On writing and the shofar

Friday night at 11:50 pm I submitted the re-written manuscript for my fourth novel to my editors.

The deadline was midnight.

I’ve probably said it ad nauseum, but writing is hard for me.

Each of my novels have required partial or near-complete rewrites, and this one was no exception. Though exhausting, I welcome the process because editors are phenomenal people who have the talent and expertise required to pull the heart out of a story. They can also see structural problems I often can’t see because I’m so close to the work. Thankfully, my editors are tough enough to be tough with me and gracious enough to allow me to make these changes.

Part of the reason writing is hard for me, especially right now, is because of life change. We just sent our oldest son to college. Our second son is a high school senior. And our youngest is not far behind. Launching these precious babies is rocking. my. world. My already attention-challenged brain has had a really tough time concentrating enough to get to the heart of my characters and myself.

I think another reason writing is hard for me is because I don’t  write genre-based fiction, so each of my novels is very different with a completely unique plot and structure. I write transformative fiction, and no one is more transformed by the Lord as I am as I write.

Each of my novels is inspired by a heart question. In How Sweet the Sound, I wanted to know what healing looks like in the survivor of incest. In Then Sings My Soul, I wanted to know what faith looks like in someone who has had every reason to feel abandoned by God. And in Lead Me Home, I wanted to know where simple faith and simple folks fit in our current climate of overdone, progressive religion.

In this fourth novel, I started researching the scriptures and commentaries about the story of baby Moses, and I wanted to know how the Lord redeems broken motherhood for birth moms, adoptive moms, moms who’ve struggled with infertility, and moms in general.

In short, I’ve spent the last 18 months scooping my heart out with a spoon. 

Interestingly, October 2-4 is the Jewish holiday called Rosh Hashanah. It is their traditional new year, a time to celebrate the harvest, a time to proclaim the majesty and judgment throne of God, and a time to celebrate his compassion. During the holiday, horns called shofar’s are blown, which in Biblical days indicated the start of a trial, a cross-examination of the heart, so-to-speak. Shofar’s are made out of the horns of a kosher animal, and the marrow of the horn has been removed to hollow it out. They are mentioned many times in the Old Testament, for warning (Ezekiel 33:1-6), to proclaim victory (Joshua 6:2-16), to proclaim the Lord’s majesty and worship (Zechariah 9:14; Isaiah 27:130), and more.

I feel like when I write, the Lord transforms my heart into a shofar, of sorts. I empty my mind and heart of the broken and gut-wrenching things I’ve seen and sometimes experienced in the world, and I try to make sense of them. I ask myself hard questions about how I respond and how the world responds to these situations, right or wrong. I try to create characters who wrestle with why bad things happen, and how they can find hope in the midst of them. Then I try to build a story that ultimately proclaims that brokenness can be redeemed.

Like the writing of a novel, autumn is a great time for all of us to examine our hearts before the Lord. Farmers all around where I live in central Indiana are preparing to harvest their crops, maneuvering their combines across the rolling fields to separate the grain from the chaff, and filling storage bins full of golden, nourishing corn.

Lamentations 3:40 (MSG) says,

“Let’s take a good look at the way we’re living and reorder our lives under God. Let’s lift our hearts and hands at one and the same time, praying to God in heaven…”
Like writing, living honestly and fully isn’t ever easy. We risk a lot when we go deep, ask hard questions, and talk about difficult, even taboo topics. But like Eudora Welty said, “No art ever came out of not risking your neck.”

Since finishing this manuscript, I’m a little afraid of what questions I’ll be asking for my next novel. But I know in the end, my questions will be answered with grace and compassion, and most of all, redemption.

So, dear reader, how does the Lord work to transform you? And what  parts of your heart do you need to examine today?

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:3-5 (MSG)

Home Sweet Farmhouse Home: Collections

Home is where the heart is.

That’s for sure.

I don’t know about you, but especially during these times of social uncertainty and unrest, I am finding a particular comfort in my home.

While my other Home Sweet Farmhouse Home posts have focused on projects, I wanted to write a little bit about collections. The sort of collections that make a home…well…home.

Luke 2:19 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible, and especially since becoming a mother:

“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

So much love, so many memories were happening all around Mary when Jesus was born. She didn’t have a Creative Memories scrapbook consultant (I was one back in the 90’s!) down the street to help her save all the memorabilia, or a smart phone to document the visitors and events in real-time. So she pondered, cherished, and held the memories close in her heart. I’d be willing to bet she pocketed perhaps a smooth stone, a swatch of fabric from baby Jesus’ swaddling clothes, a snippet of wool from the sheep they shared the cave with.

Similarly, here are a few ways I’ve collected “memories on display,” if you will, in our home, visual reminders of travels and places and people we cherish:



I love farms.

I love barns.

My ancestors were farmers, and several of my cousins still are today. Indeed, if you’ve read Lead Me Home then you know that my dairy-farming cousins were the inspiration behind this novel.

No wonder I collect paintings of barns.

These paintings in particular, belonged to a friend’s mother, so not only do they remind me of my heritage, they remind me of the special place from which they came as well.




One of my dear friends, Sharon, painted this barn (below).

Isn’t it gorgeous?

You really should check out her work here. She’s pretty amazing.

All of my barn and farm paintings are in my dining room.

That’s one thing I’ve learned about decorating with collections: grouping things makes them stand out.




Like these pretty glass jars.

I don’t have a particular memory associated with them, but I like them.




Same thing with these vintage tablecloths.

Some of them belonged to my grandmother.

Others I’ve just collected over the years.

Putting them together in a little antique wire basket makes them look neat and special.




I have two of these chicken egg crates, and I use them for books on my bookshelves.




These rocks belonged to my grandfather, who was a hobby lapidarist. He cut and polished these himself.

He was also the inspiration behind my novel, Then Sings My Soul.

Keeping these beauties in a cigar box in the basement wasn’t doing them any good.

Now they are front-and-center on my mantle in a bowl I found at Goodwill.

I smile and remember Grandpa’s glee at showing us a new stone he’d been working on each time I walk by these.



Sea shells!

Who doesn’t have a few of these around from a trip to the beach?

We love our trips to the beach. The vase of cotton sprigs and these shells, all together in a cake stand, remind me of steamy southern nights on the Alabama gulf coast.

No wonder I was inspired to set my first novel, How Sweet the Sound, in southeast Alabama.



This painting also belonged to my grandpa, the lapidarist. He spent a lot of time on Lake Michigan, and I am sure he liked having this in his home to remind him of the lakeshore when he couldn’t be there.

This also inspired me to set Then Sings My Soul in South Haven, Michigan.



The glass lamps have beach pebbles and pieces of driftwood in them that my family and I collected during our own trip to South Haven, Michigan.



I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of the ways I’ve used collections in my home sweet home.

What do you collect?

How have you used collections in your home?

May the Lord bless your home and the precious memories you ponder today and always.


So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self  is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)

What’s milk got to do with it? Farm tour and contest

A lot of folks are curious about where an author gets book ideas.

You don’t have to look far to figure out where inspiration came from for my third novel, Lead Me Home.

My cousins have a dairy farm about five miles from where we live. It’s been a place of intrigue and beauty, respite and fascination of mine for decades, and they were gracious enough to indulge my curiosity during the times I needed to do research for this book. 

This week, in celebration of the novel AND the fact that it is  National Dairy Month, I thought I’d share some of my inspiration AND A BOOK GIVEAWAY with you, dear readers.

***To enter the giveaway, leave a comment AND share this post on Twitter or Facebook, making sure to include the hashtag, #LeadMeHomeNovel. A winner will be chosen at random from those who post and share on Friday evening, June 17.****

While you’re at it, be sure to read the gracious review of LEAD ME HOME just published in FarmShine Magazine, the weekly dairy publication serving dairy farm families in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and beyond.

Then enjoy the rest of this post!

Hi y’all! That’s me at the Dairy  Barn at the Indiana State Fair last fall.

And here come the girls, moseying in as they do each morning and evening like clockwork for their twice-a-day milkings. They don’t have to be called in, they know the routine so well.


Occasionally they stop and stare at the obvious city girl taking pictures.

City girls can be quite annoying.


“Mooooove along now, city girl,” she says.


Linger too long and they’ll try and kiss ya.



Cow kisses.

Once they get to the barn, they mosey right up to the stanchions and wait to be milked, happy to have their burgeoning udders emptied and to have a bit of hay for a milking snack.


They really are happy to be milked.






The milk goes into the cooling tank in the next room, where it is stored until the milk tanker truck comes and takes it to the plant for processing into cheese and ice cream and YUM.

Did someone say ICE CREAM???



Once they’re done with the milking, each girl gets her teats cleaned (if you’re a real farmer you don’t giggle at this phrase). Then she eases herself out of the stanchions and finds her way back out of the barn to where a hearty grain dinner awaits.


Bellies full, the girls then take the worn path back to the pasture.


And find a patch of shade.


Meanwhile back at the barn, there’s much work to be done.


The pre-teen and teen girls need tending.


Hey girls.


And the babies need to be fed their share of milk.


I mean seriously.

Can you STAND the cuteness???

Why don’t my eyelashes naturally look like that?

Isn’t this somethin’??!

The work never ends on the dairy farm.

I’ve not even shown you the plowing and planting and cutting and baling, the sick cows and droughts and floods. I’m not even showing you the way the barn looks at 0400 and 1630 every. single. day. 24/7/365. And all the minutes in between when the cleaning and prepping and hauling and dirty, stinky, nasty parts of the job that happen every. single. day. too.

No, the work never ends on the dairy farm.

But along the way there sure are a lot of blessings.


A harvest of hope and blessings, indeed.




“Meanwhile, friends, wait patiently for the Master’s Arrival. You see farmers do this all the time, waiting for their valuable crops to mature, patiently letting the rain do its slow but sure work.”

James 5:7 (MSG)


What part of the dairy farm intrigues you the most?

What’s your favorite picture?

Can you see how there are so many parallels between a life of farming and a life of faith?

Thanks so much for joining me on this little farm tour.

Don’t forget to leave your comment here, and to post this on your Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #LeadMeHomeNovel to enter for your chance to win a LEAD ME HOME prize package!