Messes. . .

Have you ever really made a mess? Like the time I tried a new “short cut” Bundt cake recipe which sounded like the cake I had enjoyed the previous week. It bubbled over and out of my pan like an erupting volcano, and I ended up with a mountain of scorched batter in the bottom of the oven. Or like the way I can make a real “mess” out of trying to express my feelings to someone who really doesn’t want to understand (teenagers come to mind). I just dig the hole deeper and deeper and sometimes begin to doubt that even I understand what I am trying to say. Or like the way I can over-commit to various obligations and get overwhelmed by my list of to-do’s?

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Like this mess that our little miniature Schnauzer with exuberant energy and an insatiable appetite for paper made one morning when my husband “forgot” to kennel her. When my daughter returned to find this mess, the poor pup was exhausted and panting. It was as though, finally finding herself (once again) free to wreak havoc on all books and papers within her reach, she exhausted herself with her instinct to destroy. I say once again because there is a reason that we kennel her! (She was at the puppy beauty shop today. The groomer described her as “a little ornery.” He was right on.)

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After Cindy cleaned up the mess and assessed the destruction, Princess lay on her lap, belly up, a mass of fluffy black dog, completely trusting that nothing bad was going to happen to her. Pictures don’t do her justice. She turns into a black fuzzball whose features–floppy ears like silk and one opaque eye (blind at birth)–just blend together. But, she is at rest with no fear and no regret.

I wish my messes were so easy to overcome. Yes, the oven came clean. So what if I had to throw out the cake that wasn’t? I hope my family and friends forgive when I have failed to convey my thoughts and feelings in anything resembling articulate speech. And, although I may whine a bit and feel sorry for myself, I meet my commitments. I just wish I could relax like she does, trusting that no harm will come of my messes and that I will be accepted just as I am. I wish I didn’t ruminate over the misspoken words or the perceived hurt. I wish I didn’t regret mistakes so much. I wish that I weren’t such a perfectionist.

Anybody else belong to that club? “Perfectionists Anonymous”? There should be a support group. At least age offers some respite, as I find that the more years I get behind me the less I worry whether there is a little dust on the table. If only my expectations of myself were so easy to manage! Because there’s a little voice in my mind reminding me of the unfinished manuscript that keeps calling my name. The basket of clothes to iron won out today. That voice had been nagging longer and louder. So the ironing is done and I’ve opened myself up to you. And, that’s ok for today.

Perhpas Scarlet O’Hara was right. “After all, tomorrow is another day!”

Hoping your tomorrow is a good one and free of “messes”!

The journey continues. . .

QuietTime

This is the way my morning begins–on good days. The Bible is only 21 years old this year but the leather cover is frayed from being carried in a “Bible cover” for many years. Virtually every page in it is highlighted and marked with sermon notes in the margins. It is well-worn. Kind of like me.

Having reached that point in life where one reviews where one has been, the things one has done, the accomplishments achieved, I have found myself struggling over the past few months. Have you ever felt that there was something that you were absolutely meant to do through some divine plan but found apparent roadblocks at every turn? That’s me!

My first calling to a profession came when, through a series of unusual events, I ended up in a baccalaureate nursing program. I graduated in 1978 and have spent the past 40 years working in the profession in one role or another. There were some times of turmoil and transition as I found my way to my current role as a nurse practitioner. I stepped into that role 21 years ago and have never regretted the move. Throughout it all, nursing has been very good to me. And I’m not quite ready to give it up, yet!

But hidden in my heart was the dream of being an author. I’ll confess, early on I was just thinking that I could write a romance novel as good as, if not better, than many I read. But somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to put that steamy stuff on paper with my name attached! Then the amorphous dream congealed into a path that truly felt like a calling. That’s the road my journey has taken me down now. But it’s a road filled with roadblocks and potholes and breakdowns.

You see, I have found my niche as a writer.But actually having the faith that success will come is a struggle. I long to rest in Jeremiah 29:11–

“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.”

My goal as a writer? To portray the truth that God pursues us in the ultimate love story, our journey through the triumphs and tragedies of life, wooing us back into a walk with Him whenever we lose our way. Sometimes when times are really good, I forget to acknowledge that all good things come from Him, not just from my efforts. And, sometimes, when terrible pain or loss occurs, the mental and physical and spiritual exhaustion has left me floundering, trying to regain my footing on the solid foundation of faith that this life requires.

For some reason, God has given me stories in my head and heart. Stories that speak to the real problems that everyday people experience. Stories that speak to the only real solution to those problems, a return to faith. But the struggle to be traditionally published, to market the work already done, and to have the resources to continue this journey often gets me down.

A couple of the devotions I read during my early morning quiet times recently spoke to me in a special way. One spoke to the issue of being a “recovering” perfectionist. I qualify. So often I am stalled by the search for perfection, when I just need to be writing and doing. I’m working on that. My house is not as clean as I kept it 20 years ago. I can say “no” when asked to do something that I just don’t have time for. I don’t struggle with my appearance like I did when I was younger.

The other was titled “The Day I Stopped Believing.” It spoke of a time that the author had experienced terrible life struggles and began feeling that, although God answered prayer for other people, He just didn’t hear or heed hers. I haven’t stopped believing in prayer or in good things happening. But the patience to wait for God’s timing is wearing thin. My dad told me many times that I needed to “learn patience.” I’m not there, yet, Daddy.

For those who have read all the way to the end of these ramblings, thank you! For me, it is easier to write than talk it out. Maybe a reader or two can relate to my struggles. Hang in there. As my boss says, “Tie a knot and hang on!”

 

 

 

 

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?…..

flighty nurse.eml

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.