Friday, April 28, 2006

Festival Time in the Tennessee

Here in the South, we love our local festivals. In my neck of the woods, we have The World's Biggest Fish Fry, The West Tennessee Strawberry Festival (in my hometown, Humboldt), The Dresden Iris Festival, The Trenton Teapot Festival, The Bradford Doodle Soup Days, and a host of others.

My son and I have just come in from The World's Biggest Fish Fry parade. This is an annual festival put on in our town every year at the end of April. Most years it rains, but we got lucky and had the rain earlier in the week. I now sport my first sunburn of the season. But we had a blast watching the bands, floats, horses, and fancy cars go by. And of course we had cotton candy and corn dogs. Tonight we will go to the fairgrounds and probably eat catfish at the fish tent and ride the rides at the carnival. I don't ride the rides, but I enjoy the smells, sights, and sounds of people enjoying themselves.

If you have time, visit the link above and find out why Paris, Tennessee is home to The World's Biggest Fish Fry. And if you're ever in our neck of the woods in April, make plans to attend. We're 15 minutes from the Tennessee River where you can camp, swim, boat, and fish to your heart's content. Saturday my son will participate with his dad in the Fishing Rodeo, and perhaps the Catfish races on the courthouse lawn. And of course, if you love catfish, hushpuppies, slaw, and fries, then we have the best around. After all, we've been cooking over 12,ooo lbs. of fish that week every year since 1953. We oughta have it down pat by now, don't ya think?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Another Where I've Been Post--

Since my last post, my world has gone all topsy turvy. Sunday afternoon, my father-in-law fell and cut his head on the coffee table. We spent the evening in the emergency room, and then brought him home with us to spend the night. We're making arrangements for home health and physical therapy, Meals on Wheels, and a cleaning service, so that maybe he can stay independent for a little while longer. Yet, we know that eventually the hard decision will have to be made. Pray for him and our family.

Monday we took Daddy to his regular doctor that morning, and then I worked on my transcription test for a new job that afternoon. I spent several hours Monday evening trying to get it just right. The formatting was the hardest part. It was very stressful, knowing that getting work depended upon it. But I finished it before deadline--which was 9 pm Tuesday night.

Tuesday my husband CWG, Jr. helped officiate the funeral of his sister's mother-in-law, Lillian. She passed away last Friday night. She had been suffering from a brain aneurysm for several weeks. She died peacefully with her family around her. I was asked to play a couple of musical selections, which I was honored to do. We came home from the funeral and I proofed my test files and sent them off.

This morning I received word that I passed my test, and they sent me the contractor's agreement and my first assignment. Praise God! This is an answer to prayer. As you know, our family has had some financial difficulty with me being laid off, and CWG looking for a salaried position. This will help. And just in time. Now just keep praying for him. The Lord is working!

Today I spent most of the afternoon working on that first assignment, and doing up all of Daddy's (my father-in-law) laundry. It's been a hectic week. So now you know where I've been and why I haven't posted. Maybe things will settle down soon, and I can get back to my real love, writing.

Thanks for checking in. And thanks for all the great feedback you gave me on my last post. Those of you who haven't read it, please see below. I can still use your feedback. I welcome your thoughts.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fencing God In--Or Out?

I met a new friend through blogging that I am trading chapters with for critique purposes. Cathy has been kind enough to offer another pair of eyes for an honest opinion from another writer's perspective. She has raised valid questions that I want to open up for discussion.

First of all, I have had to study genres to determine exactly where my book is going to fit in. I also have started looking at publishers and agents. Before you can market your book, you need a good idea of where it fits in in the marketing world. I'm not sure I have a clear idea on that yet.

If I had to describe my book in a paragraph, this is what I'd say:

It is a novel filled with drama and suspense with colorful regional characters and Southern based settings. Having said that, can one write about her own beloved South without broaching the subject of Christianity? True to my Bible Belt roots, I chose to include this aspect of Southern life in my novel. Does that make it Christian fiction. I think, most certainly. Is that the best market for it? I'm not so sure.

The novel is overwhelmingly contemporary mainstream suspense with literary overtones. If you were to read through the titles on my bookshelves, you would find an abundance of classical titles. You would find an abundance of contemporary suspense. You would find, to a great degree, modern mystery. And on those same shelves you would find several translations of the Bible, a set of Matthew Henry's commentaries, and a full set of Spurgeon's sermons. You would not find any pornographic material, very little science fiction, maybe a volume or two of horror, and lots of motivational nonfiction which is mainly my husband's. In my younger years, I read Nancy Drew, Grace Livingston Hill, and Agatha Christie. I was also fond of historical romance. I will read almost anything, but the books I choose to keep on my shelves--those are the ones that influence me, inspire me, and ultimately draw me back for rereads years down the line.

But back to the subject at hand. My problem with classifying said novel is brought up in the very first chapter. It's in my themes. A young girl finds herself pregnant and scared. The young girl goes to Memphis to obtain an abortion and is abducted by a drug runner. She is kept in captivity throughout her pregnancy, but finally gets the courage to try to escape. A violent conflict ensues. Perhaps too violent. How much violence is too much for Christian fiction? How much sex is too much sex for Christian fiction? If you are being realistic, and trying to make a valid statement about teens, peer pressure, and promiscuity, bad choices, consequences, and redemption, is any or all excusable? Would a Christian editor immediately stop reading if he ran across a compromising situation between two teens?

As I write, I try to keep in mind that regardless of where I market the book I want it to glorify God. I try to keep in mind the audience for which I am writing. I do not want to write anything I would be ashamed for my grandparents to pick up. At the same time, I do not want to sugar coat my message. I want teenage girls to read my book and be able to identify with the characters and their choices. Of course you can say euphemistically that they "succumbed to temptation" or that they "had premarital sex" or "committed fornication," but does that make it real to the teenager who is reading? Why isn't it ok to put a character in a situation, and put her right up to the moment of decision--the moment where there is no turning back, and even have her succumbing to the moment, the feelings, the desires? It does not have to be pornographically portrayed. I know what erotic literature is. I know what pornographic literature is. It is not my intention to write either.

I know what violence is. I know what graphic violence looks like in the movies and on television. It is not my intention to add gratuitous violence for the sake of violence. The violence I intend to include is the climax of the novel representing the battle between good and evil forces. It will not be pretty. None of the battles in the Bible were pretty. And I also seem to recall some pretty adult themes, some graphic description, and some pretty plain language. And if you read closely enough, you just might find something bordering on erotic in the Song of Solomon. (Please don't leave me hate mail for that one.)

Am I putting myself in the same category as the inspired writers of the Holy Word? I can't say that I am writing the oracles of God. But I am saying that I am representing Him. And I want to do that to the best of my ability. I do not want to offend. The whole aim of my novel is to show how God's mercy redeems us from destruction--yes, even delivers us from our bondage. Thus, the title, From Pharoah's Hand.

I need input. What are your thoughts on adult themes in Christian literature? My character will eventually give birth in a very tension-filled scene. Inappropriate to include as well? These scenes are important to the structure and plot I have mapped. Do I scrap the idea of marketing it as Christian fiction and stick with traditional houses? And what about the spiritual overtones, the Biblical parallels? How will they go over in a secular market? We could explore the possibilities from the other side of the fence.

Am I straddling the fence and trying to please both sides? I have chosen my side. I am in prayer over this. When this project is finished, I want to be able to lay it at the feet of Jesus, much as I have my musical gift, and say, "Here it is, Lord. Use it as You will." If He is pleased, that is all that matters. Pray for wisdom in this, and leave me your thoughts.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Striking a Chord

While looking for those lost taxes mentioned in the last post, I came across something that triggered many memories. In an old suitcase in the garage, I found old sheet music, music books, and stray papers that were parts of music lessons. I found one in particular dated 1974.

It was like meeting a stranger, seeing my own handwriting in a nine-year old child's scrawl, written in colored markers--each letter a different color. It brought back memories of Ms. Choate sitting by my side as I practiced scales and hymns. She always knew when I hadn't practiced. I spent hours playing the piano at home, but rarely played the classical pieces we went over in class. But Ms. Choate was patient and kind. And she taught me well. I have the joy of being able to play today because of her--and the sacrifice my dear mother made each week to make sure I got those lessons.

I still have the Christmas ornament she made for me decorated with sequins and beads and my second grade picture on it. I still have the stamps she gave us from different countries--somewhere. (oh, no, I'll have to go looking for them. See post below.) I still have some of the little colored glass bottles and busts of composers she gave us as rewards. I still have the gift of music she labored to impart. I wish I had paid more attention to her instruction. I wish I had practiced those pieces more. I love classical music today. It would thrill me to be able to play more of those pieces.

I looked at the books and sheet music. I remember her giving us a list of what music we should buy. I remember my grandfather taking the list to Wallick Music in Jackson, TN. and purchasing the books for us. What a wonderful part he played in this. I had forgotten.

I immediately sat down at my Yamaha keyboard and played a line or two from one of the old books. It didn't sound the same. Our piano is at the old homeplace where my sister lives. I do not have room for such a large upright. Still, some day when things are better I am going to get a small console one. Electronic keyboards lose so much of the stirring vibrations you get from wooden hammers hitting actual strings.

Our old piano at mom's house has been tuned exactly twice in 35 years--once, when it was brought to our home,(My grandfather bought and gave us the piano.) and again, sometime in my teens. Daddy got it tuned for me at my insistence. Most of the time money was so short that we didn't have that luxury. I said all that to say this: even though the old piano was out of tune, even though a couple of keys no longer played, even though the ivory has come off several of the keys, the music that came out of it was some of the best music I ever played. I drove my family crazy playing in that small house. And I still say, a real piano, even old and out of tune, plays a thousand times better music than these electronic gizmos they try to pass off as instruments. Call me old fashioned. Call me crazy. I still love the subtle nuances found in a real piano.

For many years I used my talent for the Lord. I began playing for church services at the age of 12. I have played for weddings and funerals. Funerals are the hardest, especially if you were close to the deceased. I occasionally get to play at my home church when we go home for a visit. I miss that alot. I may not be a concert pianist. I may not be able to play Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Postludes and preludes aren't my specialty. But I do know that when the Spirit of God comes upon me I can play whatever He desires of me. And it gives me great pleasure to worship Him in this manner.

Recently I went to an interview for a church pianist for a church down at the lake. I didn't get the job. I had to laugh when I came home and told my husband. "I can't even get a job doing something I've done for 30 years. This has to be God working a different plan." And indeed He is. Other gifts are coming to the forefront. I am learning that there are seasons for gifts, much like birthdays, Christmas, and anniversaries. Different gifts for different seasons.

All that grumbling about the lost taxes...and look what treasures I uncovered!

Eccentricities Exposed

I've been reading some of the other blogger's posts, and it seems that somehow in the tagging, a requirement got left out of the instructions. Most of the people's lists I have seen involved six "weird" things about yourself. I checked back at Morning Glory's post, and it just said six random things. But in case you were disappointed with my list, I'll post 6 utterly weird things about me. I hope I don't lose readers over this. LOL.

  1. I have to have a straw when drinking cold liquids. Cold liquids hurt my teeth and make my nose cold. I have an aversion to anything cold. See my post on Raynaud's Syndrome.
  2. Ok, this is disgusting. The toenail on my pinkie toe on my left foot is almost non existant. In fact, if you take clippers and start clipping, you can clip all the way to the nail bed, and I don't even feel it. There's not enough there to even paint, sadly, if I painted my toenails--which I hardly ever do.
  3. I can't stand public gatherings, especially crowded ones. If we go to a restaurant that is crowded, I nearly have a conniption. (For those of you Yankees and foreigners in our midst, a conniption is, put plainly, a fit. Crowds make me nervous. You never know when a stranger is going to try and talk to you. And I never know what to say back. Stupid, I know. I can talk for days in bloggyland with total strangers. But put me in a room with a 100 strangers, and I get all tore up. (Another Southernism. Sorry, can't help it.) I can be in a room with 15 people I know very well, and still panic. Why that is, I don't know. I enjoy family gatherings. But things like school meetings, t-ball games, local events, and Wal-Mart (I hate Wal-Mart, you always see someone you know.) drive me insane. My hubby loves Wal-Mart for the exact opposite reason, I think. He wants to get out and see who's there.
  4. I was the school reporter in second grade, actually making me a published writer when I was 8. There was no byline to prove it, but I have a newspaper clipping of a photograph of me and the librarian and naming me as such. I had forgotten this, until I read someone else's blog that said they had gotten their publishing start in a newspaper. I don't guess this falls in the category of "weird," but maybe ironic that I turned out to be a writer. Or maybe not. Maybe I've repressed it that long.
  5. I can't eat tomatoes, boiled okra, or soft pickles, due to the slime factor. I can eat fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and crunchy pickles (but I prefer the baby pickles because they have less slime.)
  6. If I lose something I am absolutely anal about it until I find it--even if it's three a.m. and I have to get up early the next morning. Lately, I have had to force myself to stop looking for things. Since we moved last year, there have been a multitude of items I can't find. I keep trying to tell myself, "It will turn up one day." But even though I may not even need that thing right at that moment, not knowing where it is drives me bonkers. I'd hate to see myself if I lost something really, really important. (We were up til 2 the other night searching for 2003 tax returns--Don't ask. And no, we didn't find them.)

So there you have it friends. All my weirdness, check, some of my weirdness on display for the whole world. I hope you still love me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I've been Tagged

Ok. This is the first time I've gotten tagged in bloggyland. I got tagged by MorningGlory to tell six random things about myself, and then tag six more people. First you post with your six things, then you go to six other blogs and let them know they are tagged and to find the details on your blog. So here goes:

  • I play piano.
  • I love horseback riding, although it's been 20 years since I have been on one.
  • I am the middle child. I have two sisters.
  • I have a journal fetish. I can't resist them at bookstores or even Wal-mart. Something about the blank pages just draws me to them.
  • Blue is my favorite color.
  • Last time I checked, there were some gray hairs under all that auburn dye. LOL.

I'm tagging Diane, March St. Ives, Rachel, Lisa, Magnolia, and kpjara. Happy blogging.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Grace Revealed

Friday night at dark we drove down to the lake to Point Pleasant Baptist Church. They have a drive through presentation called Living Pictures of Jesus. We waited on the side of the highway for an hour before we got to turn into the chuch drive. But the wait was worth it. Each scene had elaborate costumes and settings. Each set had a recording with scripture and detail for the scene. It took about 20 minutes to drive through.

The first scene was John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. There were scenes where Jesus calmed the storm on the sea, the Last Supper, the woman at the well, Jesus in the Garden, and on to the Crucifixion and His ascension. The final scene depicted Christ on His throne in heaven seated at the right hand of God. My family and I were truly blessed to have gotten to participate in this beautiful presentation.

Saturday night we attended the Easter services of Tennessee Valley Community Church at the invitation of friends. They have started a series of sermons based on the reality show, Survivor. Their entire stage was decorated like an island--complete with tikki hut, tikki lamps, and waterfall. Their members made a mockup video complete with a scene where they voted off one of the members. The message was entitled, "You've been voted off, now what?" The theme of the sermon was God's free gift of grace.

When we were seated there was a guest card and a plastic fork in each seat. We were left to wonder about the forks until the final moments of the service. Finally, the pastor described the fabulous meals his mom would cook for him growing up. He said that he always knew something good was on the way when his mom would clear the table but tell them to hang on to their forks.
Then he made the analogy to our lives. He said he didn't know what some of us had been facing in the last week, months, or year, but that Jesus's resurrection paved the way for Him to come into our situation and change our lives. Bro. Steve likened the grace of God to the grace that David showed Mephibosheth, Saul's grandson when he brought him into the palace and put him at his table. Even though Saul was David's enemy, and David could have had his whole family killed, he showed mercy. God's grace gives us what we do not deserve. His grace comes into our lives and changes our lives and situation. It doesn't matter if we have been voted out of a marriage, a job, or a popular crowd at school. It doesn't matter if we are rejected on the basis of our looks, our position, our religion, or our color. Jesus extends His grace freely to all who will accept Him.

Because He lives today, we have eternal life and abundant life. Because He lives today, we can "hold onto our forks, because the best is yet to come." Praise God for His great mercy. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice. Thank you for grafting me, a Gentile, into your glorious family.

Happy Easter and blessings to you and your family.

Friday, April 14, 2006


Chapters 12 and 13 are behind me for the time being, and I'm mulling over 14 this morning. It feels good to finally be out of the rut and have my groove back. The last two days have been most enjoyable. I guess you noticed that on the days I am most productive, no posting goes on here. Thanks for the couple of calls I got checking on me though. It was nice to be missed in such a sweet way. It's nice to know I have regular readers.

Chapter 13 seems a bit abrupt. It's one of my shortest chapters. I begin second guessing myself over this. Why include it at all, if it is that short? (about 1250 words). It may well be one of those parts of the book that hits the cutting room floor in the end. I don't know. I just keep moving along. Thank you for all the encouraging comments here. It's good to know that some of you have experience in this area and can offer great advice.

I'm dealing with the parents of poor Elizabeth in this chapter. In a former chapter, they have set off for Jamaica on a tourist's tip that Beth was seen walking the beaches there in the company of a Rastafarian native. I can't say that this idea was totally original. Most of you have seen the footage of Natalee Holloway's parents in Aruba searching desperately for their missing daughter who was there on Spring Break in May of last year. It is a story that grieves my heart every time I see an update on it. However, the similarities to that story stop there. Elizabeth Merriweather's circumstances are altogether different. And, as the reader knows, Beth is nowhere near the Caribbean. I think my writing must be influenced by my late night television habits including Nancy Grace, CSI, and Law & Order. Forensic Files is another favorite, but I have had to quit watching that at night due to the nightmares that follow. (That's why I tend to flip over to Will & Grace, which my husband deems trash. And while I tend to agree, I can't help but laugh my butt off at the antics of the big busted alcoholic Karen. I have been known to wake husband up with my laughter.)

I'm rambling again. Leave me some posts and let me know what your favorite late night shows are. Maybe I'm missing out on some good ones.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Little Eyes and Big Ears

My son came home from school this week talking about his girlfriend Sarah Grace. My son is six. He is in kindergarten. He frequently tells me he has at least three girlfriends. Sarah Grace is his favorite--at school. He has a different favorite at church. Men.

I hadn't really thought about how much my grumbling and complaining had really affected him until this week. My husband and I have talked openly about our financial situation and our job situation and all sorts of things--in front of him. We especially talk about our finances when we go to Wal-Mart, and the subject of new toys comes up. Seems my son always has money but never brings it with him. They learn fast. His granddaddy and great grandparents and other family members are always handing him cash. We've talked about hard times so much lately that I fear he is becoming a hoarder. In fact, we have talked--let me rephrase that--I have talked entirely too much.

We were discussing his relationship with this little Sarah Grace when my son says to me,
"You know what I told her mom?"

"No, son. What did you tell her?

"I told Sarah Grace that she could be my wife. But that I don't want her hollering at me about not having any money, because I got plenty of money."

Oh the shame.

My next question: "When did you have this discussion?"

"At school today."

"In front of the teacher?"

"No, I don't think she was listening."

Whew ...

Ms. Tiffany may not have been listening, but I know a little boy that sure was. God help me to be a better role model for my son. Help me to be a better wife to my husband and stop putting all the blame on his shoulders. God help me to watch what I say and how I say it, for it is shaping the life of a future husband and father. I want my son to remember us being content with the blessings of life that we do have. I don't want him to remember a bitter old woman who harped on money--or the lack of it. When my miracle arrives, you can bet I will praise You in front of Him. My son will know from whence cometh my help. My son will know who his provider is. The buck stops here.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

26,872 Words and Counting

I'm wondering if I have that many words left in me, but time will tell. I've got a couple of paragraphs done on Chapter Twelve. Looks like there are roughly six more chapters to go, maybe seven. At an average of 2500 words each, that makes about 17,500 more, for a total of about 45,000 words. Is that enough I wonder? I've never written a novel. Is that even close to 200 pages? Does the length really matter? Should I just concentrate on getting the story down and stop worrying? Yes, I think that is what I should do. I'm sure in the end I will have added and subtracted plenty. Any of you writers out there have any suggestions or advice? Any words of knowledge or experience to add? I welcome your thoughts. At least I've started back. I know I can't not finish this.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Golden Lesson

For the last four years, my son and I have attended (usually with Daddy along, but Daddy had to work this year) a Pinewood Derby sponsored by the church's Royal Rangers groups. This year my son's winning streak came to an abrupt end. His golden hot rod decorated with Hot Wheel stickers did not place. No matter how much you tell them that they are still a winner, it's still hard to see that look of disappointment on their face when it happens. Our conversation went something like this:

"Mom, I know I'm not going to win anything this year."

"I'm sorry, son. But someone has to lose. Look around you. There are lots of other boys who didn't win either. I bet they feel bad too. But they are still having fun, and you have a great car to take home."

"I know."

"We'll beat 'em next year, son." Hugs.

There were no tears, thankfully. I think that would have broken my heart. And as disappointed as I was, I know that it was as good a time as any for my son to learn the facts of life about good sportsmanship. He and I also got a good look at how it feels to be on the other side of the fence. Hopefully he and I both learned something about compassion and humility.

I was thinking about the position I have found myself in lately--such a humbling, and yes, even at times,humiliating position. It's easy to be smiling and cheerful when you're in the winner's circle. But how much more compassionate and humble do we become when we find ourselves in that spot where we never dreamed we would land? We find ourselves identifying with those in our own predicament--those we possibly criticized before. Now, after finding ourselves on the other side of the fence, we realize how hard a pill it is to swallow. We find ourselves wishing we had been a bit more modest about our earlier successes...a little less prideful. We realize how little we really have even given to help the cause of those less fortunate around us. We become more grateful when someone pauses to help us as we struggle back to the top.

Yes, every boy and girl that attended today was a winner just for showing up and trying. The real test of each one's car was not necessarily how fast it ran against the competition. There have been years when certain cars did not even make it all the way down the track. The real test is crossing the finish line. We must run this race to finish. If our neighbor falters, we must encourage him to go on. If our neighbor stalls, we must do what we can to help him get back on the right track and move ahead. We're in this thing together. Yes, it is important that we run our race to the best of our ability--to give our absolute best in service to the Lord. Yes, we may have bumpy roads, breakdowns, and false starts where we have to start completely over at the beginning, but the important goal is to cross that finish line and hear our Lord and Master say, "Well done." How blessed we are that to be in the family of God is to be victorious--in this life and the life to come.

Friday, April 07, 2006

This Week

I've put off posting this week hoping that I would have good news to report. It's Friday, and we still haven't heard from my husband's latest interview. Of course our hopes are raised with each one, but I think this position is one he really wants. He tried to call the company and was told they have been in meetings all week. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe they are just ironing out the details of the offer. Please pray. We have been in limbo all week. It is so nerve wracking.

On a brighter note, we went to my son's school last night for his Spring musical. The children performed songs and dances from around the world: Scotland, Africa, England, Japan, and France. My son had a speaking part and did fantastic. He was dressed as a tourist in his Elvis t-shirt, sunglasses, shorts and tennis shoes. He wore a lei and a pair of binoculars around his neck. He made me slick his blonde hair up like Elvis's. I wasn't sure about this, but I did it anyway. He looked adorable of course. All the children did an excellent job, and I was a very proud mama. This was the highlight of my week. Somehow children have a way of helping you forget all your troubles. We filmed it. And yes, I got the part where he looked out to find us with his binoculars and waved.

Have a great weekend. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Novel Update--Stalled

I seem to be stalled out at Chapter 12. I have left off working on it for a couple of weeks, thinking that I just needed a rest. I fear I may have lost interest, but today when I opened the files, the story hooked me back in. I just need more details than I have. One of these days I am going to take a day trip down to Linden and sit on the court square. I know it will all come to me then. Right now, the cares of the daily grind are priority. Still, eleven chapters in three months is nothing to sneeze at. I know I can finish this before the end of the year. That's my goal. To have my novel written this year.

For those of you interested in the plot, I will post a brief sampling:

The old truck rattled as it hit a pot hole here and there on the gravel side road they had turned onto from the paved road that they had traveled for maybe ten minutes. Once they had cleared town, Catfish had allowed Beth back into her seat. She had finally summoned the courage to ask where they were headed, but he had ignored her request. She could not wait to get wherever it was; she had needed go the restroom ever since they had stopped at the river. Her head ached, and the nausea was still threatening to turn into vomiting. By this time, she did not care where he was taking her; she was just thankful to be alive still. She had a notion that if he really intended to kill her, he would have done so back at the river. So maybe she still had a chance to get away with her life. She hoped and prayed that she did. Whatever was awaiting her back home would be a picnic compared to this.

The were travelling a gravel road that paralleled the Buffalo River. Beth could see it below between the trees and brush beyond the valley on the driver’s side. The were climbing a steep embankment, and Catfish had to put the truck into low gear to make the hill. When they reached the top, the land flattened out somewhat, the trees parted, and before them lay the kingdom of Phineas Jones. Directly ahead Beth saw what appeared to be a mobile home, although it was so rough and weathered that it could easily be mistaken for abandoned. It was small, maybe fourteen feet by seventy, and a faded salmon color with faded black shutters. The underpinning had been torn off around most of the foundation, and a few chickens ran out from under while being chased by a mangy looking half-breed dog, who upon seeing Catfish’s truck pull in, ran to greet him with his tail wagging. The front storm door was missing, and there were concrete blocks for steps.

There were old vehicle parts strewn about the yard along with tires and tools and garbage. A fifty-five gallon blue drum sat beside the front door, and was full of briny water. A crude clothes line hung out beside the trailer and was strung between two trees. Beyond that was the remains of a garden plot trodden down with the tomato sticks still sticking up from the ground, and rags hanging from the dead vines.The grass was brown and patchy with muddy spots in odd places. Plastic covered the windows, but had been blown loose by the wind on the end and was flapping in the January wind. Set against the backdrop of the grey skies of winter, the scene was bleak and cheerless.

"Well, missy, I reckon we’uns is home. Now ain’t no use’n hollerin’. Ain’t nobody around for miles this time of year. I’m still good fer my promise of throwin’ ya in the river yonder if’n you’ns don’t behave."

Beth nodded weakly. "Is there a bathroom in there? I have to pee really bad."

"Of course there’s a bathroom in there. What do you think this is, the Stone Age. To yer right inside the door, and first left. And no funny business."

They made their way up the concrete steps. Beth entered slowly, not sure of what she might encounter. The stench hit her nostrils before she was two steps inside, the smell of animal waste, human waste, and stale smoke--spoiled food and rotten garbage. She felt her stomach lurch as she hurried down the hall. She flipped the switch for the bathroom and heaved into the toilet, which was black and yellowed and unspeakably nasty. When she was finished, she tried to flush, but nothing happened. She lifted the back off the toilet. No water was running. She turned the faucet in the sink, nothing came out.

"You don’t have any water," she yelled to Catfish.

"Course there’s water. Look in the five gallon bucket in the shower."

Beth pulled back the nasty shower curtain and there sat a five gallon bucket half full of the briny water. She lifted it out of the tub and poured it into the back of the toilet and flushed. She then urinated, and found no paper.

"There’s no paper," she shouted.

"I know. I’ll have to make a trip into town tomorrow. Use the catalog or drip dry. Best I can do."

Elizabeth’s mind was reeling. How could a human live in these conditions. She felt dirty and grimy, and now she had to drip dry. She longed for a shower and clean clothes, and then she remembered that she was wearing the only clean outfit she had brought with her. Her dirty clothes were in the truck. She cleaned up the best she could and went back to the living room.

"What am I supposed to do for clean clothes?"

"I got a flannel shirt you can sleep in. Tomorrow you can haul some river water up here to wash your dirty clothes with. I’ll make a fire and heat some water in the kettle. Then you can boil ‘em and scrub ‘em and hang ‘em on the line to dry. And unless you’re fond of wading in a cold river in January, I suggest you learn to wear ‘em a few days, seeing how you only got two changes. You musta’ left home in a hurry. And where’d you get all this here cash, get caught stealin’?"

"I’m not a thief. Or a liar and kidnapper," she spat back. "What are you going to do with me, just keep me out here in the wilderness for some kind of slave?"

"I ain’t decided jest yet. You best be watchin’ that sharp tongue. Old Catfish might jest cut it out with this here bowie knife." He took a long-bladed knife off the bar and pointed it toward her. "This here will skin a buck quicker than you can say ‘Jack Rabbit."

Tornadoes in Tennessee

I was up late last night keeping an eye on the weather. My little weather dog started in scratching the door around 8 p.m. I knew there were strong storms predicted. My oldest sister, Carla and her husband had brought my son home from a weekend of visiting. ( It was soooo nice to have a weekend alone with my husband.) They left just as the storms started. I worried about them til they called me back saying they made it. Today at least 23 families in Tennessee are grieving the loss of family members and trying to put their lives and homes back together. They are all in our prayers today as we grieve with them. Other states had destruction and loss of life as well. Put those families on your prayer list. They are in for a long road ahead. As I am learning through my experiences, sometimes life hands you painful situations. It is up to us in how we respond to them.

If He has allowed a storm to brew in your life today, allow it to strengthen you and bring you closer to Him. God is not happy to see us suffer, but He always delights in our growth as we progress through the trial. Sometimes our suffering is not about's part of a bigger plan that we cannot see. We are not omniscient. Who knows the reason some things happen? Sometimes it is not about bringing us to our knees, but bringing others to theirs.

These tragedies have a way of bringing communities and families together. They have a way of bringing out the best in folks that might have otherwise forgotten how to share and care and love their neighbor. It's hard to see the good in destruction and yes, even death. But there is always something you can find to thank Him for, if you look beyond the pain of the situation. Sometimes it takes weeks or months, even years to see past it. But hold on. Put your trust in Him. We are grieving with you families. You are in our prayers. May you feel His peace lifting you above the storm.

I want to wish my nephew Carson a Happy 2nd Birthday today! You've come along way baby, and Aunt "Dindy" loves you.