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Gratitude Day by Day

A couple of weeks ago, a friend suggested keeping a gratitude journal. After I wrote entries for several days, I wished I’d started at the beginning of the year. So I decided to go back to January and hit the highlights:
*We had a New Year’s Day lunch with family.
*I saw Once with Anna.
*We had several beautiful snows.

*I attended a BSF retreat in Florida.
*Karen started cleaning the downstairs for me.
*We attended a classical music night at Meredith College.
*Lane passed his methacholene challenge!

*I traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with my literary agent, Jim Hart, and connected with dear, old friends, Nancy, Emily, Jill, and Colleen.
*We attended Parent/Plebe Weekend with Quinn at West Point, and I wore a designer gown created especially for me by Anna!

*Kevin and I traveled to London to visit Hattie! We met her delightful host family and spent a wonderful week in England.

*Lane finished his first year at UNC.
*Hattie came home from London.
*Quinn enjoyed a long weekend at home.
*I began writing my third book.

*We enjoyed seeing friends at Deer Valley.
*We hosted a beautiful wedding at our pond.
*I rode in a helicopter.
*Summer Story Time began to great success.
*We hosted the Thompson family reunion.

*The history committee for Princeton Baptist Church’s 125th celebration began planning.
*I interviewed Sheriff Steve Bizzell and Deputy Charlotte Fournier.
*Quinn came home a day early.
*I signed my first book contract for Mars…With Venus Rising.
*Amy and Jake Paterline visited—just like old times on Woodhill Drive.
*Lane read A Prayer for Owen Meany and laughed out loud from his perch on the couch.

*I signed a book contract for Irish Encounter.
*I enjoyed a birthday breakfast with family, including my parents.
*Kevin and I enjoyed a delicious 26th anniversary supper at The Chef and The Farmer with Anna and Hattie.
*We celebrated Aunt Janice’s 80th birthday with the family.

*I attended the Writers’ Police Academy and learned how sheltered a life I lead.
*Princeton Baptist Church celebrated 125 years of serving God.
*I attended the American Christian Writers’ Conference and met more great people.

Now I’m caught up to October when I began writing the gratitude journal every day. I hit the high spots for the previous nine months which sort of short changed the way God provided daily gifts throughout this year, so I’m glad for the chance to remember all the sweet ways God touches my life many, many times every single day.


Uniform Gratitude

Last weekend, I participated in the Writers’ Police Academy in Jamestown, NC. What a great experience. Some lucky people won lotteries to shoot guns, breach buildings, visit the jail, and participate in ride alongs with police or EMS.

We witnessed a re-enactment of a wreck with multiple injuries and fatalities, observing the different teams doing their jobs—EMS, fire and rescue, deputies. We learned about crime scene evidence collection, the psychology of cops, and even romances behind the badge, too.

Instructors were real live law enforcement officers, some still active, others retired from police, sheriff’s departments, ATF, FBI, and the Secret Service.

We met a deep undercover cop who managed to survive two years and two months inside one of the most violent motorcycle gains in the United States. He survived and helped convict many of the gang members, but his close-knit family relationships did not.

All the instructors had one characteristic in common, the desire to help, serve, and protect. That desire to help extended to the writing field with their enthusiasm to help civilians understand and write about their world.

My most important take away from this weekend is that I’ve lived a very sheltered life. Although I watch some cop programs and movies, I’m really naive about the dark underbelly of life that exists right alongside my church attending, community volunteering, Polly Anna life.

I bebop through my daily to-do list writing on my computer, buying groceries, returning books to the library–enjoying my life, not thinking about the people who put their life on the line every day to protect that naivety.

To all the sheriffs’ deputies, police officers, state troopers, FBI agents, EMT workers, and fire fighters: Thank you for doing what you do.

Thank you for keeping us safe


With spring breaks, March Madness, weekend guests, and traveling, March has sped by for me with a lot of thinking about blogging but not much writing. This post might be considered cheating, but I need another post before April starts. I’m sharing some daily quotations I emailed to my family over the past few weeks.

These are some of the most popular.

1. “Many people are unable to prepare for the future because they’re too busy reliving the past.” Nido R. Qubein

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell in the past.
See, I am doing a new thing.” Isaiah 43:18-19

2. “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” Albert Einstein

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

3. “If failure is not an option, then neither is success.” Seth Godin

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my sesrvant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

4. “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” William James

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

5. “The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.” Walt Disney

“All hard work leads to a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23

6. “The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Abraham Lincoln

“…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

7. “Putting things off has selfom been associated with winning. A lot of people wait for things to happen. Achievers in the game of life make things happen.” Nido R. Qubein

Thomas Jefferson said, “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,
not for men.” Colossians 3:23

Sometimes the quotation and verse seem to fit seamlessly together. Other times, I can’t think of a verse that matches, so I send one of my favorites. No matter what, God’s Word always triumphs and trumps the wordly version.

What’s your favorite quotation or verse?

Remembering August

This morning we’re socked in with fog as thick as potato soup. I can’t even see the trees across the driveway. This is what August is–heavy wet mornings that give way to sunny, hot afternoons.

For several summers beginning with my twelfth or thirteenth year, I barned tobacco and grew my bank account. I worked on two different kinds of harvester. The first kind bridged the gap between the old timey stringing the tobacco on stick under the shelter of a tobacco barn and stringing the tobacco on sticks on a moving harvester. I strung the leaves in this operation.

The other kind was a two-story machine with croppers breaking off the leaves of the stalks on the bottom level and sending them by way of a vertical conveyor belt to a basket that collected the leaves on the top level. I cropped the leaves on this operation.

The leaves in August, dripping with thick fog and dew, drenched gloves and sleeves and pants and shoes before we made it half way down the row. By mid-morning and the time for a Mountain Dew or Pepsi and a pack of orange crackers that we called Nabs, our fingers would be shriveled just like we’d been swimming for the past three hours.

Now, when my window shows me mornings draped with heavy moisture, I can’t help but remember those long ago mornings in the tobacco fields. I’m grateful for the time I had there with the people who accompanied me and the lessons I learned about hard work. I’m grateful also that I get to sit at a typewriter and watch the fog and remember.

Journaling a Childhood

Preserving memories is important, but I’m not a scrapbooker. Most of our pictures wait for my attention in a box, an archivally sound box but a box nonetheless. Our traditional baby books contain more blanks than milestones. One thing I did do to record precious moments from my children’s lives, however, is keep a journal for each one of them.

The idea isn’t original to me. A sitcom mom in a TV program I watched years before I met my future husband inspired me to journal memories for my future children.

Six months after Anna was born, when she finally napped on a regular schedule, I opened a blank book with a rose on the front cover and wrote as much as I could before her big brown eyes blinked the end of naptime.

I never wrote every day. Sometimes I managed once a month. Later, when she acquired three siblings and soccer, dance, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and church groups filled our days and nights, I might write only once a year during our vacation, writing from notes that filled in spotty memory gaps.

I wrote the journals directly to the owner of the book as if I were having a conversation. “You can say, ‘Mama’, ‘Dada’, ‘off’, ‘eye’, ‘mine,’ and ‘no’” You’re so excited to go to pre-school.” “Woo hooooo! New driver in the house! Good job!”

I tried to cover major events like birthdays, holidays, and soccer goals, but it was important to me to get in everyday normal happenings also. “Your sense of humor is continuing to develop. You walk by and jab me in the side to make me jump.” “You had a tough school year, but you made it through with much, much prayer. Mrs. Xxxx might be happier in a different profession, but we are finished with her and happy to be so.”

 Writing these journals gave me great joy. I loved putting my take on what was happening in their lives and making sure they knew how much I adored them and treasured being their mother. Encouraging words were also an important theme like, “God has something special for you whenever He denies your request”—a paraphrase from my current Bible study for Lane’s most recent entry.

I have just a few months left to keep the last of the journals because Lane and Quinn are high school seniors this year. So, like I did with their sisters, I’ll finish my entries and leave them as gifts when we move the boys into their college dorms.

Maybe then I can be more faithful to my own journal…, but it probaaly won’t be as much fun.