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Poppies and Repositioning

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Summer is my favorite time of year on this mountaintop. (Closely followed by autumn because of our Crayola-vibrant colors.) I’ve finally settled in after the back-to-back deaths of Mom and Dad, although my “season of change” didn’t stop with those losses.

My literary agent, Mary G. Keeley, retired this spring from publishing. My heart hammered when I heard the news. Her Herculean efforts on my behalf contributed to my momentum, and I could not appreciate her humor and work ethic more. She’ll remain a part of this team while pursuing the next phase of her life. Meanwhile, I’m excited to be represented by Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Management. I look forward to the adventures and lessons ahead.

P1030944As I worship, fly fish, garden, golf, attend symphonies and concerts, shop farmers markets, and shoo hungry deer out of my flowers, I’m repositioning my social-media brand. All of my trademarks—strong female protagonist, humor, suspense, quirky love of God and family—enrich my latest manuscript, a work of domestic suspense. I take your input too seriously to abandon the story elements that you (and I) love. And I can’t wait to introduce you to my new protagonist. I never thought that a character could compete with archaeologist Grace Madison, but investigative journalist Laura Cummings surprises me by doing just that.

Another surprise made me clamber down a slope this morning, interrupting two peaceful hours of deadheading between daybreak and breakfast. A sport (as in, serendipitously planted by the wind) poppy plant shot a vibrant red bloom skyward, like a flaming bottle rocket. I’ll have these reminders on my desk for weeks, of God’s general revelation of Himself through nature.

Spring is a time of rebirth. I’m being reborn this summer. I pray that your days are filled with His love and joy. Thanks for being here.

Shhhh . . .

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If you’re reading this post, then you’re one of few to know that I’m out of the country for an extended period. Although the house is occupied and secure, this is not the type of information I’m comfortable sharing on Facebook. You’re the “inner circle” here.

With the loss of Mom and Dad, and a few other epic life challenges crammed into the past two years, my reservoirs are running dry. So armed with the infrastructure of my faith, I turn to what always recharges me: travel. I can finish healing while traveling. Deal with grief before it becomes an indulgence. Shove vision to the forefront. Return ready to write, having left three completed, edited manuscripts with my dedicated literary agent.

The places I have been astound me. So I chose a region with which I am totally unfamiliar. Its history, its culture, its people groups are a blank slate.

I am in a lagoon far, far away. Swimming with sharks, hiding from the sun. Cruising waters surrounded by glaciers. Dancing the night away with my husband. Immersing in cultures whose rock art is some of the oldest on the planet. Reading, reading, reading. Resting, praying, resetting.

I’m on an almost total technological fast. No cell phone, few emails, pre-scheduled social media, very little Internet. That isolation alone is a godsend.

When I return I’ll post photos of my adventures. Until then I pray that you march through a winter that is record-setting here in the Rockies. And I ask that you pray for me as I indulge in the privilege—that’s what it is—of becoming a hermit as God works His magic on my soul.

A Long Obedience: the Power of a Book

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I’m sitting at my desk, watching heavy snow fall, breathing through a nasal cannula. Now that’s a beautiful mental image, isn’t it?

The infection that barreled into something bronchial and resulted in a $2,200 doctor’s visit (thank you Obamacare) is popping a kink in my packing. I’m preparing for an epic adventure, the reset button on the worst and hardest two years of my life.

706While doing a breathing treatment last night, after popping antibiotics, I thought about the past twenty-four months. According to my family I weathered them well. Faith drove my choices and responses, and I cannot imagine marching through the Valley of the Shadow of Death (and Other Weird Places) without God.

In my twenties I was blessed by a phenomenal church. For six years a discipleship group with four other single women was an extension of my worship. Not only did they solidify my walk with Christ, but we shared books and ideas and the trials of being twenty-somethings.

One book that emerged from this association was Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. He talks about discipleship as a life-long pursuit, referring to the annual Jewish pilgrimage to the temple year after year.

P1000378If you’ll note the photo at the top, you can see that the Temple Mount is, indeed a mount. This little jaunt involved camels, donkeys and feet; lots of rocks and sand; no clean restrooms; the random scorpion. It was an uphill climb all the way—just like life, just like faith. But the Jews persevered, as did I. This “long obedience” becomes the rhythm of life, sometimes quiet, sometimes deafening.

I smiled last night at the thought of Peterson’s book. It’s funny how, decades later, I realize that some of the daily aspects of my belief system took root while reading his work. The knowledge that God walks beside me enables me to settle into my temporal journey with hope.

We all need hope now, don’t we? Shalom.

Best-Ever Christmas Biscotti Recipe

Cranberry-Pistachio Biscotti

(makes roughly four dozen)

Preheat oven to 375 and line two cookie sheets with parchment.

Cream 1 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup unsalted butter. Add 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest, 3 eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract. In separate bowl, mix 3 cups flour, 2.5 teaspoons baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon sale, and 2 tablespoons anise seed. Add dry ingredients to wet. Then add 2/3 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries, and 2/3 cup pistachios. Form dough into four balls.

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Shape each ball into logs about 3/4 inch thick. Lay two logs on each baking sheet, with the parchment between the dough and sheet. (Yes, son. This specific advice about the parchment is for you.)

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Bake for 25 minutes, switching the cookie sheets halfway through. Remove from oven. Let cool five minutes. Then slice each log into roughly 1/2 inch slices, spreading the slices back on the parchment.
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Bake an additional seven minutes, again switching the sheets at the mid-point. Let cool, then top with the best quality melted chocolate you can find .

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Are You Missing the Bobcats?

Simplify. Slow down. Breath.

That seems to be what God is telling me this holiday season. I don’t even remember the last eighteen months, when Mom became gravely ill in a drama that ended with her death a week before Christmas. Dad followed four months later. The True North of my life seemed to slip, my world tilting on its axis.

I’m trying to pace myself, cut myself some slack. If I don’t, who will? Although my family has been flawless and kind, I’m aware that I’m setting an example for them. How to love. How to let go. How to grieve. How to heal. How to exercise self-care. (I don’t think women, particularly Christian women, are very good at that last one. We need to take our forty days in the Wilderness every once in a while.)

I was wrapping presents Saturday, baking for Christmas, trying to finish a project for my literary agent. Scurrying. Stressing just a little. Then movement outside one of the enormous windows caught my eye.

I don’t know how much you know about bobcats, but they’re elusive. VERY elusive. And nocturnal. Catching a glimpse of one is rare. A privilege to those who camp for hours in the snow, suffering frostbite, cameras ready.

I looked through the glass. And I looked again. Sure enough, a large male bobcat was in the meadow. Chasing (and catching) rabbits thirty feet away. When he finished his meal, he cleaned himself like our twenty-two-year-old tabby, then walked within a foot of me. We were separated by six inches of construction.

Animals are our mountain neighbors. They come to the house, unaware of us because they don’t catch our scent. We marvel at them through triple-pane windows, thankful we didn’t cosset ourselves behind wood beams and pseudo-western architecture.

But a bobcat? I heard it during a winter storm two years ago. I saw it run through the meadow that spring. My neighbor saw it on his driveway a month ago. These were glimpses, not gazes. Sightings, which excited everyone on top of this mountain.

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I stared at him. He stared at me. And I realized that sometimes all God asks me to do is stare. At His beauty. His general revelation of Himself.

Watching this bobcat for forty-five minutes was a form of meditation. I felt connected to something much grander than myself, putting all of that day’s activities in a timeless perspective.

The tasks were important. But not critical enough to miss that bobcat.

Take time, friends. You might be missing the bobcats in your world. Some experiences can become revelations that are just too remarkable to miss.