October Story of the Month: Through the Dirt to the Son

I find myself drawn to the “pen” when I experience emotional pain. Writing a fictional story helps me to turn the pain into something that I hope will help others who may be experiencing the same. This is one of those stories. 


For Inez, clearing her mind of the ugly words was the hardest part. Prayer, verses, sweet worship with friends. Nothing seemed able to displace what Yola had said. The words hung there, accompanied by a heaviness inside that weighed down her soul.

The cup of tea didn’t bring its usual comfort; the flavor only reminded her of a better day.

Sweeping, rinsing, folding, scrubbing. The pain outlasted it all.

Then, through the window, she noticed the trees swaying in the breeze, like a dance of hallelujahs. “Sweater weather. Finally. Glad summer is over.” She felt her cat rub against her legs. “Come on. Let’s get outside.”

She stepped out to her backyard. The fountain soothed with its liquid sound while a lone cloud sat in the blanket of blue. Inez loved her backyard with its plentiful garden — a place of rewarding work, leisure, and talking with God.

She bent down to sift the soil through her fingers, imagining the activity below that would soon come to a halt for the winter. She loved the fall season. The shorter, cooler days meant soups and baked bread, leaves to collect for mulch, early turn-ins, and cozy nights of reading or chatting on the phone. Winter — not so much. Though she knew that the cold and darkness were necessary for growth, she only tolerated the season. Thin, leafless trees made her shiver. God certainly knew what He was doing, she often thought, when He created the seasons. In her eyes, she saw a clear picture of His redemption story.

“Yes. Come, Spring. Luz y vida,” she whispered.

The apples were ripe on the tree, so she picked one to go along with her peanut butter and honey sandwich. Glancing at her phone, she let the caller go to voicemail. Leticia meant well, but another conversation — gossip, if they would be honest with each other — was a sure way to make the matter worse.

She spread a cloth over the garden table and sat down. Sounds of dogs and neighborly noise were pleasant. She thanked God for her meal, tore a piece from the bread, and lifted it to the sky. “Lord, I’m handing it over to You.” She tossed the bread to the cat and smiled at his enjoyment.

And she prayed.

The pain, for a time, was gone.


That evening, Inez reached for her journal and wrote, “Heavy heart? Well, this too shall pass. A seed has to travel through the muck and mire. If I must do the same, I’ll push my way through the dirt while I reach for the Son.”

She picked up her phone and tapped in the number.

“Hey, Yola. It’s Inez.” She fought back the tears. “Can we talk?”

And she began to make her way.

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. (2 Corinthians 13:11)

Creative Cooking in Lean Times

The cool evenings of fall always bring out my desire for lingering in the kitchen, after a summer of quickly-prepped meals to avoid the heat. Recently, I decided to have spaghetti, and as I cooked up a batch for dinner, memories of my mother and her creative cooking came to mind.

Creative, not in how she cooked, but how she stretched what she cooked.

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InSight

I sensed that I wasn’t the only one with my gaze directed toward her. She was not easy to ignore.

A young woman — beautiful face, clothes casual and colorful, long hair swinging as she made her way to the corner. She carried a loaded backpack, but its weight didn’t affect her happy gait. A man passed by her with a lingering look that might have caused discomfort for others.

But not this woman.

She was all confidence, with a smile that told a story of grace.

The light was red in my direction at one of the busiest intersections in town. Five o’clock traffic. I watched as she approached the corner and heard myself say, “Careful. Be careful.”

She was a few steps from the curb, and she wasn’t slowing down.

Then, with perfect timing, she stopped, turned, and flipped her cane against the traffic pole. She stretched out her arm and found the crosswalk button.

And she waited.

I wondered what thoughts others had as they observed the young woman for those moments at that bustling intersection. Did any of them:

  • decide to put aside their bad moods; 
  • make a mental note to count their blessings; 
  • vow to volunteer at Braille Institute; 
  • change their minds about holding a grudge;
  • memorize kind words to say to their spouse and kids when they got home;

Or, like me, were they reminded to be thankful for the ability to see?

As I watched her listening to the tap of her cane, using her senses to get where she needed to go, dealing with life without one blessed gift — what a contrast, I thought. What a contrast to the way I often handle difficulties in my life. Complaints and pitiful musing. Woe is me.

But there was a living example before me.

Continue with that steady walk forward, step by step, along the path that is right. Listen well. Be confident that God, my trustworthy Walking Cane, will lead the way. He will be with me as I walk through the dark valleys. Thoughts like these came to mind as I watched a remarkable young woman on her journey.

The light turned red, and I continued home, taking a last glance at her as I drove by.

Before I entered the house, I looked up. The clouds were fantastic against the orange, blue, and purple of the coming evening, washed in the colors of the sunset.

I can see.

I hurried inside, grabbed my camera, and took my opportunity to capture the gift.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

September Story of the Month: Telling Stories

During my childhood, it got to the point where my sweet relationship with my mother was broken due to her bad choices. I never stopped loving her, but, unfortunately, things with us were never again the same. She died 22 years ago, shortly after her 68th birthday (September 20). Questions I had for her were never answered. Apologies I craved from her were never received. 

How did I deal with that loss? Terribly, at first. Talk about bad choices! I tried to replace that hole in my heart with a variety of temporal and unhealthy solutions. It wasn’t until my heart was filled with the love of God, through my faith in Jesus Christ, that I stopped focusing on my personal loss and started thinking about Mom and all she had experienced. I forgave her. I began to write stories fueled by my imagination, hope, newfound knowledge, remembrance of the good times, and a desire to keep God’s commandment to honor my mother.

Like this one. I imagined Mom in her current state of eternal life with God, listening to others tell their stories — theologically incorrect, I’m sure, but that was not my goal here.

This was: To hear her give to me the apology that I never received.

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A Dream: Indestructible

Most of the time my dreams are made up of disconnected scenes that don’t make sense and weird, sometimes scary, situations. I usually wake up and (1) am thankful that it was just a dream, and (2) wonder about those people in my dream whom I’ve never met. Fascinating. This dream “stars” my brother and me, and is another quirky one. This time, though, most of it had a meaning that was clear and wonderful to me.


The car would not start, and they were in the middle of a street that was full of men and women walking in all directions.

He tried again, but he only heard the click-click sound. So they stepped out.

People grabbed at them, saying, “I’m ready” and “Take me.”

Then, they were at her home. The sky was gray. So was the house and their skin.

They walked through the gate and saw bundles of branches on the ground. The bundles covered the lawn, all stacked three-high, neat and twined.

A path, cut deep and wide and colored black, led them to the side yard where the lavender flowers grew. She lingered there while he moved ahead.

He stopped. “Lightning!” He turned to look at her.

She went to his side and saw it, too. There, where the path ended.

The tree.

Its trunk had burst. The remaining branches were daggers, ugly and short, with splintered bark. The fruit that remained were scorched in shades of brown — except for one, untouched, a bright yellow.

“When did it happen?”

“Don’t know. It rained yesterday.”

“Did you hear it?”

“No.”

Then, a rustling sound.

They saw a book. It was thrust through from the back to the front by a branch of the tree. Its pages fluttered with a strong wind but did not tear.

They moved close to the book. It held strong on the branch, despite the wind and the wound.

Holy Bible, the cover read.

They stared at the book as it hung there. They did not speak.

Then, they walked on, past the book, past the broken tree, and into the street where the people called their names.

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

Image from augustachronicle.com. Rare bibles on display at the Christian Heritage Museum in Maryland.

Hymn: How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life flows on in endless song;

Above earth’s lamentation,

I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn

That hails a new creation

Through all the tumult and the strife,

I hear that music ringing

It finds an echo in my soul

How can I keep from singing?


What though my joys and comforts die?

I know my Savior liveth

What though the darkness gather round?

Songs in the night he giveth

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that refuge clinging

Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth

How can I keep from singing?


I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin

I see the blue above it

And day by day this pathway smooths,

Since first I learned to love it,

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart

A fountain ever springing

All things are mine since I am his

How can I keep from singing?


Such beautiful words, and all so true in my experience. As far as I can tell, no historian has found the original author of these words, but Robert Wadsworth Lowry put them to music in 1869. You can hear Kristen Getty sing this hymn in her lovely way by clicking here.

Think of the Butterfly

Written for a friend in despair


It is amazing to me,

a wondrous endeavor.

Think of the butterfly:

Its plain beginnings,

its ragged shell,

its captured wings.

Has it gone unheard?

The lilies and the sparrows know:

He cares with a cupped hand.

He stoops down with a lift

as sure as the first Day.

He was, He is,

He will.

And so,

my love,

live your struggle while fixed to Him,

a holy silk.

And emerge,

this time,

ready

to fly.

Matthew 6:25-34

A Seed in the Hand of God

Throughout Spring 2020, I was too concerned about COVID and my health to walk into the local gardening center. I ached for the day when I could roam the crowded and too narrow aisles once more. Never again would I complain about the long lines. And when I finally did go in for my Spring shopping spree a few months ago, I didn’t have a single thought of discontent. Though no one could tell, I was smiling behind my mask as I swiped my card through the machine because I purchased more items than were on my list, as usual.

Gardening is my special pleasure.

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May Story of the Month: A Mother’s Day

The United States celebrates Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. That’s this weekend, and it’s a perfect theme for this month’s Story of the Month.

While researching the Great Depression (1929-1940) for one of my stories, I found this photo and it is an amazing one. The joy this woman shows, despite her poverty, is the perfect picture of motherly love.

Inspired by the photo, I imagined myself sitting with this woman to learn about her typical day.

Cotton picker with her baby, Maricopa County, Arizona, November 1940. Photo by Dorothea Lange
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