Where do I land?

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Through the mist darkly

 

I love the woods behind our home. There is so much history here. My husband and his siblings were born and raised on this land, and they all tell stories of playing in these woods. My grandson has grown up here and has learned some survival skills as he’s camped with his friends. This place is part of me. 

I’ve been pondering how to explain my journey as a writer. I feel myself changing and the longing to write becomes stronger every day. With the early posts on this blog and the first book I published, I think my purpose was clouded with the mist and fog of lack of clear vision, like the picture above. My words may have entertained and offered insight into faith and some social issues without any realization of my true purpose in writing.

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An interloper intrudes

And then my journey, my development,  was distorted by distractions and intrusive thoughts of fear of failure and inadequacy in managing the constellation of things required of successful writers. Sometimes these feelings and struggles are still overwhelming. I am struggling to overcome them. 

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Light shines through

This past fall I experienced somewhat of epiphany, a serendipidous moment when my vision cleared. I started work on a book, not the typical Four Corners format, and, as I was pitching it to an agent at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference in September, I suddenly knew the kind of stories that I want to be writing and publishing and known for. They are, indeed, inspirational and contemporary and romances. But the basic vision for this endeavor, a mission statement, if you will, came to me.

I want to tell stories that make clear the greatest love story of all, the ultimate romance, the Christian faith. That romance is God reaching out to man with love and grace and mercy and wooing us into a true, loving, faith relationship with Him. And, as we experience the mountaintops and valleys of the Christian walk, sometimes we drift away or even turn away from God. Sometimes we become angry when tragedies come out way. We often wonder why and question God. Yet , through it all, in spite of all, He faithfully woos us back. You see–that is the greatest love story, the ultimate romance.

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Peace

I have a new peace about my writing efforts. Whether I experience worldly success or not, if I write stories that picture God’s love relationship with man and even one person is touched by each story, I will be fulfilling what God has called me to do. Because I do believe writing is just as much a calling as nursing has been. He opens different doors thoughout our lives. I pray for strength and inspiration to continue this journey.

And, to each of you who read this through, thank you for letting me share my journey with you.

 

When do I land?…..

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The flying nurse was given to me years ago by very good friends, in honor (I think), of my somewhat long and varied nursing career. For many years nursing was a central focus of my life. In the 70’s I was considered a nontraditional nursing student in my baccalaureate program at a Christian university. After all, I was one of four married students in my class and the only one with two small children. After graduation my love for the profession only grew stronger. I felt called to be a nurse, and nursing has been very good to me. After fifteen years I furthered my education with a master’s degree, and I have enjoyed some of the best years of nursing in my current role as a nurse practitioner.

But the flighty nurse pictured above is rather wild-haired and exotic looking, don’t you think? Which was definitely NOT me in my more sedate past, my nursing-focused past. Not that I’m a wild child now (I guess it would be second childhood at my age?). But I do feel so much more free to just be me. The years have opened me up to other pursuits. Teaching children at church. Singing in church groups. More adventurous, although still classic southern, cooking. Trying to morph into the role of family matriarch.

You might mentally hang some more accoutrements to the nurse figure to make her more like the current “me”. A laptop would be nice. A Bible. Some family photos. A couple of little Schnauzers bouncing around. Some pots and pans. Musical notes, because I really enjoy singing (and do wish I could play an instrument). Grown grandchildren laughing at their Nana. Preschool great-grand and two on the way.

Three things have contributed to the change in me. The first is life lived. I’m not a secretive person, so many of you have read in this blog of the challenges and tragedy that has befallen our family. But the other side of the coin is the grace and peace with which God balances the ledger. There have been victories that encourage and reassure and inspire. The best part of my 67 years is that my faith grows stronger everyday.

The other change agent is writing. The opportunity to share a little of my life with you, to encourage others who may struggle with the same hurts and disappointments that we have faced, to tell stories that come from somewhere in my heart and head–what a blessing that is for me! Because that process has grown my faith, too. I only know one way to survive the things life throws at us, and that is with God, and reiterating that truth through blog and books strengthens my understanding and my resolve to persevere.

And last I must mention the blessing of knowing and working with very special mentors and friends and coworkers. There’s a reason that the last twenty years have been so special, and that reason involves the people I have been privileged to work with (and look forward to working with for a least a while longer!). I do not take for granted your influence on my life. I doubt that I would be able to face the challenges that life presents without your example and encouragement. Thank you.

I intended to share the “flighty nurse” figure to point out that I feel like 2017 has been me flitting from one task, one disaster, one disappointment, one assignment to another. I am hoping that the wild-haired nurse will get her act together and that 2018 will be a bit more organized. But I’m not counting on it.

Happy New Year!

Life goes on for the residents of Four Corners. Read about their loves, trials, tragedies, and struggles of faith in volumes I and II of the Four Corners series, set in fictional small-town Arkansas.

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Words set free. . .

True north. . . .

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In the past I have found it a challenge to stay on course with the writing. There are so many things that distract me. People that I love, situations that I worry about, housework to be done, a love of cooking, my fulltime job–I could go on.

These are the same things that distract me from a really disciplined prayer life. Sometimes my prayers are interrupted by random thoughts. Sometimes I just can’t seem to focus. That’s why I often write my prayers in a journal. Writing keeps my prayers on course. (My kids are going to be overwhelmed with the old steamer trunk full of my prayer journals when I pass on!)

I think of Steffie’s comments when Daniel was circling the drain in his depression and addiction. “He’s just so lost, Mom,” she said all too often. We all tried to pull him back on course, with prayers and, when he would listen,  words, but he had lost sight of his true north. The true north that I am talking about is not a constellation or a point on a compass. It is keeping one’s heart and mind focused on Jesus Christ. “Abide in me,” Jesus said. How faithfully am I abiding in Christ? How faithfully are you? I know that failing to abide in the Lord is the path to ruin. I know that losing sight of our spiritual North Star is a dangerous thing, leaving us open to negative thoughts and bad decisions and Satan’s attacks.

Since I recommitted my life as a writer to Jesus’ cause, the words have come easier, more freely, and more purposefully. So far, the magnetic pull of my true north remains strong.  Each and every time I press the keys of this keyboard and watch the words appear on the screen, my heart is full of hope that someone out there needs those words, those thoughts, in order to experience a refill of hope, peace, comfort, and strength to persevere in the walk of faith.

Please know that each time I press “publish” for a post, I am wondering if it’s good enough, real enough, true enough to touch someone’s heart. Thank you for letting me share my journey with you.

“Freely Given”, a year later. . . .

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It came to my attention (courtesy of Facebook) that one year ago yesterday, July 13, 2014, to be exact, a photo was posted on that social media site. It was a quickly snapped photo of me, while at work on my “real job” as a nurse practitioner, holding the final proof copy of Freely Given, my first novel, self-published with the help of Create Space. It is not my favorite photo of myself–a bad hair day–but it does record a momentous occasion. Because I became, with that event, officially a published author.

Unfortunately, I am more of a writer than a publicist or promoter, and I cannot describe stellar sales for the book. However, I am gratified by the number of people who have shared their unsolicited opinions, verbally or written, that they enjoyed the book and that it was thought provoking.

I do now understand the issue with “platform” as being critical to success as an author. Understanding does not lead to mastery. Understanding does not sell books. And, understanding does not get me off the hook. I have to keep working at it. What will free me from anonymity? Any constructive advice is welcome!

However, those who have read Freely Given are often asking me about the next book in the series, which is titled Colorado’s Choice. The character Colorado is one of my favorites from the first novel, perhaps because he reminds me of my dear husband, who has strong “cowboy” roots. As a teen Donnie “broke” horses to ride in order to earn spending money.  He did a bit of bull riding in local rodeos. In one phase of his life he trained bird dogs professionally, and he once owned and showed a National Champion in the National Bird Hunters Association field trial system. The dog was a pointer named Persimmon Ridge Jake. Donnie has an extraordinary mind, understanding the intricacies of plumbing and electrical construction work, and has been licensed with both Master Plumber and Master Electrician licenses. He designed and built our home after researching “concrete form construction”  in order to protect us from the tornadoes that so frequently strike in Arkansas. He also researched and constructed the ultimate “safe room” in our home. He is a strong, kind, opinionated, loving, and gentle man who will do whatever it takes to help someone in need, who has numerous male friends who often seek his advice, and  who is my best friend.

Many of you have asked about the next story. Just let me say that there is a new woman in town, a woman with a past, a woman in need. A dark side to Four Corners comes to light (no pun intended). Colorado has a secret. Charlotte is struggling to find her way as the single sister of the happily married Preacher Chad. She, too, has a secret, and has developed a propensity to get herself in tight situations. And then, there is the ongoing challenge of opening a domestic abuse shelter right in the middle of Four Corners, where everybody knows everybody else.

How will it all end? We shall see. . . . . . . . . .

                                                                                                                    Kathy Parish headshots 2014 (3 of 6)

I, too, can have a secret!

Medicare and me. . . .

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My middle son reminded me last week that I’ve not posted on this site since April. Thanks, son. I was aware of that fact. (And I don’t recall you taking very kindly to my reminders of what you should do–but, that’s another subject for another day.) I’ve had a bit of writer’s block, I guess. I’m trying to blame that on a milestone I reached in May. That’s right. I am now legally a “senior” with Medicare rights and benefits. Somehow turning 65 does something to one. I don’t recall many other birthdays impressing me too much. Well, there was year 30–that was a big one–I was no longer a “twenty-something” with all the youthful connotations that inspires. That one depressed me for all of about 3 days. But I was really too busy to worry about birthdays 40, or even 50. Finishing my master’s degree in nursing. Career demands and changes. Family issues. Single parenthood and then grandparenthood.

But, now, ten years happily into my second marriage, I am no longer the lone adult in the family. Yes, my kids have reached chronological adulthood, but do mothers ever really stop worrying about them and their choices? Even two of my grandchildren have reached legal adulthood. I am very proud of both of them. My handsome 14 year old grandson is rapidly becoming an adult, growing physically and spiritually. And I have a great-granddaughter to brag about. I did not dread the turning 65 milestone and do not resent the Medicare business. I actually bragged about it a bit–it gives me a little leverage since I’m older than most of the medical staff I work with! So, what have I been in such a slump about? I’m trying to figure it out.

TEN REASONS I’M NOT BLOGGING ENOUGH:

1. My time away from my paying job seems more priceless every week. I count the days till I’m off and treasure every moment away from the job. And, face it, sometimes writing is just plain work.

2. The view from my front porch, where a breeze is almost always blowing, is irresistible.

3. There is always one more new recipe to try, many of my own imagination. What about a little citrus/dill/butter sauce for that salmon?

4. I am hooked on The Whispers, The Astronaut Wives Club, and Blue Bloods and can hardly wait for Downton Abbey and Cedar Cove to begin their new seasons.

5. I have three unread books on my nightstand.

6. I have twelve (yes, 12!) unread books on my Kindle.

7. I have one-click shopping on Amazon (therefore, #5 and #6 above).

8. Pedicures and visits to the hairdresser have become necessities, not luxuries. Have to camouflage that gray hair and reaching my toenails with a steady hand is a lot harder than it used to be!

9. I love my aging mother and want her to be cared for and happy.

10. My husband is my best friend and just sitting and holding hands with him makes me VERY happy.

So, what do I do with all this information? Beats me! I keep reminding myself that, yes, I do want to be a success as a writer. And, yes, I understand that in this day and time it’s all about “platform” and visibility and followers and presence.  But somehow I found that I need something more to keep me going.

And now I have found that “something”. Almost everyday someone in my world of acquaintances compliments the first book or asks how the second one is coming. Thank you to all who inspire me and remind me to keep plodding along in this venture. And, yes, thank you, son, for noticing my blog absence. I am flattered that you follow my blog presence!

I always come back Jeremiah 29:11, which reads:

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Writing has been a part of my whole life–life as a student, life as a healthcare professional, life as a teacher, life as a manager and administrator in a healthcare system. I grew up writing letters–yes, communicating via postal service! I have a trunk full of prayer journals. Perhaps God knew that I needed 65 years of life experience and numerous faith challenges in order to fulfill his purpose for me at this time in my life. Perhaps my time is coming. Or, perhaps, my time is now.

Please, Lord, show me the path to take, give me the words to write, and strengthen my focus, discipline, and desire. And may it all serve your purpose and plan.

All things Downton. . .

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I confess to being a latecomer to Downton fandom. It was toward the end of the third season before, tired of hearing conversations about people and places I just didn’t know, I took the leap and became totally addicted. My daughter and I then, in a viewing frenzy, attempted to quench our thirst for all details of Downton’s past by viewing seasons one, two, and the totality of season three on DVD. Ah, the satisfaction! Season four was savored in real time as we DVR’d each episode and saved it for a time we could view together–sometime that the male members of our household were otherwise occupied. And now we are likewise engrossed in a week by week feast of the people and plots of Downton. And now I see, as I “shop PBS” that the Season 5 DVD (U.K.Edition) is “available, in stock, and leaves warehouse in 1-2 full business days”, along with a FREE Downton Abbey Sampler Pack of 6 Teas!! Who would have thought you could see Season 5 in one marathon viewing session before the rest of its devotees have seen episode four?

I’ve been attempting to decipher the elements of our attraction to the Downton Abbey saga. This is a very complex issue. I do love the fashions. The costuming is veritable eye candy, even when worn by Dowager Lady Grantham. Of interest are the different fashion tastes that have been apparent as one compares Lady Mary’s attire with that of her sisters Lady Edith and, the now deceased Lady Sybil. And then there’s cousin Rose to consider, with her youthful, rebellious, yet charming ways.

Then there’s the more intellectual enticement of the morsels of historical facts that are strewn throughout the plot. The reign of King George the V of Great Britain is the backdrop for this tale of aristocracy and those who serve them. The sinking of the Titanic claimed the lives of Lord Grantham’s cousins, James and Patrick, and we all remember his distress that a mere third cousin once removed thus became his heir. The horror of the Great War (WW I) did not leave the household unscathed. Topics of socialism, racism, sexuality, and women’s rights pervade the story. There’s more here than just romance.

But, romance there is. Sometimes my Bible-belt morality is, indeed, a bit taken aback by the turns and twists of relationships, but, through it all, one finds oneself developing a fondness for the all-too-human characters and their frailties.

But, at this moment, on this day, I think the thing that enchants me most is the freedom that the aristocracy has to pursue various interests. After all, they don’t clean. They don’t shop for food. They don’t cook. They don’t do laundry, nor do they mend clothing or polish shoes. They don’t drive or dress themselves. They have all the time in the world to do whatever appeals to their fancy.

That sounds rather, well, tacky of me, doesn’t it? You have to understand my life at the moment. I try to be an excellent healthcare provider, which occupies a major portion of my time. At my house there is cleaning and laundry and shopping and cooking to be done, and, trust me, I seem to do a lot of it. There are demands on my time that I prioritize highly–teaching a Sunday School class, singing with the church choir as we lead worship, daily devotion, regular worship, acts of service. I do not begrudge these things–they bring me joy. Yet, there is the “other thing”. I long to be a productive writer. This is the thing that gets placed on the back burner, shoved to the back of the line, listed last on “things to do today”. And, somehow, someway, I must find the discipline to make the time, focus the mind, and, as Nike puts it, just do it. Because I am convinced I am meant to do it. I am convinced I have things to say.

Perhaps they are not great things in the literary sense–I’m rather sure they’re not. But words that inspire, entertain, and tell a story–the act of drafting, editing, and sharing words like that is, perhaps, another calling for my life, just as nursing has been.

So, dear reader, send a prayer my way that I will find my way, please?

Lessons learned

What a journey I’ve been on the past nine months! For it was just nine months ago that I posted my first blog! And, since then, self-published the first of what I hope and pray will be many novels and started writing the sequel. I was, and am still, such a novice, feeling my way through both the creative process and the technical aspect of writing in the digital world, struggling to grow my platform, and, most importantly, discerning who I really am as a writer. I’ve learned some lessons (and need to master many more).

Lesson learned #1: Early morning awakening can be a blessing! More times than I can count during the development of Freely Given (the first book of the Four Corners series), I awakened at three a.m. and was blessed with a sudden revelation, an epiphany if you will, regarding the direction the story should take. I have learned that those quiet early morning hours are to be welcomed as a special time when the spirit can be at rest and the mind can be open. Sometimes it is simply a time to be present with God. People who I characterize as the strongest prayer warriors I know often tell me that early morning awakening is their signal that someone needs prayer. One dear saint tells me at those times she prays “through the alphabet”, lifting up those whose names begin with each letter. For me it seems that my creativity is at its peak, although I cannot conceive of actually approaching the keyboard at that hour. The ideas have to be filed away, ready to be put into play during the next opportunity to write.

Lesson learned #2: You don’t have to know the ending when you are beginning. I was dismayed when, early on during the writing of the above mentioned book,  I didn’t always have a sure sense of its ending. How gratifying to find this Robert Frost quote printed on a bookmark picked up at a local writer’s conference. Writing anything, I think, is discovering. Life, I know, is discovering, for is there anyone of us who knows our own life ending? We just need to keep beginning!

I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.

Robert Frost

Lesson learned #3: The Christian faith is, it seems, completely and uncontrollably, central to everything I write. As I view stats of this blog, posts bearing the tag faith are the most viewed. It seems that Christian, rather than popular, fiction is my calling.  Readers of the book frequently reference the thread of day to day Christian life that flows through the story. One gentleman noted, “You could be a preacher.” Really? The book was originally intended to be a romance! And, I guess it is, if one imagines one’s relationship with Jesus as a romance. He does, after all, woo us and call us to an eternal relationship with Him. The Bible calls us, the church, His bride. Sounds kind of romantic. But I am forced to consider: Is it possible for inspirational contemporary fiction to be popular in our culture?

Lesson learned #4: Writing is work! I so admire my fellow bloggers who are so prolific. To turn out the quality and quantity of your work strikes awe in my writer heart and mind. You are truly focused and gifted. As for me, life as wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, nurse, etc., etc. carries on. A TV commercial (I cannot remember what product was being advertised—take note, ad agency) last evening caught my ear–the phrase “the human race” was used to focus attention on the demands of 21st century American life. It seemed very apropos. And, for now, writing must be more of an avocation rather than profession as I race on.

So, back to my lessons for now! May you, dear readers, have a blessed day! What lessons will you learn?

Kathy Parish headshots 2014 (3 of 6)