Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Par-tay!

"An original writer is not one who imitates nobody, but one whom nobody can imitate." ~ Francois Rene Chateaubriand

Last Friday my friends and family surprised me with a celebration for me and my books, and it was such a fun party, filled with such beautiful elements, that I just have to share. =)

My day had been dedicated to cleaning. I pulled on a shirt I'd just found shoved between two others in my closet, which I'd been looking for for months--the one my best friend sent me for my birthday a year and a half ago, that says "Reading Is Sexy." Oh yeah, that's me. LOL. Then I got down to business. I dusted. I straightened. I swept. I scrubbed. All with the knowledge that doing so would make my sciatica shoot pain all through my back and hips that night. It always, always does. See, this is why I don't clean! ;-)

"Imagination and fiction make up more than three-quarters of our real life." ~ Simone Weil

As David was headed out to run an errand, he paused at the door to say, "Hey, think about if you'd like to go to dinner tonight or something. I could use a good dinner and a nice glass of wine."

Me, giving him The Look. "Honey, do I ever pass up going out to dinner?"

David: "Well, think about where you'd like to go. Someplace where we can sit back and relax."

Which meant not fast-food--got it. I got back to work, scrubbing etc. And luckily started to get a headache in late afternoon, which prompted me to take some ibuprofen--something I otherwise never think to do for other pain, though I'm pretty sure that's what saved me from hobbling around all evening going, "Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow."

"The creative person is flexible--he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are." ~ Frank Goble

Round about 5, I started looking at the clock. David was on the phone (not an unusual occurrence) but he hadn't mentioned anything else about dinner. Did I need to cook? I assumed not. I'm good at that assumption. ;-) Eventually he came up to shower. Xoe asked if I'd put Egyptian eyes on her with my eyeliner--sure, why not!--so I slapped some makeup on myself as well and said, "I guess I should change out of my t-shirt." Though I didn't. Not until David was headed back downstairs to "take care of a few more things" (insert my stomach going "No! Grrrrrooooowwwwwllllll.") and said, "Are you ready? I thought you were going to change. Maybe Mommy could match Xoe."

Xoe liked that idea and pulled me up the stairs to try to match her cute little shirt and skirt. I obligingly changed, then was informed that my mother-in-law thought she left her wallet at the church earlier, so we had to stop over and check before we went to dinner. (Church being two minutes from our house.) Okay. Nothing unusual there, LOL. So we headed to the church.

"None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

And I saw the cars. Which made me think, "Hmm, the 4-H club must be doing something. But their night is Thursday, not Friday. I wonder what . . . is that Mom and Dad's car? What in the world are they doing here?" Then the car in front of us pulled in and proved to be my neighbors growing up. I sent David another Look and said, "What's going on?"

David said, "I don't know. Go in and see."

Riiiiiiiight. That's when I knew what was happening. Still, I was shocked beyond shocked when I opened the door and saw two of my out-of-town friends there with their kids!

All around the room, in addition to the amazing friends and family who had come to celebrate with me, including my high school cross-country coach, those out-of-towners, and several others who had cheered me on all my life but I rarely see anymore, were decorations that proved how well my mom and sister knew me. My sister's school had donated some books that were in terrible shape and so could be cut up, so decorations were all made from or around book pages.

"A great book should leave you with many experiences and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it." ~ William Styron

There were pages cut into leaf-shapes all over, sometimes attached to brown-paper trees, or to my mom's cute little twig arrangement, and also scattered on the tables. (And yes, I'm such a dork that I sat there eating and trying to figure out which book they might have come from by reading the 4-words I could see per line, LOL.) And of course, the calla lily arrangement. =)

My sister had also found a bunch of quotes on books/writers that she'd printed and matted and put on the walls. (Those would be the things I'm quoting here.) So awesome! Even the cakes were books!

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." ~ Rudyard Kipling

It was a fabulous party, and I had such a great time hanging out with my friends and family and being amazed that they had all gone to such trouble for me. So a huge, big thanks to everyone who came. The hugest, biggest thanks to Mom and Jen for planning such a perfect-for-me party. And for all my writers friends, take notes on those decorations!! They so make the perfect book party! =)

"These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves." ~ Gilbert Highet
I had a few moments of surreal euphoria when I looked around and saw my book covers, my books, my titles on the walls. Was this real? Did I really have that many books on or destined for the shelves? Hard to believe. And while I'm certainly not famous or best-selling or anything like that, I'm living my dream. And that is just a blessing beyond what any words can ever express.

"Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Remember When . . . We Were on a Hero Hunt?

Two weeks ago I featured my lovely new heroine, Gwyneth Fairchild. So this week, I figured it would be fun to do the same to her eventual heart-throb, Thaddeus (Thad) Lane.

Now, I haven't yet found a perfect image for Thad, so feel free to help me out there! If you think of an actor or painting or something that just screams "There he is!" please pass along a link! I'll post a few possibles, but I'm not sold on any of them yet.

Thaddeus Lane was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the third child but first son to the hero and heroine from Ring of Secrets. With a chemist/philosopher for a father and a former-spy for a mother, one may have expected that Thad would follow the rest of his family (including his sisters) into the world of intellectualism. But instead, Thad seized upon the intrigue and followed it into adventure.

In the years leading up to the War of 1812, there was opportunity aplenty for adventure on the high seas, and that's where Thad went. I picture him tall and lanky. Handsome, but in a way that makes him pleasant to look at without making women swoon right and left. He's a privateer, so picture him standing on the deck of a romantic-looking ship, ready to swash some buckles. (Or maybe buckle some swashes? LOL) ;-)

But the real key to this guy is his personality. You've probably met someone like him--he's the type that could make friends with a rock. With a wall. With men, with women, with old and young, with allies or enemies. He's the type that makes his nieces and nephews squeal with delight just by walking into a room, the type that every other privateer in the Atlantic, Caribbean, or Gulf has met and liked.

He's the kind that absolutely everyone, everyone trusts. Which of course makes him the perfect intelligencer. =)

Thad is a man with secrets abounding, but no one ever thinks it of him, because he seems so open and honest. But while all the American privateers happily send along to him any information they have on British movements on the seas, they have no idea that he's using it all to compile false information to feed back to their enemies. Who, after all, would suspect that open, honest Thad is capable of such duplicity? They know he's organizing them a bit--a born leader, that one--but no one ever suspects that he's the linchpin to American intelligence work during the war.

Thad's also a softie with a quick sense of humor (he's going to have some oh-so-fun exchanges with his socially-bumbling father) and a sense of responsibility for way more than is actually his responsibility. The first glimpse we'll get of that is the fact that he married his friend's widow several years earlier just to provide for her and her son in her final year of life. Of course, said friend comes back from his supposed-death a year after that . . . on the surface, this friend will be grateful his family was cared for when they assumed him dead. But I'm guessing there's going to be a spark or two that flames up because of it through the course of the book. =)

Now, when Gwyneth arrives on the scene, Thad's going to be a bit torn. He'll greet her with the same good humor with which he greets everything, but a daughter of a British general? Entrusted to the care of his family during the closing months of a war with England? Yeah . . . he's none too sure about this pretty, conflicted little gentlewoman.

Which is going to make it tons of fun.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Word of the Week - Balderdash

Gotta say, I love the word "balderdash." (Though I have a hard time 'hearing' the word without imagining a top-hatted English gentleman huffing it in an upper-crust accent, LOL.) And it has a long history with the English language. =)

Balderdash came into English round about the 1590s, though its origins are misty. Originally it was the name of a drink--a mixture of liquors like milk and beer or beer and wine (eww). It was in the 1670s that it got applied to a senseless jumble of words.

Looking at its parts, it appears that the "balder" is from the Danish word that means "noise, rumble" and the "dash" is from the Scandinavian word, which originally carried the meaning like in dash to pieces. It gained the "move quickly" meaning in the 1300s. So combined, you can see where "balderdash" would come to mean things combined in a noisy, careless fashion.

And of course, now it's a very fun word game. ;-)

I hope everyone has a great week!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . This Jesus Fellow

In both my personal Bible reading and what I do with Xoe for her home school, I've been immersed in the Gospels lately. And of course, it's no surprise that, being in the Lenten season, our studies at church have centered around Him too.

But the more I read, the more I reflect, the more I'm struck by certain things . . . the more I realize that I tend to focus on what He went through, what He did, how others reacted to Him. And not so much on the Son of Man himself. Which is why, I think, I'm so struck by it when an insight into His personality hits me.

In fact, that, there. Personality. Do you think of Jesus as having a personality? Strange question, I know, LOL. And maybe I ask because I'm a writer. See, in fiction, the more toward perfect a character tends, the flatter they have the potential to be. It's the flaws, the mistakes that make them real. That make them lovable. That make them personable.

So reading the Gospels as one would a story . . . well, I've had to occasionally remind myself that these aren't stories, not like what I write. And Jesus is more than just the wise mentor I might toss in as a secondary character into one of my novels. He's it. The story. The character. The goal. The conflict. The resolution. It's not outside Him like the events often are in one of my books. It's embodied by Him.

And that makes me pause and study my Lord in a new light.

A while back, when Xoe was having one of those days where she didn't want to read, I tried to lure her into her Bible story for the day by saying, "Oo, look at the picture. What do you think this one will be about?"

Rowyn, seeing Jesus in the picture, shouted, "It's Jesus! It's about how He takes care of us!"

He nailed that one, didn't he? No matter the particular story, that's what it always comes down to. That Jesus loves us. This perfect Man, the one who never made a mistake, still had to deal with the consequences of mistakes--ours. Which He did because His heart, unsoiled by any dark emotions, was always, always squeezed in compassion for us.

It's so easy to think of Jesus on the cosmic scale--the Savior of mankind. But you know, mankind is pretty darn big. The cosmos is rather, um, large. And me? I'm small. Just a woman in the immense crowd of people watching the Son of God. Back at the edge of the crowd,  maybe, unable to see the exact gleam in his eye or the way His mouth turns up in a smile.

But that's not good enough. Ever pause to think about whose stories made it into the gospels? The ones who pushed forward. The ones who said distant wasn't good enough, that curiosity wouldn't cut it. The ones who elbowed their way forward until they could look Jesus in the eye and see His love for them.

Can you see His love for you? That He didn't just create those cosmos with His hand, He stretched it out toward you and said, "Rise up. Sin no more. Follow me."?

I always remember what Jesus did--but sometimes I'm just struck dumb by who He is. And yet I can kind of understand why some people could see Him and not believe . . . because who can believe a perfect character? In fiction, the only way to make a nearly-perfect character likable is to fill them with love so huge you just can't deny it.

Yeah. Jesus kinda has that one down, doesn't He?

This Lenten season, I'm going to be spending a lot of time meditating on the person of my Lord. The personality. The character. The humanity that filled this Savior. The perfection that lifted this Man above mankind. 

And each time I know I'm going to be filled with awe. Because there's just so much He did, so much He is. And it's all for us.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Remember When . . . It Was Time for a Ring of Secrets?

As my deadline for Ring of Secrets draws near, it's obviously taking over my thoughts again. =) I'm having a lot of fun doing a final polish on the manuscript and even preparing my marketing plan and elements.

One part of said plan is having a Pinterest board for the book. Putting that together yesterday was a super-fun half hour! Hope everyone will go check it out. =) And if you're hesitant to follow that link, I'll share a few of the best pictures here.

In case you missed my post in January announcing Ring of Secrets being bought by Harvest House, here's a bit about the book:

Opening her heart could mean a noose around her neck.

Winter Reeves is a Patriot daughter forced to hide her heart amid the Loyalists of the City of New York. Though she has learned to don a mask to hide her thoughts, she has also learned to keep her ears open so she can pass information on British movements to her childhood friend and his Culper Ring. Never before has she had a problem hiding her true heart behind an image of brainless beauty. But then, never before had someone seen straight to her soul.

Bennet Lane returns to New York from his Yale professorship with one goal: to find Washington’s spy hidden among the ranks of the elite. Romance was supposed to be nothing more than a convenient cover story for his search, a way to gain entrance to the world he had so long shunned—though women are terrifying, baffling creatures that inevitably render him bumbling. But when he meets Winter, with her too-intelligent eyes under her too-blank face, he finds a mystery too intriguing to be ignored.

In a world where loyalty can be bought and sold, where no one can be trusted, and where threat dangles ever before them, Winter and Bennet must find a way through the snares of intrigue . . . before their secrets can swallow them whole.
Now for the fun! You can find the full board here:

Can you tell I'm getting excited? LOL. Happy Wednesday everyone! Oh, and if you just can't get enough of me, I'm guest-posting today on GoTeenWriters about "5 Ways to Keep an Editor from Deleting You." ;-)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Word of the Week - Schedule

Schedule. It's something we use every day. A time table we keep. An action we perform daily for things like, oh, blog posts. ;-) As both a verb and a noun, it's a word in such common use that I was shocked to discover it didn't take on that oh-so-known meaning until railroading days! That's right, the verb came into being in 1862, and the noun in 1863, both in conjunction with railroads scheduling their trains.

What was it before then, then? Well, originally it meant "a slip of paper with writing upon it." In that sense it's been around since the 14th century, taken from a Greek word. These slips of paper were often attached to a document as an appendix--think of those schedules you have to attach to your tax form (ugh, that time of year again!) and it clicks into place.

It's a fairly easy jump then to these slips of paper with writing on them that the railroads would use, but I gotta say--I'm still surprised at how long it took and how completely the word has taken on this "new" meaning, and whenever I run into a place in a historical novel where I want to use "schedule," I'm at a complete loss. One time in particular I remember floundering a good while before I decided the character should just keep a calendar rather than a schedule, LOL, and that she would just have to pencil an event onto it rather than schedule it. ;-)

I hope everyone had a lovely, green St. Patrick's Day and is set for a great week! Here in Maryland we're really enjoying the early arrival of spring. =)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Thunder in the Brain

As you can undoubtedly tell if you've read my last couple Remember When posts, I'm currently in one of my favorite places to be--brainstorming mode. I've finished one book, have all but wrapped up my edits on the one due in a few weeks. And ready to get down to business on the next ones in my schedule. You know, the ones that I either sold on a paragraph as a second book in a series or are trying to sell based on a chapter or two. The ones I don't quite know yet.

I love brainstorming. And while I try not to make this blog focus on things that will only appeal to writers, bear with me. Let's see where I can go with this. ;-)

My agent has deemed me "an idea gal," which is a really good description. And why I have dozens of unfinished manuscripts that I start just to get an idea down on paper (or screen, as the case may be) but don't have the leisure to finish at a given point. Ideas for books have always hit me at odd moments. They churn around my brain all on their own until they're full-blown and ready to be written. And oh, how I love that. That day or two of discovery as two disparate ideas click together to make a story.

But this is the first time in my life when I'm brainstorming with expectations, and I gotta say, it's a whole new feeling. In the past, it's always been me being intrigued by something, me thinking, "Hey, that would make a great book!" I've never before had to wonder if someone in particular would like it. As in, enough to have their company shell out a couple grand for it. But now this brainstorming isn't for me. It's for my editors, my publishers. Those people who said, "Hey, could you get me a proposal on this?"

This? That thing there? Hmm. Never thought about that before. Let me see what I can come up with.

The past two weeks as I've done this, I've  had to engage my brain in a whole new way. Gather specific information to me and try to find the story in it. Try to make it mine. With each of the stories I've been brainstorming (and there are three of them!), I've prayed, Lord, help me find a way to make this exciting for myself.

And He has. Oh, He has. With the first story I was working on, in sending a long, rambling email about it to my best friend and critique partner, I stumbled upon the perfect hook for myself--bringing in some characters I absolutely adore from a book I never wrote more than a chapter or two on and plopping them into my new circumstances.

I am now totally in love with this idea. Because I love, love, love those characters that have now become Elise Ashton and Nicolas Montagu. Love them! And I'm so excited for the chance to write this new story of theirs.

Then just the other day I was brainstorming my second Culper Ring book and prayed, Lord, give me a handle on who these characters are, one that will make me love them as much as Elise and Nicolas. Within minutes--minutes!--it hit me. That Gwyneth uses her art to share secrets--oh, that was just what I needed!

There are so many parts of life that don't have such easy answers. So many parts that I pray for answers about and then listen to silence. So many times I ask, Lord, please tell me what to do here but have to wait sooooooo long to get a response. Honestly, I'm there in another part of my life right now. My husband and I (I as an adviser and party of interest, though it's not really my decision) have some tough choices in our immediate future, and frankly, I have no idea what we're supposed to do. I'm praying, but the answers don't come quite so easily or surely as when I just need to craft new characters.

Part of me wonders why it works that way. Part of me thinks that there are probably those in the world who would sneer at me for focusing on a fictional world when my real one is in need of some serious attention. But the answer's obvious, and one my husband thankfully understands as well as I do--this is who I am, what I'm called to do. This is my part right now. When I think of all the years I worked and worked to get published, when I think about where I was even this time last year, wondering how I was going to get that next sale, and look at God's timing--yeah, it's pretty clear He led me to this place in my career right now because now is when we need it.

Yeah, okay, this wasn't where I expected this post to go, LOL. But I guess that's what Roseanna is thoughtful about today. I would really appreciate your prayers as my hubby and I make some big decisions in the next week.

And I'd also like to hear from you on where you feel most comfortable. When there are parts of your life just a quakin' and a shakin', when the storm's raging on one front, where do you go to find that peace? What's the thing you do that makes you feel capable and able to pull your weight? For me, it's writing, and especially coming up with new ideas. What is it for you?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Remember When . . . The Heroine Was Known?

Some of you may recall when, last April, I was noodling a new story idea and posted a few paintings for you to choose between for my Regency heroine. We decided on this oh-so-breathtaking work by Frank Dicksee, his interpretation of Miranda from The Tempest.

Well, I'm stealing her. ;-) She fits even better my image of Gwyneth Fairchild, you see, and since I know I do in fact have to write Gwyneth's story, but Arabelle's is on the "maybe someday" list . . .

So allow me to introduce Gwyneth. Born and raised in England, she has spent most of her days in fashionable Hanover Square, London. Her grandfather is a duke, her father said duke's third son, who has risen to the rank of general in the military. Bloodlines--impeccable. Dowry--sizable. Looks--beyond compare.

And so she is the perfect Regency miss. All things lovely and demure and witty, with a remarkable hand at drawing and painting to boot. At the opening of her story (the second book in my Culper Ring Series from Harvest House, which will come out in June of 2013), Gwyneth is in the midst of her first season, which was put off for a year because her mother fell gravely ill and passed away the season prior. Gwyn and her father clung to each other to get through the terrible loss of sweet Mama, and she finds some solace now in throwing herself into the social whirl that her matron had spent a lifetime preparing her for.

Which has obviously been worthwhile, for Sir Arthur Hart, Knight of the Order of St. Patrick and presumed heir to a marquessate, is surely going to propose soon.

There is only one problem. Her father, who is without doubt one of the best men in all England, who she adores and trusts implicitly, has told her she must leave. Leave London. Leave England. And go, of all places, to a country with whom they're at war. And not even France, where at least they're civilized, but to America. Maryland. To a family she met only once, when she was too young to remember.

Much as she wants to argue, especially when Sir Arthur does indeed intercept her before she can climb in her carriage and offer his hand in marriage, she can't. Because minutes later she witnesses a crime that proves her life really is in danger--and that there's nothing left for her here.

And so our little sparrow flies away, with only her pencils and paints with which to express the turmoil inside her, turmoil hidden within the paintings people would expect. And with a letter in hand meant to assure her safe delivery to Baltimore, even if she is set upon by American pirates.

Enter, of course, one dashing American privateer . . . ;-)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Word of the Week - Thank

"Thank" seems like a pretty basic word, right? It's obviously been around for a while. Say, as long as manners. ;-) Still, there's been some interesting evolution of the word!

Interestingly, "thank" and "think" share a root--"thought, gratitude" is the meaning of the word from which it's taken, which in turn is from a word that means "think, feel." Apparently this variation came about from "thoughts" moving into "good thoughts," which leads to gratitude.

Isn't that just awesome?

Of course, it had developed an ironic sense--"You can thank her for that catastrophe"--by the 1550s, and by 1703 we were thanking people for nothing.

The phrase "thank you" (short for "I thank you") is from the 1400s, and had turned into a noun (send him a thank you) by 1792.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Calming the Storm

Allow me to draw your attention to Mark 4:37-41:

37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, 
so that it was already filling.  38 But He was in the stern, 
asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, 
“Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 
“Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 
  40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you 
have no faith?”[d]  41 And they feared exceedingly, and said 
to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind 
and the sea obey Him!”

Now, I've read those words approximately a hundred times, and I'm guessing everyone else has too. And I've always gotten out of it what the disciples did--wow, did you see that? The wind and waves obey Him! This Man rules the weather!!

Which is awesome. Truly, amazingly awesome.

I've also been struck before by His rebuke of the disciples--they'd just witnessed an amazing miracle, when He fed the 5,000. But they still didn't quite get it . . . and Jesus calls them on that, on their lack of faith.

But as I was reading this section on Monday, something new hit me. 

He didn't have to do any of that. Ever pause to consider that? It wasn't His time to die. He still had a whole lot to do. There was no possible way that the storm was going to hurt that little boat with its most precious cargo, and Jesus surely knew it. He had no fear, and it wasn't just because He knew He could calm the storm--it was because He knew it wasn't a threat.

And yet.

When his friends, his disciples wake him in a panic, what's his first reaction? He calms the storm. He doesn't first try to explain it to them. He doesn't roll his eyes and go back to sleep. He calms the storm. He does that for them--not to prove He can, but because He loved them. Because He didn't want them to fear.

And, maybe, because He knows they wouldn't have heard him until that fear was gone. 

I don't know why I'm constantly amazed when I realize how far out of His way our Lord goes for us, but it hit me anew here. Jesus could have done any number of things in this situation, and no matter what He had chosen, we know the outcome would have been a safe arrival on the other side. He could have done any number of things that resulted in the disciples seeing His glory.

But He chose the one that calmed his friends. That soothed their fears. And then, then he reminded them to have faith.

Thank you, Lord, for knowing me so well. For knowing that when the storm's upon me, I can't remember the sunshine was ever there. For knowing that clutching for you is, sometimes, all I can do. Thank you, Lord, for making it all I need to do.

Because You calm the storm. And then You remind me that it was in Your hand all along.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Remember When . . . The Nation Fasted and Prayed?

With my latest book finished and simmering and edits underway on Ring of Secrets for my looming deadline, I've been dividing my time between reading/revising and developing a new idea. And oh, how much fun that is!

This new one will be set around the early-early days of the Revolution, in 1776. But as I launched into my oh-so-fun research, I discovered something in Jefferson's account of the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration.

June 1, 1774. The Boston port was scheduled to be shut down by the British in retaliation for a certain episode of tea-dumping that you may have heard of. Politics between the colonies and England were fast deteriorating--so quickly that Lord North, the Prime Minister at the time, was happy to get sneaky. He came up with a "conciliatory plan" designed to divide us against ourselves. Said, basically, "Yo, any colony that sides with us rather than you neighbors won't be taxed any more. Eh? Eh??"

But not everyone was paying attention to the events in New England. Not everyone could be bothered. Not everyone was convinced that independence was feasible, desirable, or right for the time. Not everyone was even considering it as a question to be discussed. Which, as you might guess, irritated those leading the movement.

So Jefferson and company decided to get their attention. How? By calling for a nation-wide day of fasting and prayer on June 1, 1774. "No example of such a solemnity had existed since the days of our distresses in the war of '55, since which a new generation had grown up," Jefferson writes. He figures that this will "call up & alarm their attention."

Now, knowing that Jefferson was a deist rather than a man of faith, a "moral liberal" if you will, I know well this was a manipulative move. He probably didn't really fast and pray, he just knew that demanding everyone else do it would make them go, "What? Why? What's going on? Is something wrong?"

And it worked. That's what I really love about these days of prayer called for by our leaders. They are powerful, powerful things. I've heard amazing stories about the results of the one Churchill called for in England during WWII. And of others in American history. Because as we well know, when that many people take to their knees and pound the gates of heaven with their prayers, we're in effect taking authority over the powers in our world. 

I had no idea until I read Jefferson's account that such a day happened back in 1774, a year before the first shots at Lexington and Concord, two years before the signing of the Declaration. But that really does mark the time when people all through the colonies began to realize that something loomed on the horizon. 

Naturally, I had to toss in a prologue to  my new book . . . and naturally, it's on June 1, 1774. ;-) This historic day of fasting and prayer only gets a passing mention, but I thought it a perfect day to begin my story. A day when no one would wonder why my heroine went off into the woods by herself to pray. When no one would think it odd that she wanted to be alone. When no one would suspect her many secrets . . . ;-)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Word of the Week - Figure

What a striking figure. No, not that lady over there, the one I figured out for the math problem. Go figure, right? I know, I know--it's just a figure of speech. ;-)

Figure obviously has a lot of meanings, both as a noun and as a verb. It entered the English language waaaaay back in the 13th century with its two basic meanings: (1) the form of a person or (2) numeral. It adopted rhetorical uses only a century later, yet it took until 1824 for figure of speech to come about. 

As a verb, its primary meaning of "to represent" (Beatrice figures in The Divine Comedy as an inspirational guide through Paradise . . .) is from the 14th century; three hundred years later it evolved into "to picture" or "to make an appearance." Interestingly, combining it with the "numeral" definition from the noun side of things didn't happen until the middle of the 19th century--so not until then did you "figure out" a math problem.

Hope everyone has a great Monday!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . A Prayer for You

Dear Lord,

Thank you so much for all you are. Thank you for hands big enough to craft a universe and small enough to cradle our hearts. Thank you, Father, for the comfort in your invisible touch and the assurances you've given us because you know we need them. You are all things holy, all things good. If there's beauty in the world, it's your fingerprint. I thank you so much, Lord, for giving us the eyes, both spiritual and physical, with which to see it.

Father, my heart aches today for all the need I see in those around me. For those who have lost people dear to them through accident, illness, or violence. For those who are suffering from debilitation, who are daily in pain. I pray for those who are struggling to get through another day, be it because of physical trial or mental fatigue.

Thank you so much, Father, for all you've done in my life this past year. I look back and have to shake my head in wonder at how far my path has come. Yet when looking, I also see the pain of those I love most. And it brings tears to my eyes. Do I understand why it happens this way, that my moments of great joy are shadowed by their loss? Of course not. It doesn't seem fair that we can't be in times of rejoicing together. Do I want their situations to change? So much, Lord, yes! 

But I'm trusting. I'm trusting that this, too, is part of your plan. I'm trusting that the darkest valley is cast in the shadow of your wing, that the widest prairie is your hand stretched out. I'm trusting, Lord, and I'm yearning. Yearning upward, onward, toward you.

For them. My prayers are often for myself, because, well, I know how much I need you. I know how everyday successes rely on you. I know that those days I forget to put it all in your hands, I'm quickly throwing mine up in frustration. But today, Lord, the ache in my heart is for my friends and loved ones.

For each of them today I pray a special blessing. A soft word of encouragement, a loud shout of joy. I pray that in some way only you can anticipate and devise, they are lifted up today. Lord, edify them, help us to edify each other--whisper in each of our ears how we can build up those we love. And then, oh God my God, whisper confidence into their hearts. Pour your water upon them to make the seeds of comfort grow.

Frail as our eyes may be, we want to see, Lord. We want to see why we've been put in the places we have, why things don't work as we should. We want to see where we're going. Where you can, give my loved ones a glimpse--just a glimpse of your guidance through these times, of the light waiting at the edge of the shadow. Where you can't, breathe into their spirits, Father, that comfort that comes on the sweetest of nights, when being unable to see makes us all the more aware of the sound of your voice. Call to them in that whisper, speak peace to them.

Thank you, Father, for being that water that nourishes us and makes us grow. Thank you for being the fire that cleanses us, that lights us with your spirit. Thank you for being the wind that breathes life into us. Thank you for being the earth in which we're grounded. Thank you, Lord God, for being all, for being every, for being the One to whom we can turn.

And thank you for these amazing, beautiful people you've put in my life. So often they are what lights hope in me when frustration or disappointment plagues me. Let it be their turn today, God, to receive that encouraging embrace. Lift them up and help them soar...all the way to their place of peace.

In the name of your precious Son,