Jenny Knipfer–Author

Historical fiction author, Jenny Knipfer, shares her books, inspiration, and thoughts on life and writing. Purchase books, read Jenny's blog, or listen to encouraging podcasts highlighting the life of a writer.

I set out to write my thoughts down this morning, because my circumstances are getting the better of me again. I didn’t intend to craft this into a post, but that’s what happened. My words are honest. Maybe my honesty can help you deal with whatever difficult circumstances you might be facing. We all long for peace in the midst of life’s storms. I feel like I am trapped in a continual squall. Read on to hear how I cope.

My Circumstances:

I fell down again, carrying dishes from the dining table to the kitchen. Thankfully, I slid along the counter first before I twisted and fell, so it wasn’t an all out “Timber!” Every day I teeter from object to object in my home. I feel more stable if I hold on to something before I move. Counter to buffet—to metal plant stand—to dining chair—to bookshelf—to sliding door—to my chair. That’s the pattern I follow from the kitchen to the living room. The doctor calls this cruising, which sounds like more fun than it actually is. 

As I write this, my head ticks on my left side like I’m being mildly shocked with electric current. I hate this sensation because it has always preceded something worse. What’s around the corner with my disease? I don’t exactly know, but I do know my MS has progressed. My doctor says that I am in the second phase, which I picture is like a sled ride down a gradual slope with a crash landing at the end. 

I can still manage my personal care but just. After I shower, dress, and get ready for the day, I’m ready to rest in my chair for a good hour before I can do anythings else. Tasks takes twice as long, and I exude twice the effort to complete them. I’m tired all the time. My energy comes in small spurts like the rev of an engine. I feel like I’m in my late eighties instead of forties.

The function of my limbs is unpredictable and often painful, accompanied by strange sensations. I move as if I am the tin man from The Wizard of Oz: clumsy, slow, and creaky. I fill my days with frequent stretching and various therapies—medicinal, natural, and stimulating devices—to try to relax my muscles. Still I wonder how far away I am from being in a wheelchair or bed 24/7. Probably not far. The thought depresses me. 

My Coping Methods:

Limited Focus: I pare back my imagination and focus on the now and what I need to do next. Sometimes that’s just breathing, bringing myself back to a simple necessity of life, filling my lungs with conscious action. I set down the binoculars of far-off vision and keep my sight in the present. It’s really all that I have.

Finding Joy: I often search too hard for this state of being. It’s usually found in the simple things of life: spending time with loved ones or doing a hobby. At times, visuals like sunsets, sunrises, or the way the leaves dance atop the water in the wind at my favorite fishing hole speaks joy to my heart. The smile of my grandson brings particular joy to my heart.

I find myself smiling and losing myself in the moment when I: write, spend time with family, read, quilt, tend my potted plants and gaze at my orchid blooms. The company of my little dog, Ruby, comforts me as well. Peace settles on me when I pet her silky hair. I smile when she tilts her petite head back and looks at me with her big brown eyes, boarded at the corners with a fringe of curled lashes. Sitting in the sunshine near my bay window, which is filled with plants, brings me peace and joy. Life stills in this location, and I can simply be. I think this is when I have the most joy—when I pin myself to a moment and I am. I exist. I live. 

Prayer and Meditations: Lately, I’ve gotten out of the practice of reserving a daily time for this, and I can feel it. I feel less settled. Grounded. I used to pray while I walked, but I can no longer go for a walk. The activity of moving helped me stay focused, and I miss it. Using prayer beads helps me keep my thoughts on track. I created a system of my own and made several sets, which I have conveniently located by my chairs. 

Also, I used to keep a prayer journey, which I wrote in frequently. It helped me feel more connected to God and assisted me in emptying myself of the things which weighed me down. I want to start that again, although it will have to be a digital journal this time. 

Every once in a while I try to do a focused muscle relaxing and meditative process. This helps me feel more calm and at peace, but again this has fallen by the wayside. I want to change that and make it a daily event once more.

Remember What it’s All About: I must remember that my life it’s so much about what I can or cannot do or produce, but about how well I love and connect with people. My physical social circle is small; I don’t go out much. Online social activities have filled a void for me. I gain encouragement from interacting online with people from around the world, and It’s also a way for me to encourage others. It brings some purpose to my life. However, I know that no matter how much I scroll through and comment on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, that I still need those core contacts, whom I know will assist me and be there when life gets more difficult than usual and vice versa. 

My recommendation for when you feel overwhelmed:

  • Limit your focus. Focus on the now and don’t try to see too far down the road. We weren’t meant to see miles clearly. What we see clearly and can enjoy is around us. Live in that space.
  • Find what brings you joy. Find the peaceful places which bring you back to simply being. Spending time in those locations, figuratively or literally, will help you keep going on whatever path your feet are on. 
  • Spend time in prayer or focused relaxation. Your spirit and body with thank you for doing so.
  • Remember what it’s all about—relationships. People. This may be easier or more difficult for you depending on your personality. But whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, you still need people in your life, and they need you. Take the time to cherish the relationships you have and work on making some new ones. Like much of life, it’s more about quality than quantity. 

Blessings to you, my friends,

J

Valentine’s Day approaches, and I thought I would do a Valentine’s special blog post. ‘Tis the season of love. Of flowers and chocolate, wine and kisses. Just what does this time of year mean? 

Definition

When I think of what Love is or is not, I think of the similes in the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13. I memorized those verses years ago, and I can still recite them today. 

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

That pretty much sums up how love should operate.

Love Languages

click on the book cover to learn more

Through the years, one of the best nonfiction books that I’ve read on love has been The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. In it, Gary talks about how we all have a love language through which we give and receive love. If you’re wondering more about what those are, you can read about them by clicking on the picture of the book.

Words mean the most to me; they are my love language. My husband’s is gifts. I think that why he always does so well at gift-giving. He puts thought into giving, and he makes me and others feel loved when he does.

Several examples: 

At the Flower Shop

I used to look forward to Valentine’s Day, in the years before I worked at a floral shop. Everyone thinks “playing with flowers” at a shop sounds like fun and romantic, but not always. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy flowers and their: colors, textures, shapes, and fragrance, but Valentines Day at the flower shop jaded me a little. 

It’s hands down the biggest floral holiday of the year, and thus, we had the most orders, which can only be made so far in advance. Flowers are a perishable product, and we had a narrow window of time to complete all of the orders. Think pressure and stress, and picture a chicken running around with its head cut off (I have seen one of those). In short, it was often a mad-house. Plus, the redundancy of orders got old. After making 50 of one arrangement, 30 of the next, and 25 of another, I hadn’t wanted to see any more roses, carnations, daisies, or lilies. 

Regardless, on one occasion—many years ago—my dear hubby heard me mention all the beautiful arrangements that I had made at work and how sad it made me not to be able to take one home. From then on, he saw to it that I did. The first time that happened, he tricked me into making my own Valentine’s arrangement. I’ll always remember how happy it made me to take that beautiful vase of flowers home with me. The point of love in this story is that he listened. He heard my longing, and he met it. That’s love. My flower shop days have been done with for some years now, but he still gives me flowers every year at Valentines. 

The Red Dress

I can’t remember what year anniversary we had celebrated, but somehow in passing I’d mentioned to my hubby that I had always wanted a red dress. When we were opening gifts that year at Christmas—our anniversary is near the holiday—he handed me a box and said, “Happy Anniversary,” with a big grin. 

I dug in, ripped off the paper, and pulled out the most beautiful red dress. The design comprised of a sleeveless, sequined bodice with a jersey, flowing asymmetrical skirt. I cried. He told me how he went to 4 or 5 different stores before he found the right one. He had listened and had given me my heart’s desire… again. 

I still have the dress. It’s 3 sizes too small now, but it hangs in my closet as a reminder to me that love should mean we care enough to listen, to really hear those we say we love. 

Love is Eternal

One of my favorite historical fiction books is Love is Eternal by Irving Stone. It’s a meaty, detailed drama of President Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln’s romance and life together.  

Sometimes I crave a book I can sink my teeth into and take my time reading. Love Is Eternal fits that quota. It’s not a quick read or a page turner but satisfies all the same. My favorite quote from the book:

She must always remember that: love ebbed and flowed, now rich and shining, now shabby and disconsolate. One must survive the bad in order to realize the good. Therein lay the miracle of love, that it could eternally recreate itself. She must always be dedicated, no matter what the years held, what the hardships or disappointments, the sorrows or tragedies: she must come through them all, through the most violet and the frightening storms; for at the other end, no matter how long it might take or how dark the passage, one could emerge into the clear warm sunlight.” 

My love and I have seen many such tragedies and sorrows. We’ve so far weathered the “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse” part of our marriage vows. This season we find ourselves in has many challenges. The chief being my disease. It comes between and separates us. I hate that, but my illness has taught us to care and trust on a deeper level than if we’ve never had to struggle through this storm. I hope at the end of it all, when we spend our patience or days, that we can both say, “Love brought us into the sunlight.” 

Coming up:

Romantic Excerpts

To hear some of the more romantic portions of my books, tune into my podcast tomorrow afternoon at https://Anchor.fm.jennyknipfer-author/ I’ll read several original poems and read excerpts from several of my books. 

Thank you

Thank you for reading my thoughts. I encourage you to listen, love, and persevere with your sweetheart. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Blessings,

J

I am excited to share the prologue of my upcoming historical fiction book, Silver Moon with you! At the core Silver Moon is a tale of courage and hope during the darkest of times. I set Silver Moon during WWI from three male characters’ perspectives and their counterparts at home. Read the back cover blurb HERE.

It has a slightly different feel than my previous two books Ruby Moon and Blue Moon. The aspect of war crafted Silver Moon with a sharper, more poignant voice, but at the heart of Silver Moon still rests the fact that God is with us in the darkest of times.

. . . We were the dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flander’s Fields . . .

From the poem, In Flander’s Fields

By Dr. John McCrae

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yea, though I walk through

The valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil . . .

Psalm 23:4a

Prologue

Vimy Ridge, France

The wee hours of April 9th, 1917

The door between death and life is so thin. I could melt into the passageway as easyily as floating on water. It is a place just one step away from drowning. I could be buoyant and breathing one minute, then not. Death’s door becoming a fluid birth. 

Will they find me and the intelligence stowed away in my shoe before I die? Will I die before I can make a break for freedom? Death resembles a sort of freedom, I suppose, one I find almost welcoming. My mind tells me it would be easy to surrender to the pull of the mud and the slimy, icy water, but my body won’t let me. It struggles to survive. My lungs suck in quick gasps of air through a copper tube as I stay covered in my watery grave, but I need more. Soon, I will need to breathe, really breathe, for I am starving for oxygen. Unless I die of hypothermia first. Perhaps the mud acts as an insulating layer.

Should I listen and give in to death’s call?

Maybe, for I don’t even know who I am anymore. The man I used to be haunts me and grieves me with accusations. I am a killer. I am a liar. I am a cheater. I’m worse than my father ever was.

Does war really give us a bill of rights to become such things? 

Maybe death would erase the wrongs I have done and the atrocities I have seen, the images of men blown to bits before my very eyes, their visceral remains flecked upon my face like macabre confetti. Skewered, bayoneted bodies pile up in my memory like stuck pigs ready for the roasting. We are all preparing to be roasted, for the way of mankind has delved into the depths of hell. Here, I rest in this muddy trench, a narrow sea of mud, water, rats—the living and the dead.  

Just let go. It’ll be easy . . .

The thought reverberates in my tired soul. But I can’t. An image of myself as a boy flashes before me—hanging off of the cliff at home by the distant shores of Superior. My fingers grip the dirt and rocks again as if it were yesterday and not twenty years ago. In the vision my feet slip, and I am a fall away from death’s embrace, but Someone intervenes. My soul now cries as that boy once cried.

“Help me! Save me!” 

I open my eyes and see by the light of the silver moon—a face, smeared like a dark watercolor painting through the water. I see a shadow pass before the moon, and before I know what is happening, I feel a tug. I am pulled from the black embrace which called me to release, and I break the plane of the frigid, murky water at the bottom of the trench wondering who has me in their grasp.  

“Luis? Luis!” a voice fiercely whispers, inches from my face.  

He looks like . . . Oshki?

Am I dreaming? How can this be? My ragged lungs take a deep surge of air as I spit out a thin, metal pipe which has kept me alive for the last . . . how long has it been? Hours? Minutes? I can’t be sure. I shake and shiver in the night air.

Oshki, my young friend. He represents home, hope, and everything good. But I am not of that world anymore. I have been sculpted by darkness.

“O-sh-ki?” I finally sputter out. The tremors of my body make my voice rattle in my chest.

He pulls me into a standing position. The water sloshes around us like a simpering witch’s cauldron. We stand thigh deep in the lifeless dirge of the trench. I must look like a frightened fool to him. My eyes focus only on his.

We are in an outlying spot that is supposed to be occupied but has recently become flooded. I hoped they wouldn’t think to look for me in this deserted portion of Pan’s labyrinth, and I certainly didn’t think my own countrymen would find me.

“You’re safe, Luis. There are no Krauts here. But how did you . . .?” Oshki’s hands grip the lapels of my uniform.  

I want to believe he’s real. I do. But the mind plays funny tricks in the darkness.

I focus on nothing but him. “How did you know I was here?”

“A fella named Rooster told us, a German turncoat. He escaped and mentioned an escaped prisoner with him. We were told to investigate, and what do I find?” Oshki slaps me on the back with a splat. “You are one crazy Canadian, my friend.” 

Good. Rooster made it. I hope he hasn’t told Oshki too much. Besides the major, he’s the only other person who knows the truth.

I glimpse the outline of another man at Oshki’s side, but I concentrate on my friend. He offers an explanation of their appearance.

“We were going out this way anyway ‘cause Staff Sergeant Jenkins sent Lenny and me to gauge the state of the trenches at this end and if they were passable or not.” He pauses and looks deeper into my eyes. I avert my gaze and busy myself with wringing some water from my drenched clothes.

“Why were you acting like a sewer rat?” he asks. 

“I got a bit lost in the dark is all, and I thought I’d attract too much attention sloshing around. They were close on my tail.” I stand up straighter and back away from him a bit, hoping he doesn’t notice my German military jacket. Oshki doesn’t know who I really am or what my position really is. He just knew of my recent placement as a lieutenant with the Allied ground forces near here. The men were told I was captured. 

“Well, lucky for you they moved on a while ago.” He points to the hands of the serviceman waiting to lift me up out of the place I thought would be my grave. “Come. We’ve got to get ya warm but stay low.” He moves ahead, but suddenly he turns and looks at me incredulously. “I still can’t believe you’re alive and . . . free.”

I am reminded of my prayer. “I had a little help, it seems.”

Oshki grins at me in the silver light and thumps me affectionately on the back.  He’s shorter than me but stronger. I try to grin back to hide who I’ve become. But war has changed us all irrevocably—even he looks older to me. 

He says nothing, but I catch his eyes searching me to the core. He must sense more to my story. The spirit of an Ojibwe wise man rests in this young man. Even though his eyes shine hazel, they remind me of the knowing, black eyes of his aunt, Maang-ikwe. Eyes which can see every part of you. It makes me want to hide again. But no, I must be brave. 

     Brave. I have been brave for years. I am tired of being brave. 

     But I choke down my fatigue and force myself to move. It is what I do, because I am a soldier and . . .

     I am a spy.  


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I hope you enjoyed reading the prologue of Silver Moon and will check back here on my website for more details further on this spring when the release date approaches.

Thank you for reading!

J

Art and life require a matter of perspective. You can’t make sense of what you see until you take into account the scope of what’s around you. On Dictionary.com perspective is defined as: 

  1. the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point. 
  2. a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view.

The key words to focus on—“giving the right impression … when viewed from a particular point”. Let me explain…

One of the first things I learned in art class was perspective. Imagine marking a dot anywhere on a paper. Now draw a square anywhere on the paper. Use a straightedge ruler to make a line from each corner of the box to the dot. Notice how when the line draws nearer to the dot the box becomes smaller. The dot is the vanishing point and the place where everything drawn on the paper must be orientated to.

I love the impressionistic paintings. Think Monet and Renoir. They are built with small sections of color like the modern day pixel. You can’t see the true picture if you’re up close. It’s just a bunch of dots or dabs of paint. The artist still keeps in mind a point on the page in which all the objects are set to when painting, but it isn’t until standing away that the true image and scope of the art comes into focus. 

That’s how life often is. We get discouraged by how little progress we’ve made in the interim, but when taking gauge of a longer span of time—like those draw out lines from the box to the dot—changes can be perceived. 

I accomplish so few things in a day compared to what I used to be able to do pre-MS. Standing back, I see my physical decline. Most afternoons I rest in my recliner for an hour or two and wonder how I am going to accomplish the rest of the things on my list before my husband gets home. Taking a shower and getting ready in the morning wipe me out. Chores like laundry and dishes have to be partitioned into short segments of time, and even then I push myself to complete a task. I often end up looking around the house at the end of the day tallying the few things I finished or even started.

Though my physical energy and strength have declined, when I look back to when I really started pursuing this author path, I’ve come a long way, baby! 

  • I quit my job in April of 2018, and before the end of the year I had written two novels. 
  • In the spring of 2019 I published my first book, Ruby Moon. I learned a lot and made a few mistakes. I worked hard at building an online platform of website and social media connections. 
  • By October of 2019 I published Blue Moon and had written two more books. 
  • This month I’ve made headway as well. I started a podcast focusing on what I have and am learning on my path, sharing methods and tips for writing, my stories, and indie author interviews. 
  • My third book, Silver Moon, will be released this May/June.
  • I plan to release the last book in the moon series this fall.
  • Next year I hope to publish the first two books in the Sheltering Trees series.

Looking back, I see just how far I’ve come in less than a year, and it makes me feel better about my physical turtle-like capabilities in the day to day operations of life. 

I do remember the days where I could do next to nothing using my eyes and brain power. My head hurt so much that I could only tolerate a limited time viewing a computer/tablet screen and I couldn’t read a book. I am glad I have improved. I’ll happily take my decrease in mobility over the decrease in the use of my vision and mind.

But all in all, we are more than our accomplishments. More than what we put out. We are important because we are loved and made in God’s image. Even at my most disabled, I found a way to share that love with others. If we can do that, life holds meaning.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or frustrated with what you see in your life, take a step back, and take in the whole picture. Getting a little perspective of your situation may enable you to understand and see more than you think. Be encouraged. 😊

Blessings,

J

Mom has been gone twenty years. A lost battle with leukemia. I like this picture of her in California, young and so full of life. Some days it still seems like my phone will ring, and she’ll be on the other end of it. I miss Mom’s voice the most. It made me smile when I called and she would answer the phone with her usual cheery “Yello.” She always substituted a Y for the H in hello. If the color yellow was more than a pigment, a perception of light, and a word, it would be her saying “Yello” with the very essence of brightness that the color yellow contains. 

My husband and I watched some videos recently of our sons’ first birthdays. Hearing Mom’s voice in the section of my older son’s party made me smile with happiness. She laughed and talked as if she were here right now. 

It’s been said that when the people you love pass on, you carry a part of them in your heart. I suppose that’s true. The memories I have with her have faded a little, but when I try hard, I can still see movie-like takes of us together. 

Folks say that I look like Mom and am a lot like her. I do, and I am. It makes me glad that a resemblance of her lives on in me. I’ve seen women cringe when they say they’re becoming like their mother. I think it’s the best compliment anyone could give me—to say I’m like Mom. 

I firmly believe that I’ll see my mother again, and that the day the coffin lid closed over her won’t be the last time that I see her fabulous smile. Mom had a movie star grin: perfectly arched, full lips around just the right flash of straight teeth. I’ll see that grin again someday when it’s my time to pass on. I’m sure it will seem at that moment like no time has passed at all, and I will once more hear her say, “Yello.”

This picture hangs on the wall near my comfy blue chair, in which I do most of my writing. Underneath the framed art I have a small end table with an electric tea kettle, a selection of boxed teas in a basket, a small container of honey, a couple of silver spoons, and a favored teacup decorated with a ring pansies. 

This corner of my bedroom comforts and inspires me. I feel safe there. Free. Creative. Me. The scripture verse on the picture reminds me every day that I walk in light because of the Light in my life. “I am the Light of the World, whoever follows me will never never walk in darkness but have the Light of Life.” John 3:12. Light is one of substitutable words that can be on the other side of the word “is” when it comes to describing God. God is light. It’s like saying He equals light. Another verse in the Gospel of John says that in Him there is no darkness. That’s such an assuring, comforting truth. 

A time existed in my life when the darkness of depression hung over me. There were a few days I remember when I was at my lowest that I didn’t know how I would go on. Thank God that He provided a way for me to realize that a cloud had only been blocking the sun in my spirit. His light was shining on me the whole time. But the cloud had its purposes. I learned so much under that cloud. I learned that: God will never leave or forsake me; when I’m at my weakest, He is at His strongest in me; gems grow in the darkness under great pressure. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 45:3 “I will give you the treasures of the darkness and hidden riches of secret places.” This quote begins my first book, Ruby Moon. My character, Jenay harbors a dark guilt; her struggle is not unlike mine was, as I battled through depression. I wrote her particular darkness with understanding. 

The other thing that resonated with me about this picture is the scene. I’ve always loved Lake Michigan and Superior. This shoreline scene with a lighthouse reminds me of favored locations by those Great Lakes. It also reminds me of my mom. 

Mom told me once that she had an imaginary place she would go with the Lord to pray and just feel his presence. It was a home by the shore near a lighthouse with a yard of rambling roses and flowers. In the house she imagined a room with large windows looking out over the water with two wingback chairs posited side by side in front of a fireplace. A baby grand piano sat open and ready to be played. She told me she often imagined herself in this place with her Savior and friend. 

Some months after she died in January of 2000, I thought of that imagined place of hers. One day I found this print at a store, and I couldn’t believe how much it fit the description of the house she described to me. I bought the framed print and hung it in a spot that I could see everyday. On the days when I missed her the most, I would imagine that we were there together in that house by the lake. I imaged three chairs, one for me, Mom, and Jesus. I would tell my Mom and the Lord my cares, and I could pretty much guess what they might say. Sometimes we just sat in silence while a fire flickered in the fireplace. Sometimes I played song after song on the piano for them. 

I haven’t been to that imagined house in a while. Mom will be gone twenty years on the 20th of this month. I think it might be time for a visit with her by the shore in the house where no darkness dwells. 

I thank God for a holy imagination. He wants us to use what he’s given us, not for fear, but to help the truths of scripture come to life. I love that Jesus taught in stories. When we hear a story or read it, we use our imaginations to visualize it in our mind’s eye. In this way the story become almost real to us. 

In a world where we can use our imaginations for so many things and in so many ways, let’s choose to use it to help create a better world. That’s why I write. Yes, the stories are in me and then must come out, but I write what I hope are stories with a deeper meaning. Imagination leads to realization. First we must wonder what something is like to understand that we need it. 

Use your imagination today in a way that brings you comfort and closeness to the One who holds the Light of life. I’m curious … If you imagined a house in which to sit with God, what would it look like?

For those of you who don’t know me well, I thought I would introduce myself and tell you a bit about my life. I apologize for the picture. I can never seem to take a competent selfie shot. I have the look of a deer in the headlights here, but I guess that’s real life. So I didn’t use my professionally taken bio photo. 

I’m a wife of 27 years and also a mom, and grandma. My sons are in their twenties, and my grandson will turn two this year in June. As a follower of Jesus, my faith journey has taken many twists and turns over the years. Currently I’m in a quiet place where I’m pouring out the things I’ve learned on the page. These insights shape my characters’ thoughts and thus my stories. Stories are important. The influences in my life have come through the people in my life but also through the stories that I’ve read. Truth is often more palatable and relatable in a tale. I think that’s one of the reasons Jesus taught in parables. 

In the past I worked as a children’s librarian and a floral designer. I loved both jobs, which fed my creative side and my love for books. I’ve enjoyed many creative pursuits over the years but find writing the most fulfilling. Now I am disabled and unemployed but still able to write, although a bit unconventionally.

Undertaking this journey as an indie author scared me, but I forged ahead anyway. A friend sent me a quote last week by Dr. Susan David that spoke to me—“Courage is not an absence of fear. Courage is fear walking.” This inspires me to keep figuratively walking forward with life despite the unknown factor of my health. This author journey has also been more challenging than I thought it would be, but I’ve had lots of encouragement along the way from friends and family and also new friends and followers, who I’ve met on social media. 

Why I write: the words are in me. I’ve written since I was a child and kept journals for years, but it wasn’t until some hard patches in life hit that I found how necessary and healing writing was. When at my worst physically and I could not hold a pen due to my MS or work on a computer or tablet because of headaches, my heart nearly broke. I felt like I was going to explode if I couldn’t get my thoughts out via some avenue. Thankfully, my health improved enough that I could keep a diary on my iPad. I remember wondering if I would ever be able to write again. You can see why I think my accomplishment of writing novels is rather miraculous. Being able to write helps me manage the emotional process of living with multiple sclerosis and also allows me the freedom to create stories. I’ve written five novels so far, two of which are published. Two more are on the docket for this year and God willing, two more for next year. 

What I do when I’m not writing: read, quilt, color, make jewelry, or take care of my many green and blooming houseplants and miniature gardens. 

Favorite color: Green—all shades, red is my second favorite. 

Favorite book: Jane Eyre – What can I say? It has it all. 

Favorite food: soup – I love to make and eat soup, especially a favorite family recipe for Belgian chicken stew that my mom called chicken bouja. 

Favorite drink: Tea!! My day is not complete without several cups of tea. Technically, most of which are herbal infusions. I’ve started blending my own teas too from ingredients that I’ve grown. Sometimes I drink decaf black or green tea. 

Favorite movie: It’s a Wonderful Life. Jimmy Stewart is my favorite old-school actor. I think I’ve seen every movie he was in. I cry every time Harry says, “To my big brother, George, the richest man in town.” If you don’t know, George (played by Jimmy) contemplates suicide because of a dept. An angel is sent to help set him back on the right track. Harry calls George rich because of the many friends and family who care about him and help bail him out of his terrible circumstances. 

Thanks for reading and getting to know me better. Please share something about you. 😊

The bright colors of this quilt I finished this week puts me in mind to look at the new year with a bright hope. The new year brings new things: seasons, experiences, opportunities, goals, etc… With the turning of the calendar, I think of New Year’s resolutions, which are mostly a concerted effort to improve my life or others. I plan out personal goals and writing/publishing goals, but also something bothers me. When I think of the new year right around the corner, I am excited and hopeful for what lies ahead but also fearful; I’m being honest. 

These last few months I’ve seen a dive in my physical strength. I have to do every activity—which requires standing—in increments of about ten minutes. That’s how long I can be upright without feeling like I’m going to collapse, and by that time the muscles in my middle are basically spasming, adding to my weakness. It’s discouraging, and I wonder how long it will be before I have to leave my home, which is multi-level and not conducive to using a wheelchair. 

My biggest fears in life basically boil down to my health and its steady decline. Not long ago, I read a book by a doctor with MS. He said that even cancer patients are given the hope of remission and recovery. No such hope is extended to people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. An eventual slide into the abyss of immobility, weakness, and numbness will take over. How long that declining journey takes is individual. It paints a humbling picture of needing help with managing the very basic functions of life. As it is, my husband now cuts my meat and carries my dinner plate and does a 100 other things for me, like I’m a child. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very appreciative for his assistance.

Why am I talking about this? I guess to say: something new can be scary. My mind battles with setting aside my fear to embrace the hope of newness, like spring rain and sunshine causing the trees to bud and the flowers to bloom. It strikes me: new life takes both the sun and the rain—brightness and shadow. This visual image reminds that what we deem as darkness and fear can have a purpose in our lives. It has the potential to drown us with paralyzing worries or to help us grow, grooving out a deep character, which comes from trials. 

My fear diminishes when I can equate something good coming out of something painful or unpleasant. This verse from James 1:4,5 came to mind— “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” This trial of ill health and fear can produce something good in me, if I let it. It can produce patience, which I’ve always had in short supply. I see patience working in my life like a potter’s hands forming a clay pot. The ridges and rings of life smooth out under the touch of patience as the wheel turns, eventually ending up with a whole, completed vessel–me.

So I put on my Pollyanna attitude (I watched that movie a couple of days ago) and gladly look forward to this new year. It’s an opportunity to love, learn, and grow and to let patience have her perfect work in me. 

Blessing on your New Year! J

I wrote this short story many years ago. It follows an old-school, omniscient storytelling point of view and portrays an allegory of the real Gift of Christmas. Like a physical present, which cannot fully be known or experienced without unwrapping it, Jesus and the gift of life He offers cannot be experienced unless it’s unwrapped and stepped into.

Once upon a time John purchased a gift for his son, Michael. 

“This is exactly what Michael needs,” John said, as he lovingly placed the gift in a box and wrapped it in gold paper. He set the present on a chest of drawers in Michael’s room. John could hardly wait for his son to discover the gift, but day after day went by without Michael mentioning his gift. John waited patiently. He knew that at the right time, Micheal would see it.

Finally, one day Michael stayed home sick from school and had nothing better to do but lie on his bed and and think. He spotted the gift right where his father had left it.

“I wonder what this is?” Michael said to himself. “Funny I never saw this here before.” He walked over to the chest and picked up the gift. He turned it over and around, studying it from all sides. He could not decide whether he should open it or not, so he waited.

When John came home from work that night, there was Michael with the package in his arms, shaking it, examining the paper and bow, and turning it over and over. With excitement John asked him, “Why don’t you open it, son?”

“Is it for me?” Michael asked, his brows puzzled together. “It doesn’t have a name tag on it.”

“Yes. Who else would it be for?” John shuffled his hand over Michael’s hair. It had been only him and Michael since they had lost Madeline, his wife and Michael’s mother, to cancer three years prior.

“Oh. Well, I wanted to look at it for a while.” Michael turned the box around. It glimmered under his touch like a living thing and both fascinated and awed him.

“I see. I’m glad you’ve discovered the gift, but I’ve been waiting a long time for you to see what’s inside. The gift really isn’t yours unless you unwrap it.” John pointed out, eager for his son to experience what he had purchased for him.

 Michael looked at his father and sighed, clearly unsure about pulling the wrapping apart. Slowly but steadily he peeled back the paper a little at a time. Finally he pulled it clear off with a loud rip. Michael held the box in his lap. It glowed in all the colors of the rainbow and seemed to shine a different color in whatever way he turned the box, almost like a prism. “It’s so cool!” Michael’s face lit up, reflecting the light of the box.

“You know,” John gently said. “There is more to the present if you open the box. You’ll find out what is really inside.”

“I guess, Dad, but this box so awesome.” Michael put the box back on the dresser in his room and admired it often. The days passed and Michael became well again. Life returned to normal. Every once in a while, John would remind Michael, “There’s still something in the box yet.”

“What more could there be?” Michael would ask.

One day Michael realized that he had grown tired of just looking at the box in passing. He intently wondered what was inside. He walked over to his dresser and opened the lid. Instantly, a bright, white light flooded his room. He had to squint to see. With his hand Michael searched around inside the box, but he felt nothing. His fingers met only light. He continued to search, and Michael soon discovered that there were no sides and no bottom. Now there was not even a lid, for it had melted away into the light. 

The light gave him joy, and he rejoiced at having such a marvelous present. Michael looked at his gift of light everyday, shining like a beacon from his dresser. He would put his finger in and feel for a bottom that was not there. 

One day he decided to try sticking his whole arm in, right up to this armpit.  His arm went in with no problem.  The next day he decided to squeeze his head in. Suddenly, he could see all around inside. The bright light shimmered like raining glitter.

“Wow!” exclaimed Michael. “I can’t believe I only wanted to look at the outside!”

The next day he simply jumped into the light, and it surrounded him.  When Michael stepped out he glowed. The gift of light clung to him, and wherever he went, he took a bit of the light with him. One day he felt really sad that his friends didn’t have a light like his.

“Dad,” said Michael. “Do you have any more gifts like you gave me? My friends need this light too?” Michael turned up his face with expectation. He realized that his father had always given him the good things that he needed, and Michael had needed the light. He didn’t know how he had lived without it.

“Son, they already have their gifts, they just don’t know it,” John told Michael. “It’s too dark for them to see the gift, waiting right in front of them. Maybe your light can help.”

So Michael patiently shined the gift of love and light on his friends, and after a time they could see their gifts too.


I hope you enjoyed this simple Christmas story. This Christmas I hope you have or will open up the Gift of Light which came down from the Father of Lights many years ago.

Christmas Blessings, J

A prayer of preparation

The song, Joy to the World, one of my favorite Christmas hymns, commands that “every heart prepare Him room.” This hymn talks about singing with joy, experiencing joy, and making room in our hearts for the One who will give us true joy. The simple notion that we must prepare a place made me think and ask: “How do I prepare Him room?”

What does it mean to prepare for something or someone? I think of what life events take the most preparation. Planning to get married or planning for the birth of a child have to be at or toward the top of the list for most people. Both events take preparation. There are necessities to purchase or buy, invitations or announcements to send out, and venues and the aid of professional services to secure. 

How does this correlate to preparing room in our hearts for the King of Kings?

When we prepare for something, we consciously think about it, lay out a plan, and make room in our lives for this something. When we prepare for the person of Christ, in a way we do the same thing. We think about who he is and why he came. We lay out the nativity and the story of Jesus, examining it from the manger to the cross. We consider what His actions, sacrifice, and love mean to our lives. And in the end we know why we rejoice: He has come to redeem mankind from the wages of sin—death and restore our relationship to the Father. Without this joy of salvation, hopelessness threatens to cling to our days like Scrooge’s portent phantom of his future demise. (I read A Christmas Carol last night. It seemed an apt metaphor.) 

But instead we can rejoice, as the angels commanded the shepherds to do thousands of years ago. “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:10-13 NKJV

My prayer of preparing room: I wrote this last night while in my bedroom, sitting in my cozy blue chair in the corner, where I do my best thinking and writing. I went with what I could see to give me inspiration for this prayer.

Dear Lord, 

This Christmas help me to make room for You in my life every day. I often think of my heart as a home, and its workings, rooms. I see myself rearranging the furniture in the rooms of my heart to prepare a place for You, for Your joy to be my joy. 

If my heart were a figurative bedroom, I would shift over my vanity where I apply layers of paltry surface coverings to try to hide my flaws and faults. I hope I reflect more of You and less of me in the mirror that I hold to my face. Thank You that Your love covers a multitude of sins. 

I will tidy up the floor of my bedroom-heart and hang up my emotions, which fall like soiled clothing in littered piles, needing to be laundered. Thank You that the gifts of Your spirit which are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control, can be mine if I choose them to be. 

Give me courage and faith to keep getting out of bed, smoothing the bedclothes as I do, to look forward to the gift of each day despite its challenges. Whether it be sunny or dreary, stormy, or calm, I will look to You to help me navigate the days to come. 

Amen

Dear reader, may you take time this Christmas season to prepare room in your hearts for the Joy Incarnate and pray your own prayer of preparation. 

Blessings, J

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