My mother was a poet, and a great inspiration to me, both as a writer and as a woman. On this Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think again how grateful I am for her legacy.
My mother was a poet, and a great inspiration to me, both as a writer and as a woman. On this Mother’s Day, I can’t help but think again how grateful I am for her legacy.
To take part in this fun challenge, visit NaPoWriMo.net.
I’m doing only cinquain during this year’s National Poetry Writing Month challenge, and since today is National Siblings Day in the U. S., this subject seemed appropriate.
Cinquain # 10: Sisters
I have but one,
And always we’ve been close –
As little girls and ladies grown;
Sometimes when I’m feeling sad and this ol’ world starts to creepin’ in on me — heavy-like — I take myself away from other people and huddle down in my old creakin’ rockin’ chair in my bedroom. I sit by the window just rockin’ away and lookin out — not seein’ anything in front of my eyes, but seein’ all kinds of things in my memories.
And at times like these — when I’m hurtin’ powerful bad in my soul — I like to remember Izzy best of all. Her real name was Isadora Bradshaw, but none of us kids ever called her Isadora — not me or my sister or any of our friends who came to visit. In fact, nobody I knew back then called her Isadora. She was just Izzy to all of us who loved her.
She was the best of the best was Izzy. About 200 pounds of love and laughter. Her full, round, black face would get all shiny with sweat whenever she was scrubbin’ the floors or haulin’ big loads of clothes from the wringer washer and carryin’ them out to the clothesline — or when she was standin’ at the ironin’ board with her feet in the tub of ice water.
Yes sir, I have to chuckle every time I think about it now. The picture’s still just as clear in my mind as it was every ironin’ day in the summer. Izzy said ironin’ on a summer day was the hottest one job in the whole world. She said it always made her think about how hot hell must be gonna be, and it made her want to go read the Good Book before she went to bed. Izzy loved that Good Book. And she loved the Lord. Gosh-a-mighty, I can still sing every old hymn that sweet ol’ black lady taught me.
But back to the ironin’ days: Izzy said she sweated so much the sweat would drip on the clean shirts she was ironin, so she decided to start standin’ in a big tub of ice water, and that way it kept her cooled down. When I was a little squirt, I didn’t understand how dangerous that could be, but when I got a little older and had learned a few things about electricity, I told her, “Izzy, you’re gonna electrocute yourself standing in that tub of water while you’re plyin’ that electric iron.”
“Lordy, Honeybear,” she’d say — she always called me “Honeybear” — from the day I was born I guess — but she’d say, “Lordy, Honeybear, if I was a goin’ to lectrify myself doin’ this, it would have done happened years ago. Now, you stop you’re worrin’ bout your old Izzy. If the good Lord did see fit to take me home while I was a ironin’, I don’t suppose it would hurt a thing — ceptin’, of course, you and your pa’s shirts would still be all wrinkled.”
I finally got to the place that I just laughed with her about it. And later on — when she was too old to work as our maid any longer and pa had a little three room house built out in the back for her to live in for the rest of her life, she and I would sit and remember those days and laugh ’til there were tears in our eyes. That was several years after I had finished high school and moved about a hundred miles away to take a job. I’d never been one to hanker after college, and I landed a job doing work that suited me and just stayed with it. I always made time to come home a couple weekends a month to see the family. But I got to be honest. It was Izzy that I really came home to.
Why that dear old black woman was like a second mama to me. My real mama was a good woman, and I know she loved me, but she was awful busy durin’ my growin’ up years with all of her society doin’s, and it was Izzy who made my breakfast, who listened to me read the stories in my grade-school reader, who listened to my hopes and dreams and fears when I’d spill ’em out non-stop the way a growin’ boy does when he’s goin’ through those years of change and uncertainty about life.
And it was Izzy who prayed for me all the time. I heard her prayin’ many a night. After she finally got her work finished up, she’d sit out on the back porch and talk to the Lord, and I’d sit by my bedroom window listenin’ to those prayers. Back then, I didn’t know the Lord yet, and my heart yearned for the kind of easy, lovin’ relationship that Izzy had with the God of the universe. And, of course, it was Izzy who finally led me to give my life to the Lord.
That one act made all the difference in my life, of course, but one of the most important things it did was to make me even closer to Izzy. She said once I was a Christian, that made her and me real family. Of course, to me, Izzy was always my family, but I eventually came to understand what she meant.
I came to understand a lot more than that too. Eventually, I realized that Izzy was a woman caught in a transition time in our nation. She wasn’t a slave. Nobody was a slave anymore. But she had been brought up by a family who had known slavery. Her own great grandparents – in their teen years – had been among the slaves freed after the Civil War. And livin’ in the deep south as they did, they just couldn’t seem to get more than one step away from it in their thinkin’ – mostly because the rest of the south couldn’t get more than one step away from it either. Their world revolved around an unspoken cast system, and Izzy and her family were still on the bottom.
She should have had opportunities for education and a career. She shouldn’t have been relegated to doing all the cooking, cleaning, and every other kind of drudgery work for someone else in someone else’s home. She should have had a home of her own with a good man and a passel of kids and a place in society where she could be involved with the rest of the world — just the way mama was able to do. But Izzy wasn’t a revolutionary. She wasn’t out to change the world. She took what came to her and thanked the Lord for a family to work for that she could also love.
By the time I understood all of these truths, Izzy was 78 years old and finally livin’ peacefully in her little 3-room house behind our big house. Most people called our house a mansion, but to me, it had always just been our house. And with Izzy there, it was all I needed for those growin’ up years.
I finally married, but we didn’t have any kids, and eventually my wife and I went our separate ways. I never took the chance again. Sometimes I wish I had, but wishin’ about it now is wasted energy. After the divorce, I used to sit and talk with Izzy about what I thought had gone wrong. She listened, but she never passed judgment on me — or on my wife. She just loved me, and that was enough.
Well, Izzy’s gone now — to live with her dear Lord. And me — I’m old and tired — and lonely. My family’s gone, and I miss ’em: my sister Ella and Mama and Papa. I miss the visits to the old home place. I live here in this place they call a “senior facility,” but it ain’t what I call really livin’. The truth is I’m just bidin’ my time until I go on home to be with the Lord too. Some days I have pain in my body, but most every day I have pain in my soul. Somethin’ in me still yearns to do things and go places and try out a few more dreams. But the will isn’t enough when the strength isn’t there.
So while I’m waitin’, I sit here in my quiet room, rockin’ and lookin’ out my window and rememberin’. And it ain’t so bad really — as long as I sit here and remember Izzy standin’ there at the old ironin’ board, her feet in that pan of ice water, and us laughin’ together to beat the band . . . and singin’ the old hymns, and . . . .
Take newspaper publisher Lawson Wainright, who has a gut feeling that two sleeping bags and a can full of peanuts under his front porch just might be connected with four run-away children who have been in the news. If he’s correct, his life as a quiet, orderly, 40-year-old bachelor just might be on the verge of being turned upside down.
Now add those four children, and a handful of other characters who will make the reader’s heart melt. Throw in a miracle or two from the hand of a loving God. And there you have a story that’s just made for Christmas giving.
It’s available in e-book on Amazon’s Kindle Store, and the price is right for giving: only $2.99.
And don’t forget, Amazon offers a free Kindle app for any device. Downloadable right on the page where you order A Quiver Full of Arrows.
Give a copy to someone you love this Christmas.
DON’T READ THIS BOOK if you don’t want your heartbeat to pick up speed at the sight of someone walking through a door – or if you don’t want to find yourself holding your breath waiting for a kiss – or if you don’t want to find tears rolling down your cheeks when disappointment is unbearable – or if you don’t want to find yourself grinning widely and looking a little foolish if you happen to be reading in public – or if you don’t want to finish the last chapter with a deep sigh of satisfaction and longing all rolled into one. If those experiences are not what you’re looking for, then do not read this book.
Most of my novels include a romance, but often it is only a part of the story, and not always the main focus. But I have to tell you up front that Jonah’s Song is totally and completely an honest-to-goodness, no-questions-asked, out-and-out old-fashioned love story – from beginning to end. Now don’t misunderstand: no parts of it are rated “R”; it’s a perfectly clean read. But it is a story that digs deeply into the hearts of a man and a woman – and into the heart of what God intended true romance to be.
All right then, who should read this fourth book in The Smoky Mountain Series? Well, if you’re not one of those people who fits the description in the first paragraph of this article, here’s the book for you. IF you “love” a good love story, then make a bee-line to Amazon’s Kindle Store and order Jonah’s Song while it’s on sale. In digital format, it will be selling for the special price of $1.99 from now through Christmas and then revert to the same price as the other books in the series..
So buy one for yourself – and another one for someone you love – this Christmas
(Also, if you do read it and you do finish the last chapter with a sigh of satisfaction and longing, please stop and say a few words about the book in the “Customer Review” section of its Amazon page. Thanks.)
Sometimes people ask me which of the nine novels I’ve written so far is my favorite. And I have to answer that I feel like a parent with nine children, in that I can honestly say all of them are my favorites. They were born out of me. They are literally part of me. Every single one of them carries something of me out into the world and into the heart of every person who picks it up and reads it. And not one of them can supersede the others in my own heart.
Each one, of course has it’s own special strengths — as far as I’m concerned. (Of course, there are probably a few people out there who don’t think any of them have “strengths,” because, let’s face it: no one ever writes a book that everybody will like. It’s just a fact of life. But not to worry: we don’t write for those people. A true writer writes for himself first — and secondly for all those people who will find great pleasure in reading his work.)
So back to my point: each book has its own set of strengths. When I look at the list of titles, I’m reminded of certain people who received help or encouragement or a good laugh when they read certain stories from that list. And I see each novel as offering its own specific gift to the readers.
However, sometimes we find ourselves writing a story that carries so much more potential for touching and changing lives than the average book does. Somehow, we just know that one particular story has an extra special gift to give the readers, and when we’ve finally written the words “The End,” we sit back and say, “Wow, this is an important book.”
That sense of importance — of special significance — came to me when I finished Repaired By Love, the third book in The Smoky Mountain Series. I truly believe this book is the most important book I’ve ever written. The reason is simple: This story has so much to say about the way of salvation and a joyous relationship with the Lord that it could easily be the only tool necessary to lead someone to make a decision to turn his heart over to Jesus Christ. I make that statement, not because I’m the author, but because I sincerely believe that the Lord Himself orchestrated that book to accomplish just that purpose.
Of course, I pray and believe the Lord to lead me in writing what He wants written in every inspirational novel I create. And the main focus in all of those novels is to help people come to know the Lord better and see that He wants to be involved in our everyday lives — helping, guiding, healing, and protecting us. I hope I’ve been faithful to Him in every book I’ve turned out. But in this one particular book, I sense a special anointing from Him to touch hearts that have never yet opened up to Him at all. I am still in awe of how the Lord led certain people into my life and then used them to plant the seeds of so many of the characters in this book — and how He carried me along with the plot that I didn’t even have a plan for in the beginning.
When I wrote Repaired By Love, back in 2004, I said to a number of people: “If I could have written only one book in my whole life, this is the book I would want to have written.” Eleven years later — and having written five other novels since then — I still feel the same.
I hope my readers will be blessed by it as much as I have been.
Readers can find the digital Repaired By Love at the Kindle Store at a special price for the next two weeks. From today through October 16th, the novel will be on sale for only $1.99. After that date it goes back to the same price as all the other books in the series ( 3.99).
To read an excerpt from Chapter One click HERE.
(And don’t forget, if you don’t have an e-reader, Amazon has a free app you can download in just a few minutes that will let you read all e-books right on your own computer. Just follow the link to the book page, and you’ll see the notification about the free Kindle App.)
This morning I poured myself a cup of tea — well, actually, it was a mug rather than a cup — and that’s what made the difference. This mug was very deep, and when I picked it up to take a drink, the aroma of the freshly brewed tea wafted up and into my nostrils, but then swept over me completely with memories almost as fresh as the tea itself.
Back when I was a child, then a teenager, than a very young adult, my family always worked together in the kitchen. Cooking, eating, and even cleaning up were activities that bonded us together, and gave us lovely opportunities to share events in our lives as well as our hopes and dreams — and our fears. My sister and I were able to talk with our parents about any topic under the sun, and there was never a problem we didn’t find help for in their love and wisdom. We were truly blessed.
But during those years, there were some events that seemed to lodge themselves into my soul more than others, and each one of them represents something special about my relationship with my family. One of those unique events was the preparing of the tea for our evening meals. During warm weather especially — and sometimes at other times of the year — we always had iced tea as our main drink at our evening meal. Mom would boil the water on the stove and then brew the tea (according to the Americanized custom, using tea bags) to just the right consistency so that when we poured it into the pitcher, we then added an equal amount of fresh water, and the strength and the color of the tea were perfect for pouring over ice.
However, before we poured in the extra water, we scooped in the sugar. Now, I have to tell you that I’m old enough that this project was carried on back in the day before everyone and his brother had gone crazy trying to stay away from ordinary staples like butter, eggs, and good old granulated sugar. So we always scooped in a hefty amount of that good old granulated sugar and stirred happily. By adding it before the extra water, the sugar melted very quickly and united thoroughly with the tea so that there was no residue left in the bottom of the pitcher.
During this whole exercise, the most prominent characteristic of the process was the rich aroma of that tea — as we stirred in the sugar, then added more water, and stirred some more. There was something so sweet and satisfying about that fragrance, and it has stayed with me all these many decades since. And every once in a while — just every once in a while — when I’m having just a cup of tea — the various elements of the moment — the temperature of the tea, the movement of the air, the strength of the brew, the position of the cup — whatever it is that makes the difference at the time — but just once in while, I get that aroma rising up and meeting me once again, and I am instantly taken back home.
My family lived in four different towns during my growing up years, and in about six different houses, but home was still always the same place: it was wherever my mom, dad, sister, and I were together. The name of the town or the street made no difference. It was the fact that we were together, sharing all the wonderful aspects of our lives — brewing the tea and enjoying its rich aroma — knowing that even when there were some problems facing us, we had each other and the safety of our love for one another.
So every time I smell that special sweet aroma of my tea (even though I do have it without sugar today), I am swept back to those days. I find myself in the kitchen with my mom, standing beside the cabinet, stirring the tea, and enjoying the happy aroma of a home filled with love.
This week’s Friday Fictioneers photo just pulled the following story right out of me. Had no idea it was in there, but that’s half the fun of writing, isn’t it? Photo is courtesy of Madison Woods. My story is below the picture.
“Margo, you’ve been staring at that spigot for twenty minutes.”
“What?” Margo suddenly looked at Jane.
“Why are you just staring at that spigot?”
“I was … uh … I was remembering ….”
“You know … the prison camp.”
“We were each allowed only one small cup a day.”
“You were never in a prison camp!”
“I’ve known you all your seventeen years. You’ve never been in prison.”
“The Nazis ….”
“That was your great-great-great grandmother. You never even met her.”
Margo turned questioning eyes back to the spigot. “But I remember … being so desperately thirsty … and how slowly the water ran out ….”
Today’s Prompt: Drawer.
Assignment. Write an ode based on this prompt, using the technique of apostrophe.
Ode To Grandmother’s Engagement Ring
Delicate band of gold,
Crested with a tiny crown of diamond,
Snuggled safely ‘neath sweet-scented hankies,
In the top drawer of my Grandmom’s chest.
Though your jewel is tiny,
It sparkles with a fire that doesn’t fade.
Decades have come and gone since you were given,
And decades more since you were laid to rest.
That day so long ago,
When Grandpop slipped you onto Grandmom’s hand,
Betrothing each to each in awesome love,
Their journey thus begun, they gave their best.
And from their love
Two generations more have now been giv’n
Those seeds of love, watered with their examples,
And generations more will soon be blessed.
Delicate band of gold,
Crested with your tiny crown of diamond,
I’ll hold you dear and treasure you my whole life,
The symbol of a love that passed the test.
Are you ready to grin, giggle, or just feel good? That’s what this little challenge is all about. We share posts that are happy, light-hearted, funny, or downright hilarious. Make it prose, poetry, picture, graphic art, a joke, a song, a video ……. Whatever your heart desires. Post on your own blog and hop over here and paste your link into the “Comments” box so we can visit your site and grin, giggle, and feel good with you. Just please remember the site is for general audiences.
Here’s my contribution this week. I sneaked into Life Is Worth Living by Vera Faye Wallace (my mom) and snatched this little ditty.
Remember, the rules for participating are simple:
Just post something funny, light-hearted, or hilarious on your own blog.
Then hop over here to my post for that week and paste the link to yours in a “Comment” Box.
And please remember my blog is for general audiences.
Julia’s 100-Word Challenge for Grownups has reached its 162nd week as we begin 2015. Her prompt this week for the story is the following phrase:
“… as I put the decorations away, I …”
Check out her site and get the simple rules for participating in the challenge.
My story is below:
My saddest Christmas ever. Jobless now; no money for food or rent; no family to help. I’d cried myself bleary-eyed for days. Government assistance was unthinkable. As I put Grandmother’s decorations away, I thought of how much I missed her – courageous woman, widowed, raising six children on her meager seamstress income. I missed her sorely and wished I weren’t such a failure in comparison.
The tiny envelope bearing my name was taped inside the bottom of an ornament box. I’d never noticed it before. It held a diamond necklace and a note from Grandmother: “I prayed you’d discover this when you need it most. It’s worth $25,000. Use it wisely. Merry Christmas.”
Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner,
And I am set to have a lovely time.
First I’ll make a jaunt to church and, kneeling down,
I’ll thank the Lord for all His blessings kind.
And then I’ll journey farther to meet kith and kin.
We’ll hug and laugh and tell each other news.
Then next I’ll help dish up the yummy treats in store;
So many dishes, all from which to choose.
Then after eating more than I could ever need,
And going back again for one more pinch,
I’ll sit by fireplace warm and cuddle little ones,
And soon we’ll be asleep; it is a cinch.
Oh, my, how dear Thanksgiving is to all of us.
It gives us one whole day when we can part
From all that pulls and presses us and wounds us sore,
And give ourselves to healing, loving hearts.
“Light the lamp, Matthew. Set it clearly in the window.”
“But, Father, it’s burned every night for months. Tom’s not coming home.”
“Yes, he is. He promised me.”
“You know we heard that his whole battalion was wiped out.”
“No. I feel him in my heart. He lives. And this snowstorm is so thick; he’ll need the light to guide him through the woods.”
“But there’s only a few hours of oil left.”
“Light the lamp, Matthew. The oil will last. The lamp will burn until your brother walks through that door.”
Join the fun writing your own 100-word story based on this week’s prompt: BURN.
During the last six months, I lost my father, my closest uncle, and three wonderful friends. During these experiences, I have found myself thinking of several others I’m close to who have also recently gone on from this world to be with the Lord. Each of those people were truly “charming gardeners” in my life. They added so much richness to my life and so much joy that it is impossible to adequately describe the effect of their lives upon mine.
Some of them I saw virtually every day, some every month or two, and a few only a couple times a year. But our love and our relationship was a living, active reality that I was constantly aware of possessing. It’s only natural then, I suppose, that I am still a little overwhelmed, from time to time, at the void I experience just knowing they are not here with me any longer. Just yesterday, I was driving along in my car, and suddenly a new realization of the void each of them has left rose up in me, and I found myself saying, “My life is getting so empty.”
I am thrilled to be able to say that each of those individuals knew the Lord Jesus, and I have no doubts that we will be reunited in Heaven in the future. But the interim – the time of my living out this earthly struggle without them – weighs heavily on me.
Now, I would hasten to add that I do still have a few family members and several other wonderful friends alive and active in my life, and they still add to my joy. So, in truth, my life is not technically “empty.” But it’s still true that the presence of those lost – and the effect of their presence on me – has left an empty place that nothing else, and no one else can fill.
However, I have also realized that this “garden” I call my life still bears the fruit of their influence upon it. They have tilled the soil of my life, and they have enriched it with the nutrients of their love, their grace, and their personal gifts. They have planted seeds of themselves in that garden. And they have indeed caused my soul to “blossom.” So I have the joy of knowing that I will continue to produce those “blossoms.” I will continue to bear the fruit of their plantings in my life, so I still have a very real part of them with me.
I’m so grateful for those “blossoms.” And I count them very dear. I find that I also count more dear than ever before the presence and influence of those who are still a physical part of my life. I find myself wanting to spend more time with those loved ones and to be sweeter and kinder to them than ever before. And I understand more every day that nothing else in this world – no physical wealth, no fame, no prestige or power – can compare in value to the personal relationships we have with the people who love us and depend on our love.
One of the greatest treasures I could wish for those of you reading these words is that you have the blessing of such “charming gardeners” in your own life, that you bear the fruit of their planting, and that you become a “charming gardener” in the lives of all those you have relationship with.