Friday, April 29, 2011

100 Moments in Time - #43 Poetry

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

~Robert Frost

Monday, April 25, 2011

You Can Find Me Here

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter. It's been a busy holiday weekend and a busy week ahead. So, in lieu of the post I didn't get written I leave you with this serene setting....

Friday, April 22, 2011

It is Finished

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. ~John 19:30

Today He died, but it wasn't the end of the story. We solemnly remember His painful death on the cross and wait with anticipation. Three days later He rose from the dead!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Three Things You Can Learn about Writing from a Farmer

My Grandfather has spent much of his life working the land for a living and because it’s in his blood. He worked hard and has much to show for his labors. Over the years I embraced my farming roots and realized there is much I can learn from my Grandpa. I don’t sow seeds for a living, I sow words. Writing is in my blood. I’ve come to realize that there are correlations between farming and writing.

Three things that writers can learn from a farmer are:

* We have to nurture our work

Before a farmer even plants the seed he works the ground. The ground is broken up and fertilized. Without that beginning nurture the seeds have less of a chance to make it. After planting the seeds the farmer must then water and watch for weeds.

In the same vein we writers have to prepare our fields before planting. This may be taking classes or seeking out mentors. We need to spend time learning the craft in order to be successful. Once we begin work on a project we need to continue the nurture by always looking for ways to expand our stories and allow the seeds to grow. If we aren’t careful our work will end up flat and lifeless like a farmer’s field that has been neglected.

* Hard work comes before the harvest

A farmer works from sun up to sun down. He learns to use his time wisely to make sure everything is done on the farm and in the fields. The back-breaking work may have been made some easier by modern technology but it is still hard work. All summer long he labors over his fields to keep the crop growing. The harvest can’t happen unless the work comes first.

Writing is hard work. The internet and computers have made our job easier in some ways, but the only way to be successful is to put in the hours. Writers must use their hours just as wisely as a farmer in order to be successful. Without the hours in the chair with hands on the keyboards we will never have the harvest of words for which we strive.

* Sometimes the ground needs to rest in order to be replenished

A farmer learns to rotate his crops and let fields lie bare for a season in order to replenish the soil. This step is important to producing good crops. Without the time to renew the land the harvest will not be as abundant as it could be.

We writers need to learn when to stop and rest. We need to allow our work to sit for a while before returning to edit and revise it. Trying to rush the process only succeeds in making our work less than it can be.

Yes, my grandpa and I have very different lives. He worked a very physically demanding job for many years. As a writer my job isn’t physically demanding, but it is mentally demanding. Still, there is much to be learned from my grandfather’s work. The lessons I have learned from him have been applied to my writing. In our differences there is similarity. It is true, I am a farmer’s granddaughter and I am working my writing fields.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World by Ginny Dent Brant

The country knew Harry Dent as an adviser to President Richard Nixon during the turbulent Watergate era. Ginny Dent Brant knew him as daddy. In Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World Ginny melds those two aspects of Harry Dent together in a cohesive and touching memoir of her father’s life.

Ginny is the third of four children of Harry and Betty Dent. With Harry’s love for politics and the law she grew up in a world of strategies, campaigns, and politicians. As she tells her father’s story she also tells her own story of love of family and country.

Over the years Harry Dent worked in many positions in the government in South Carolina and the United States. As an aide to President Nixon he served during Watergate but was one of only two aides who were not convicted during the scandal.

During his time in politics he worked hard to balance his home life with his private life. Ginny recounts many childhood memories of time spent with her father. Her story shows that it is possible to pursue a career without sacrificing your family.

Ginny’s own spiritual journey began in her teen years. After giving her life to the Lord she prayed tirelessly for her father who was a Sunday morning Christian. Ginny writes, “With all my heart I believed that if my dad dies not knowing Jesus, really knowing Him, we would be eternally apart. And that was unthinkable.”

In 1977 Harry Dent found true freedom when he surrendered his life to Christ. His change of heart came after years of praying by Ginny and later her husband Alton. When Harry gave his heart to the Lord he gave his life. Leaving politics and the law, he threw himself whole heartedly into serving others here in the US and abroad in Romania. He founded Laity Alive and Serving to help plant churches and train pastors in Romania.

September 28, 2007 Harry Dent passed from this world into eternity with his Savior. He left behind a legacy that will be remembered by many.

Although I found the beginning of this book a little slow and it took a while for me to truly be pulled into the story I did enjoy reading it. I think Ginny did a good job of trying to balance the two halves of her father’s life. I liked that she wove her own story into the book. She showed the side of her father that many who only read or heard the news reports during his career in Washington never heard. Ginny brought the private side of Harry Dent alongside the public side and showed a complete picture of her father.

**This book was provided to me by the author in exhange for an honest review.

About the Author
Ginny Dent Brant is an educator, counselor, writer, soloist, Christian speaker and Bible study teacher. She is president of Laity Alive and Serving which her father, Harry Dent, started in 1985. Ginny and her husband, Alton, live in Clemson and are the parents of three sons.
Visit Ginny's web site to purchase the book.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Photo Copyright Thomas H Fickas Jr, 2010

I first saw the deer in the cemetery shortly after my mother died. In those early days I would go to the cemetery often and just sit on her grave. As I sat there I one Saturday I realized that a deer had stopped across the way from me and was watching. He just stared for the longest time. I sat quietly talking to him as I've taken to doing with animals. I actually called one of the giraffes at the zoo baby one day while trying to persuade him to take a giraffe cracker. But that's a different post entirely.

The deer and his friends were just enjoying a lazy Saturday afternoon. They didn't bother me and allowed me to take some poor photos on my cell phone.

Later when I posted on Facebook about my encounter I was told that some believe deer are messengers; that they bring messages from the great beyond. I can't sayI believe that, but I see deer in the cemetery a lot. The area is shaded and grassy. It's peaceful and beautiful. Can't say I blame them for wanting to hang out in such a peaceful place.

They, like ladybugs, make me think of my mom in heaven where she doesn't hurt anymore. She is clear of mind and the fog of dementia has lifted from her. I smile and think of her laughing and happy again. She had a beautiful smile and I can't help but remember that when I see the deer wandering through the cemetery.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Promises Kept

This is the story of Hannah, Elkanah, and Samuel from the first chapter of 1 Samuel. I like to take Bible stories and imagine them from another point of view. This is Hannah's story.

“Oh Lord, do you not hear my prayer?” For what seemed like the millionth time I cried out in desperation to God. I had been praying for a child. Every year Elkanah and I went to the temple to offer a sacrifice at the appointed time. Every year I promised God if He would give me a child I would give him back to His service.

The ache inside me was intense. Elkanah was a good man and provided for me. He was generous. I suspect he gave me double portions for the sacrifice because of my empty womb. But his other wife, Peninnah was vicious. She taunted me to no end. Who was she to think she’s better than me simply because she had given Elkanah children?

Frustrated, I sank to my knees and again poured my heart out to the Lord. “Hannah,” growled the priest. “Why are you drunk in the temple? Have you no shame?”

Eli must have wandered in during my prayer to the Lord and witnessed my distress. I explained to him that I was not drunk with wine but sorrow. “I have prayed for many years for a child and the Lord has not heard me.”

Kneeling beside me, Eli promised, “The Lord has heard and will remember.”

I tucked that promise into my heart and headed back to Ramah with Elkanah. Life went back to normal but months later the tell-tale signs began. I held my tongue and waited to make sure.

Then it was official. Finally, finally, finally I was with child. The Lord had heard and answered my prayer. My beautiful, Samuel was born a short time after.

When the time came for us to go and sacrifice at the temple I declined. “Elkanah, I want to wean the child before taking him to the temple.” And Elkanah understood. I knew when I took Samuel to the temple I would be leaving him there. He would learn and grow under the tutelage of Eli.

In time, the day came for me to release Samuel back to God. Elkanah, Samuel and I traveled to the temple. There before the Lord I praised Him for His faithfulness. I was overjoyed in His love. He had given me the son I asked for and I gladly kept my promise.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah is a beautiful blend of contemporary and historical fiction with a good dose of fairy tale. It’s one of those books that contribute to insomnia in the world. Once you start the book it’s almost impossible to put down until you reach the very last word.

Meredith and Nina share a loving, happy relationship with their father. On the other hand their relationship with their cold mother is strained from the earliest days of childhood. Their mom, Anya, freely expresses her love for her husband, but doesn’t even attempt to express any love to her daughters.

During their childhood Anya will sometimes tell the girls fairytales. One Christmas, in an attempt to make her mother happy, Meredith turns a fairytale into a stage show for the family. All is going well until her mother demands they stop, tears up the set, and storms out of the room. Meredith and Nina are hurt and confused. As always, their father attempts to soften their mother’s harshness. The girls bury the hurt deep in their hearts and try to figure out life without the help of their mother and Anya stops telling her fairytales.

As they grow into adulthood Meredith joins her father in the family business and tries to appease her mother. Nina takes off to follow her passion for photography to the far reaches of the earth. The sisters’ lives are as different as red and blue and they grow apart from each other. The only link holding the family together is their father.

When their father suffers a massive heart attack the girls rush to his side. Just before he dies Nina promises to get to know her mother and make her tell the story of the prince and peasant girl. After the funeral Nina escapes to her life leaving Meredith to care for their mother who seems to slip very quickly into dementia. With no other options Meredith finally puts her mother in a nursing home.

Nina is furious when she finds her mother is in a nursing home and she returns to set things straight. She moves her mother out of the nursing home and takes her back to the family home. Determined to keep the promise made to her dad she sets about getting to know her mother and getting her to tell the fairytale of the prince and the peasant girl. Meredith digs her heels in and fights Nina even after her mother does begin to open up and tell her story.

Kristin Hannah has a knack for tackling relationships between women with humor, depth, and insight. Winter Garden is no exception. It is a heart breaking and heartwarming book. The tale Hannah spins out keeps the reader engaged and flipping pages. Hannah’s story will keep the reader guessing until the very end what will ultimately happen between Anya, Meredith, and Nina.

This book is well written and easy to read. Even when switching between current day events and the fairytale, the reader will be able to easily follow what is happening. The two stories weave together seamlessly.

If you haven’t read any of Kristin Hannah’s books, I recommend that you do and Winter Garden would be a good place to start.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Don't Forget Your Sonscreen

Independence Day dawned sunny and warm. When my sister called and asked if I wanted to hang out at the pool with her and the kids I jumped at the chance. Despite being very crowded we had a great time splashing and swimming. Only later when I changed into my street clothes and saw the bright red color of my shoulders did I remember the sunscreen. I had ventured out into the world without my sunscreen and now I am suffering the consequences.

Later I realized we Christians face a similar danger. The bright lights and the cool water of the world call to us. We live on an amazing planet that has much to offer in the way of fun and excitement. I believe that God wants us to enjoy this world we live in within reason. He wants us to be cautious during our travel through this world.

When we venture out into the world we need to remember our “sonscreen.” We find that sonscreen in our daily prayer life and Bible reading. It is the daily communion with God that protects us from the world. God will protect us if we remember to apply the lessons we learn from Him.

If we are not careful, our ventures in the world can result in heartache, pain, and disappointment. Forgetting our sonscreen can result in broken marriages, financial disasters, unplanned pregnancies, and devastated hearts. God never intended for us to venture into the world by ourselves.

God is here for us. We should stock up on His Word and His guidance so that we can apply it liberally to our lives. Full coverage by our sonscreen will help protect us from the dangerous rays of this world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What’s a long term book fiend like me to do with this new wave of Nooks, Kindles, and e-readers?

I didn’t think I would ever give up my paper and ink books. I love the feel and the smell (just not the smell of library books) and the tactile sensations that go along with reading a book. Wilson, my kitty cat, loves books also. You can always tell which are the well loved books at our house. They are worn, dog-eared, and the pages are crinkled because Wilson likes to lick the pages.

Recently I did what I formerly thought was the unthinkable; I bought a Nookcolor. Several friends have been encouraging me. I had a reason to celebrate. While I was packing for a long weekend I had to put so many books in my computer bag just to finish up the stuff I was writing at the time that the bag was extremely heavy.

So, that weekend I went to the local Barnes and Noble and walked out with an e-reader. It didn’t take long at all for me to become attached to my Nook.

Some of the things I like about the Nook:

• It’s so light and easy to take with me in my purse or computer bag.

• I can read it at night with the lights out. It’s like the adult version of a book and flashlight under the covers after Mom said, “Light’s out.”

• I can carry many books in one convenient place.

• I can highlight, bookmark, and make notes on the books. It is then as easy as looking at a list to find the right item I wanted to remember.

• I have WiFi and so can browse the web or catch up on Facebook and Twitter.

• There is a Pandora app right on the Extras page so I can listen to music as I read.

• Barnes and Noble is adding an app store sometime in the near future and I will be able to pay Angry Birds on my Nook.

Yep, it’s a fact that I love my Nook. It will never truly replace books in my heart, but it sure is a nice little thing to have.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Criticism is a Good Thing?

Critique sounds like such a harsh word. Its link to criticism is well known. When I first heard that most writers have critique groups I cringed. I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t like criticism and the thought of willingly subjecting myself to it was a little hard to fathom.

However, as I’ve grown in my role of writer I’ve come to realize that I really needed to take part in a critique group. It’s an avenue of growth and refinement. It’s a way to edit my work to make it more appealing to editors, publishers, or agents.

After the Writing for the Soul Conference in February I met a group of fellow writers in my area who are interested in forming a critique group. So, last Thursday night we all got together at a local coffee shop and had our first meeting.

I almost chickened out. I tried to find a reason I couldn’t go, but there just wasn’t anything short of making up a story. So, I put on my big girl panties and I went.

There were seven of us at the meeting – two males and five females – ranging in age from twenty-something to about fiftyish. Our work varied from novels to magazine articles to nonfiction books to devotional/coffee table books.

The person to the right read the work of the person to their left and then we each gave our input. We used a “sandwich method” in which we first pointed out good things, then the things we thought should be changed, and finally something good again. The person whose work was being talked about took home copies of the notes we all made. They then have the choice to make changes based on the comments or leave the work as is. No one is forced to make changes since it is their work and they decide what stays and goes.

My turn came second and I gave them the first chapter of my novel to read. For all the worry I did about it, the process was surprisingly easy and gave me some great input. If I hadn’t done this I would still be waffling on my story. The consensus seemed to be that the first chapter was intriguing enough to make them want more. That’s always a good thing in a novel.

They also seemed to agree that one of my main characters seemed a little feminine which is a problem since he’s a teenage boy. I had concerns about this before and it was good to hear that my concerns were valid. It allows me to make changes and I am toying with changing the character back to a girl. (Yes, he was a girl to begin with.) There were a few more comments about my word choices and some things that were a little confusing.

Overall, it was a great experience and I look forward to being a part of this group. The criticisms weren’t devastating and even if they were I know the heart of this group is in the right place. That makes it easier to take the hard stuff. And, the hard stuff is what will make me a better writer in the long run.