Dear Reader, What do you do with the unexpected?

IMG_7413Saturday morning I was moseying along when something jostled me, and my daily cup of morning coffee sloshed over the back of my hand.

I tried to hold on and salvage it–I mean, it was my COFFEE! My friend! My muse! My EVERYTHING!–before finally letting the cup drop to the ground.

But the damage was done. That coffee was hot. So hot, it melted off a full layer of skin without even bothering to blister it first.

And now I’m sidelined.

I can’t do anything with my hand that involves dirt or water, including gardening and the dishes (***wink, wink, dear husband!***). I’m feeling a bit like The Fugitive in my own home. Although laundry, unfortunately, can be done quite well with one arm.  Otherwise, it turns out that there’s a lot of daily activities that involve dirt and water. And even more in my work as a nurse.

Oh, it’ll heal in a week or two, but in the meantime, it’s annoying. In short…

…it’s throwing off my groove.

Has something like that ever happened to you? Something unexpected that forces you to slow down? To pause? To take a deep breath and be still?

Last evening, I wanted to spread mulch and pull weeds and get stuff done, but I couldn’t.

So I sat on our patio swing.

I took a deep breath.

Before long, my dog was swinging with me.

Then one son.

Then another.

The sun fell below the trees and the paper lamps began to glow. We lit a few torches to keep the mosquitoes away. I noticed lightning bugs. I heard the long, rhythmed sigh of cicadas. And I remembered:

It is good to be still.

Especially with the ones I love.

With all the busy-ness of back-to-school and life in general, finding time to savor the here-and-now feels counterculture. Unnerving. Weird.

But oh the peace of realizing not everything has to happen right. this. very. minute!

If I’ve learned anything about writing novels, it’s that the story will get written in its time. I struggled for a long time feeling like my words had to be perfect when I turn them in to my editors. Not that I want to give them crap, of course. But you see, I’ve been amazed time and time again as my manuscripts go through the editing process how–just when I think I’m either done or at my wit’s end–precisely the perfect anecdote or bit of factual setting information or visual that I need to make a section of the story shine “lands in my lap” at the very last minute. This even happened with the stone which appears on the cover of Then Sings My Soul.

These small gifts of thoughts and phrases happen in unforced spaces and unpredictable moments.

In the grace of the empty.

In the elusiveness of now.

Sometimes the predicaments we find ourselves in are precisely the quenching solutions God offers for places within us we haven’t even realized are parched.

Speaking of parched, here’s my injured hand and my ICE COLD DIET DR. PEPPER. It’s a poor substitute for my morning mud, but I’m still a little panicky over the thought of holding a hot cup of joe, so it’ll have to do… 

***  ***


What do you do with the unexpected, Dear Reader?

If you’ve been forced to the sidelines or to be still, what have you learned there?


Dear Reader is a series I post on every week. If you’re a reader and have an idea or question you’d like me to write about, relating to books or writing or editing, etc., jot me a note and I’d be much obliged to take a stab at your request. Also, if you’d like to read all the Dear Reader posts, click here. If you like insider information into my books or writing life, be sure to sign up for my author newsletter by clicking here.

Why does God seem farthest when we need Him most?

Good question. 

I don’t have a good answer. 

In the throws of depression, grief, tragedy, I’ve often asked for prayers and felt unable to pray for myself.

But…maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Maybe when He feels farthest we need to look closer.

Maybe God is near, but not in the ways we suspect. Not in a loud voice or a burning bush. Not in an earthquake or a storm, but rather…

…in the prayer of a friend who cries out for you.

…in the steady fall of rain on a spring garden.

…in the memory of someone who believed in you years ago.

…in the taste of warm soup on a cold winter day.

…in the curl of a dog’s wagging tail when you get home in the evening.

What about you?

What are some of the still, small ways God is with you that maybe you haven’t looked close enough to see? 


In my new novel, Then Sings My Soul, the main characters (Jakob and Nel) are asking the same question. What they find  you. Read their story and how they find hope. Available wherever your favorite books are sold.


Peace and plenty are not the rule or the right

“. . . there in that pleasant corner of the world they plied their well-ordered business of living,
and they heeded less and less the world outside where dark things moved,
until they came to think that peace and plenty were the rule in Middle-earth
and the right of all sensible folk.
They forgot or ignored what little they had ever known of the Guardians,
and of the labourers of those that made possible the long peace of the Shire.
They were, in fact,
but they had ceased to remember it.”

The Fellowship of the Ring
J.R.R. Tolkien


The times they are a-changin’.

So maybe that was the mantra forty years ago.

But it sure feels that way again today.

From the two police officers were shot and killed in the line of duty in Indiana yesterday, to the deserts overseas where our young men and women bled and died to keep peace but which are falling once again to terrorists, to our own backyards where choosing a craft store for my sons’ 4H project feels more like a political statement than…well…a trip to the craft store…

The times they are a-changin’.

And sometimes I don’t feel like I see any good.

That is, until I’m still.

And I listen.

And peace comes in a


in the eyes of my

smiling son

in the


of my 102-year-old patient’s long gray hair

in the thunder rolling across corn fields

green and thriving

in this long overdue damp, cool summer

in the

sun dappled

by the locust tree leaves pouring through my living room window in the evening

in the

whoops and hollers

of teenagers leaving by the bus full for Young Life Camp

Yes, the times they are a-changing.

Which means we just need to


for the good


all the harder for the faith


drop to our knees

faster and than ever.

And the peace we find there–He promises it’s there–hunched and bent before the Lord will be all the sweeter.


But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced…

I Timothy 6:12 (TMV)