda hasn’t spoken to Peter since she broke up with him five years ago; since she decided she didn’t want him to have to deal with her health issues. Those issues would have held him back and he probably wouldn’t be the star he is today if he’d stayed with her. That’s her rationale at least and for someone who doesn’t deal with chronic health issues, it may seem silly and like an unrealistic plot point.

Take it from someone who deals with chronic health issues first-hand, both in my life and family members’ lives — it is not an unrealistic plot point.

Maybe one reason I was drawn to this story is that I also deal with an undiagnosed condition, which may or may not be autoimmune. I just haven’t come up with a cute name for it like Amanda has. I’d probably nickname mine Hildegard the Destroyer.

 I actually didn’t read the description of this book until I downloaded it to my Kindle, which makes the fact I chose this book in the series that much more interesting.

Like Amanda I can function in life despite the aches, weakness, brain fog, tingling in the extremities, and fatigue. Like Amanda, I have learned not to talk about a condition many doctors can’t diagnose and many in my past have suggested is “in my head.” Like Amanda, I have had friends and family walk away because they simply can’t deal with my “drama” or my “obvious cry for attention” even though I now rarely talk about the condition that knocks me down with its ever-changing symptoms from day to day. I rarely talk about it except for this review, of course. *wink*

 I could relate to Amanda not wanting her new friends to know about her condition. If they did there were a number of scenarios that could unfold. Her friends could grow weary of her using Delores as an excuse not to attend events or accomplish tasks the rest of them could. Her friends might also try to push their suggestions on her and when she didn’t accept them, simply walking about because Amanda “obviously doesn’t want to get better.” Been there, done that.

Honestly, it is hard to be friends with a person with a chronic illness. I do understand that. After the friend has made so many excuses for why they can’t go here or there or do this or that, you do feel like no longer asking them, and eventually, you not only stop asking them but also stop talking to them. Who wants to keep talking to someone who can only talk about what natural remedy they’ve tried this time to help their symptoms? The struggle is real.

A reviewer who shared her impression of this book told me she hoped that when I read it I would feel seen. I guess I could say that, yes, I did feel seen after reading this book. I could relate to a lot of it (sans the hot NFL star chasing after me) so I did feel seen but I have some family who does support me, does see me, and does support me. The people who need to read this book are the people who don’t have that support, who feel alone, lost, and are basing their worth on how bad their symptoms have flared that day and what activity it has kept them from participating in.

My grandmother was dismissed for years. She suffered in silence, crying out in agony late into the night. Doctors ignored her or gave her medicine or surgeries instead of really trying to find out what was wrong. She was most likely mocked, abandoned, and told she didn’t pray enough, rebuke Satan enough, or didn’t have the faith necessary to be healed.

Amanda is a book for the people who have faced those uphill battles, who know that the book they are reading won’t perfectly tell their story (since each story is unique) but will remind them that the world is not as cruel as it seems sometimes. That there are people who understand what they are going through. There are people who “get it.” That there are people who will do their best to understand, even if not everyone in their lives does.

One of the people who gets it, whether from personal experience or simply doing research is Sarah Monzon. Maybe she hasn’t experienced what Amanda did personally. Maybe she doesn’t know anyone who has, but if she took the time to research the trials those with autoimmune diseases go through then she is one more person who understands, one more person who will view a person with an invisible disease with compassion and not scorn.

Even one person telling people with an autoimmune disease that they aren’t alone is worth as much or even more than an entire medical community finally admitting they have tossed people like my grandmother and mom to the side because they simply have no idea how to treat them.

This is a book that is fun to read even if you can’t relate to Amanda’s challenges. It isn’t a downer or a heavy read at all, even if some of the subject matter is a heavy topic for those who deal with it. The book has funny, raw, cute, authentic, and sweet romantic moments all rolled into one quick-readable package.