Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Thoughts

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day! With family and friends around the table, it was a very special day. Here are a few of my favorite people: Tim (brother), Barb (sister), Joseph (son), Arlen (husband), Rachel (adopted ex-Amish daughter), Eli (Rachel's fiance), and Bernice (mom).

I thought of all the blessings we have: a home, PLENTIFUL food, decent health, and a Loving Father who is with us every day and whenever we gather as believers. In this photo: Joseph, Arlen, Matthew (great-nephew), Jarrod (nephew), Autumn (great-niece), Rachel, Eli, and Mom.

No matter how we celebrated the day, it's clear that God has blessed us as a nation, and stopping for one day to acknowledge those blessings is a great privilege. Around our table this year was Rachel, Eli, Bernice, and Rena.

How about you? Did you have a blessed Thanksgiving? Did you celebrate in a rambunctious and laugh-filled group, or did you have a quiet, peaceful gathering? Until next year, let's keep that thankful feeling in our hearts everyday.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

50,000 Words!

Well, I met the challenge and reached the 50,000 word count goal on my second book, The Powerful Odor of Mendacity! It is now one half finished. I'll keep writing until the end of November, and maybe I'll have a couple more chapters fleshed out by then. I'm happy to say that the writing for NaNoWriMo this time wasn't nearly as difficult as it was last year. I think having one NaNo under my belt helped me have confidence this time that I could finish and WOULD finish! Last year, I was choked with doubts nearly all the way through. This time, I knew it was a task I could accomplish.

So what now? Well, I have my first book to revise, and this second book to finish. Then there are other stories to write for the Faithwriters Challenge, and stories to write for The Quill. And classes to take and edits to do...the writing doesn't end with NaNo, but the chores are sweeter knowing that the base for another book has been built. It's a good feeling!

Here's the best part: I can wish you all a HAPPY THANKSGIVING and know that on Friday, the biggest part of the NaNo work is over!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fiction Friday: Phyllis's Seeds

Welcome to Fiction Friday! I'm posting a story I wrote to honor my best friend's mom. Her mother was a lovely, quiet lady who questioned how God had used her life. I hope you enjoy it. For more wonderful fiction, go to Sheri's at A Candid Thought.

Phyllis's Seeds
© By Dee Yoder

I looked at my watch as the pastor closed his sermon. I couldn’t wait to stand and stretch my stiff legs. With the last “amen,” I maneuvered my way out of the pew and over to Shelly and her mother.

“Hey there,” Shelley, my childhood friend, greeted me.

“Hi. How’s the job hunt going, Shelley?”

She rolled her eyes. “Not very well, but I’m hoping to get something soon.”

I glanced at Shelley’s mom, Phyllis. Her eyes were red, and she dabbed at them with a delicate lace hankie. As she saw me watching her, she laughed gently. “Oh, don’t mind me. I was just thinking about Pastor’s sermon.”

“It was a good one,” I responded a bit guiltily. I hadn’t focused on it as much as Phyllis had, obviously.

“Yes.” She grew quiet. Shelley looked at me and shrugged. We both knew something was going on with her mom, but we didn’t pry.

Finally, Phyllis looked at me with an embarrassed smile and said, “I guess I got to thinking about what he said. You know…the part about how many people we’ve led to the Lord in our lifetime.” She paused and glanced at her twisted hankie. “I’ve taught Sunday school here my whole life, been on the ladies’ committees, and attended revivals and services faithfully, but I don’t think I can say that I have ever led anyone to Christ.”

Of all the things I expected from Phyllis, that was the last thing I thought I would hear. “But, Phyllis! Think of all the seeds you’ve planted,” I was quick to reassure her.

She shook her head. “No. Somehow, that isn’t what I’m thinking about today. I mean, I know about seeds, but what about fruit? Where’s the fruit of those seeds and the fruit of my life?” Her eyes refilled with tears. “I think I’ve failed God somehow.”

I glanced at Shelly and saw quick tears form in response to her mom’s confession. “Aww, Mom,” Shelley patted her mother’s hand. “We all have days when we wonder if we’ve really made a difference or if we’ve ever planted a seed that will grow.” She shrugged. “Somehow, we just have to have faith that God is nurturing those seeds. He’s watering and weeding those tender plants.” Phyllis nodded, but I sensed that she was not content with the answer.

She smiled. “Well, it does no good to stew over it, I suppose. Now, what have you girls got planned for this sunny summer day?” Our conversation moved on, but Phyllis’s question stayed in my heart for many, many years. I often asked myself the same questions she had: where was the fruit? Would I ever know what became of the seeds?

One day, I got a phone call from Shelley. Phyllis had slipped into eternity. We cried together, and Shelley asked me if I would read a Scripture at her mom’s funeral. We went on to plan the next few days and I choose the Scripture I would read

The day of Phyllis’s funeral came. One by one, family members and friends stood to recall Phyllis’s influence in their lives.

“She was the best sister I could have ever had. Many times, I was lonely and she came and got me and took me to lunch. We laughed and laughed…I will never forget her.”

“Aunt Phyllis always had time to talk to me. If I needed her to pray, she did. She told me over and over again how much I was loved by God. I thought of that, and knew that if Aunt Phyllis said it, it must be true.”

“Grandma Phyllis never condemned me or turned me away when I had questions. She loved me unconditionally.”

“She prayed with me over the phone, and later, I thought of her smile and her tenderness and I decided to give my heart to the Lord. As a friend, she was patient and kind.”

My turn came to read the scripture. “Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like…? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade.’”

I closed my Bible and looked around. “You are Phyllis’s seeds. You are Phyllis’s garden. Today, I know God has welcomed His faithful sower with open arms.”

In loving memory of Phyllis Swaisgood, who planted many seeds for the kingdom and now knows what became of them.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Friendship Award

My new friend, Lee at tossing it out, gave this award to my blog. I'm honored! Here's the gist of what the award means:

"This award is bestowed to blogs that are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-promotion. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are gained. Please give more attention to these writers."

I have Jewely sisters who are wonderful, supportive friends, and their blogs are blessings to those who read them. I'm adding their names to this list of writers who should absolutely be added to all reading lists!

Here's my list:

Jo at An Open Book
Laury at In My Daddy's Arms
Vonnie at My Back Door
Sara at Fiction Fusion
Beth at Laughing at the Days
Peej at Patterings
(and Sunny--you're on this list, too!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fiction Friday: Summer of '64: Aunt Carol's Freckled Love

Welcome to Ficrion Friday! I've missed the last three weeks, but wanted to be sure to participate this week. Thanks for reading! And to read more fiction, or to add your own ficiton, head over to Vonnie's My Back Door blog.

Summer of '64: Aunt Carol's Freckled Love
By Dee Yoder

In 1964, I was a knobby-kneed girl with glasses too big for my face and an ornery attitude in my head. I’d discovered that mouthing off was a fast way to make my mother implode. Interestingly, my parents chose that summer to take their first vacation ever—without me.

They packed me in the red Chevy Bellaire and dropped me off, my pink poodle train case dangling by my skinny legs, at the door of Aunt Carols’ house. The kisses and waves they threw my way as they drove off wasn’t enough to convince me that their hysterical glee wasn’t aimed at getting away from me. I watched the cat-eyed taillights grow dim in the distance before giving in to Aunt Carols’ pleas to “come on inside, Darlin’.”

Aunt Carol bulldozed her way through her clan of five boys, and led me to the den. She pointed to a pull-out sofa and instructed me to shove my train case into the corner, beside the ratty-looking floor pillows her boys crushed every night as they watched TV.

“Darlin’, I am just so happy to have a little girl in the house! I surely am! You make yourself right to home and don’t let those boys of mine get to you. If they bother you in the least little bit, just come tell me and I’ll be sure to tan their little behinds.”

She leaned down to hug me to her soft body, and her strawberry blonde hair fell over her cheeks. Up close, I could see just how many orangey freckles covered her face and the pearly skin of her arms.

“Aunt Carol, you have so many freckles!” I exclaimed.

“Darlin’, if I didn’t have these freckles, I’d be an albino for sure. C’mon in the kitchen while I get lunch on the table. You can choose the Kool-Aid, ‘kay?”

I followed Aunt Carol to the kitchen, and wondered why she had a Southern accent when she and her family had lived outside of Chicago all the years I’d been around.

As she took the Wonder bread and peanut butter out of the cupboard, I questioned her about her accent. She laughed again and gave my nose a tweak before going about the business of spreading lots of gloppy peanut butter all over the slices of bread she placed in rows on the counter top. My mouth watered as I observed how generous she was with the spread. At home, Mom strictly rationed the amount of “junk” I ate. It appeared that at Aunt Carol’s house, hunger was not going to be an issue. Gluttony, might, though.

Aunt Carol smiled at me. “Well, now I didn’t always live here in Chicago. I was born and raised in Memphis.” She licked the butter knife before plopping it into the dish pan. She put her hands on her generous hips as she thought about her next sentence. “Let’s see...I think I came here as a career girl in the summer of ’53. Met your uncle and got married a year later.”

She interrupted herself to point me to the Kool-Aid collection in the pantry. “Top shelf, Darlin’. I gotta keep the boys from gettin’ it, or they’d make Kool-Aid the live-long day. Now, what was I sayin’?”

I climbed on a stool and perused the stash of fruity powder packets and was happy to see my favorite flavor: lime. Aunt Carol got the round pitcher down and slid the sugar canister to me.

“Yes…I came up north to be an artist, Darlin’. I was good, too. But nothin’ could keep me from marryin’ your uncle, and so I ended up here, with all these boys…and well,” she shrugged. For just a second, she looked sad, but then she laughed and waved me out to call my cousins to the table.

I puttered around with Aunt Carol that day and the days that followed. She showed me how to draw, and tucked me in bed always with a kiss and a smile. Before I slept, she’d whisper, “It sure is nice to have another female in the house.” Her pronouncement each night made me feel that it was special to be a girl.

Imagine my wary parent’s amazement when they returned to take me home: their spunky girl was miraculously replaced with a sweet angel. As we drove away, I looked back at Aunt Carol standing in her door, and heard her call, “Come on back and stay with me again, Darlin’…real soon!”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Annie, Annie, Annie

So much is happening to poor Annie Thomas, the MC in my latest novel, The Powerful Odor of Mendacity. I have a little over half of her story written, and she has had to deal with strange faces at the window, the eminent death of a teacher's child, the break-up of a very good friendship, and the teasing and taunting that go with being the new kid in school.

In all of this, is the Viet Nam war, which makes itself known to her innocent world through the TV news broadcasts. And soon, more unrest will come through that screen, too. She's seeing the mod scene and the go-go boots of her older sister and her friends. Her world is changing, and she's part of that, but is too wrapped up in childhood and budding adolescence to notice.

What will Annie have to learn next about herself and life? One thing is for sure, she'll do it with attitude.

What are your MCs learning? Are they facing conflicts and trials that seem impossible to avoid?

Let's keep rolling with our NaNoWriMo projects. I'm looking forward to hearing how your stories are growing, too!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Word Counts Are Taking Over My Mind

I'm dreaming word counts, thinking word counts, and comparing word counts. What's happening to me? NaNoWriMo--that's what!

It's one of the side-effects of trying to write 50,000 words in one month...all that word count obsession. I was out doing a little early Christmas shopping and guess what was on my mind? I was thinking I sure hope I get home in time to add to my NaNo word many words do I have banked toward Thanksgiving? I falling behind?

If you're working on NaNo, too, it's unavoidable to become obsessed with word counts. I have some advice: give in and let the obsession have its way! We only have to remember: in a few more weeks, the word count brain worm will retreat into history again and we'll finally be at peace.

Until then, hang in there and--Viva la count!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Serious Issues: Please Pray!

I'm taking a break from NaNo posting to talk a little bit about some serious issues.

I read recently about a man who sexually abused his little girls repeatedly. His wife knew about the abuse, his church knew about the abuse, and he was told to stop it, yet he continued.

I read about another man who plotted to kill his wife. They had several young children together but he'd already left her three times before for other women. His girlfriend (one of many) finally murdered his wife while she slept. The man, wanting an alibi, left the house so his children would discover the grisly murder scene--their mother in a pool of blood. The son who found his mother's body was under ten years of age.

I read letters to a son from his mother. The son had moved out of the house and the parents were heartbroken. The family sent letter after letter begging him to come home. If he would only give up his wicked lifestyle, they had plenty of room for him at home. The letters are heartbreaking, but the son stayed away. He knew he couldn't go home because his "sinful" lifestyle was simply this: he wanted to stop being Amish and he wanted to be a born-again Christian.

All of these scenarios are true stories, and all of them happened to the Amish. I could tell you many, many more. I love the Amish, as a group of people (and my in-laws) they have taken some good Biblical principles and managed to live a gracious life. But if you believe that there is nothing wrong with this group of people, then you are living in a fool's paradise.

Like all groups, there is sin, and the devastating effects of sin, among the Amish. Does that surprise you? You may be wondering, if they're Christians, why do these things happen? Well, why does it happen among our own English churches? Because, like the English, the Amish are not immune to the powers of the Prince of Darkness any more than we are. And more importantly, in many Amish communities, very little of the plan of salvation is preached!

Lifestyle is preached. Tradition is preached. Adherence to rules is preached. But Jesus Christ's sacrifice for sin? Their sin? Many know nothing or little about that. They call themselves a Christian group, and yet we know they have no power to change their own hearts. Only Christ can remove their sin.

Wearing a bonnet and driving a buggy does not guarantee salvation. Having piety and charity and hard work ethics do not guarantee salvation. Showing your good side and being gentle do not guarantee salvation. And being trapped in a world that allows no growth, either spiritually or personally, is not a pleasant and happy lifestyle and does not guarantee salvation.

I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of the Amish world; I've not lived it, and if you've not lived it either, don't pretend you know how "perfect" it is! But I'm no longer naive to the inherent faults of this lifestyle. God did not intend for the sacrifice of His Son to mean so little.

If you love the Amish...if you adore their "simple" lifestyle (that one makes me laugh--try living like a pioneer for a while and come back and tell me it is simple--those women, children, and men work hard for that simple life)...if you want to see this lovely, hard-working group of people in heaven someday, then get on your knees and pray for them! Don't just admire them from afar. Admiration is a poor substitute for salvation.

I challenge those of you who love the Amish to put feet and hands to that admiration! Get involved in the Mission to Amish People ministry. Take time to get to know your Amish neighbors. Witness to them in a loving and personal way. Wrap your heart and your soul around this people and pray for God to open their spiritual eyes.

This is a mission field that is ripe for the harvest, but if we ignore their souls because we admire their lifestyle, we do them more harm than good.

Contact me if you'd like more information about how you can help. There are ministry opportunities galore for those who have a willing heart and open hand. The fields are ripe, but the laborers are few. Reach out and show true Christian love and grace to the Amish.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:35-38 NIV

25% Finished? You're Kidding!

Oh boy--I'm nearly 25% finished with my NaNo novel! I'm amazed, but I have to admit that this story has been in my head for most of my life. Not so hard to write something that's been thought about over and over again for years.

I'm having fun and enjoying the characters that are coming to life!

Have you been thinking of your NaNo project for a while? Does it make it easier to write if you're familiar with your story and characters? Keep me posted on how you're doing! We're in this together--let's go!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How Is NaNo Going for You?

It's the third day of NaNoWriMo! I'm curious: how is NaNo going for you so far? If you're new to NaNo, what are some of the things that you're discovering about NaNo that you didn't expect? Or is the experience as you imagined it would be?

Here's what's happening with me: I'm discovering that I REALLY like my MC. I feel as though I'm living in Annie's skin and head. I love it! The settings are nostalgic and it's bringing back many memories of a time in America that was painful, chaotic, exciting, and totally different from any other era.

I'm also more relaxed this year, and realizing that reaching a word count goal is more than possible for me to accomplish. In the past year, I've finished the NaNo novel I started, and am now working on revisions. I have no doubts that I'll reach my 50,000 word goal (barring unforeseen circumstances), so that aspect of worry isn't as strong as it was last year.

There are so many more of my writing friends participating in NaNo this year, and I'm rooting for all of them to finish! What an accomplishment it is to win this contest--let's go!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Woo Hoo--It's Started!

OK--I'm tired, but I've officially begun the 2009 NaNoWriMo! I posted 2,035 words this morning (1:38 AM). My goal was to hit 1800, so I'm really glad to be getting a cushion started in case plans go awry and I can't write one day.

Like I said, I'm tired, so this is a short post, but I'm already having loads of fun with this story. Can't wait to see what happens next!