Thursday I Am Thankful…

Books, Community

. . . for you.

So many of you read my blog and share it. Your interactions with me on Facebook and other social media sites is invaluable to this ministry. And so I thank YOU, for liking and sharing my posts.

As a tangible thanks, I love to do periodic giveaways. This week I have 3 winners. These ladies were randomly drawn from a group of you who “liked” my posts on amandahopehaley.com and “shared” those posts through your favorite forms of social media.

I am excited to send 1 signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and 1 “Be Hopeful” necklace to…

  1. “ARA” (Monday’s winner)
  2. “mfellen” (Tuesday’s winner)
  3. “aunderwood2034” (Wednesday’s winner)

***Winners, please click “The Story=> Contact” on my website to contact me with your addresses. I am so excited to be in touch with you!***

Monday I Am Thankful…

Community, Spirituality

…for my community of friends & family.

As Paul, Silas, and Timothy were writing their second letter to the believers in Thessalonica, the young church there was enduring civil persecution by local unconverted Jews and pagans. (For a glimpse of the situation there, read Acts 17:1-9.)

The Thessalonian Christians were responding to false accusations, unlawful imprisonment, financial extortion, and public battery not by feeling sorry for themselves or running from their oppressors. They were banding together in love and faith:

Brothers and sisters, we cannot help but thank God for you, which is only appropriate because your faith is growing and expanding and because the love demonstrated by each and every one of you is overflowing for one another. (2 Thessalonians 1:3, The Voice)

The Christians’ reaction to hardship was the correct one–Paul praised them for it!–and it is a great example to anyone facing life-altering difficulties.

God intended humans to live their lives in communities.  We are stronger when we are together because we can protect, encourage, and edify each other physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We aren’t meant to carry our literal and figurative burdens alone.

So on Thanksgiving (and every day), I will make the choice the be thankful for everyone around me. I will try my best not be jealous of family and friends who have the children I desire. Instead of feeling sorry for myself and my miscarriages, I’ll thank God for giving me people who love me. Instead of running from children’s stores and Santa Claus lines, I’ll thank God for giving me godkids whom I can love, teach, spoil, and then return to their parents!

High-Flying Mission

Community

My flying MO has changed. I used to carry a huge book and try to disappear behind it on every flight, but since I’ve been preparing for my book launch, I’m that stressed-out-looking business-y woman constantly adjusting her laptop screen as the guy in front of her moves his seat back up and down. (Yes, I need a tablet. But I need to get a paycheck first. 😉 )

I too-often fly between Denver and Nashville; that usually means over 2 hours of nothing to do but work. Not last night.

When the flights are full–and they usually are–typing is challenging. So yesterday when a smallish 10-year-old took the seat between David and me, I was a bit relieved thinking I’d have some elbow room. He had all sorts of electronics. He immediately started searching for WiFi and looked set to entertain himself for the full flight.

Yes, I thought, I’m going to finish writing these two articles!

Nope.

He couldn’t make any of his gear work. He started moving all around, desperate for any distraction. He watched Big Bang Theory over David’s shoulder for a while even though he couldn’t hear it. When David switched the channel to golf, the boy looked over my shoulder and read my in-production post about ectopic pregnancies and feeling abandoned by God. (Yeah. That was appropriate reading for a 6th grader!)

Distraction. I need a distraction. Why aren’t I a mom? They are master distractors!

As usual, God took care of us. Outside the window was the biggest, longest lightning storm I have ever seen from a plane. Beyond the storm front was the most colorful sunset I’ve ever seen. I officially abandoned my writing and tapped his arm. “Look outside. Can you see the clouds?”

His response reminded me of 10-year-old me: “Wow! Can I take a video so I can show it to my science teacher tomorrow and get extra credit?” Of course!

It took him several tries to get it right. When he finished, I had the perfect question: “Is science your favorite subject?” And he took off.

Loved science. Hated English and writing. He noticed that I was writing about God. Was I a Christian? He was. His whole family was Catholic. That was good because his uncle just died, and he was flying home from his funeral. He loved his uncle. He loved fishing with him. That’s one of his favorite memories. His dad was really sad, and he was too. He didn’t know what to do when his dad cried, and he was scared to be flying up here when his dad was alone at the back of the plane. He was afraid he might get sick the way he gets sick in the car. He’d try not to get sick on my computer. And, hey, how come I could make the WiFi work?

That was it. I never got his name, and he pushed his way to the back of the plane as soon as we landed.

So this morning as I frantically opened my laptop to make up for the work time I had lost last night, it dawned on me: maybe I’ve ended up with some sort of plane ministry. If ever anyone sits between David and me, that person is a Chatty Cathy who needs to talk to someone. And that person always manages to bring up faith.

I need to stop being selfish and stop praying that God will leave the seat next to me empty. I always get my work done one way or another, and I’m always blessed by the time I get to spend comforting (or distracting!) a nervous traveler. It’s a funny way to serve God and man, but I’ll try to keep doing it.

Unconditional Praise

Community, Health

I couldn’t sleep last night. This isn’t anything new. I’ve been fighting pneumonia since Memorial Day, and I recently finished more drugs to treat strep throat. Going to bed means coughing, popping ears, and tons of pressure building in my nasal passages. We’ve all experienced this; it just isn’t any fun.

But the usual discomfort wasn’t keeping me awake last night. Shortly after my David was snoring (he’s been sick, too, poor thing), I slipped out of bed and went to sit on the deck to pray. Out there I could watch the clouds pass by, enjoy the breeze that wasn’t blowing into our open windows, and talk to God. I felt that He was keeping me awake for this purpose.

This morning–as I write this, in fact–someone I love dearly is ending a six-year battle with powers beyond his control. He’s the kind of person who would do anything for you. He makes a practice of sacrificing himself, and the lives of his children are undoubtedly the fruit of his devotion to God. He isn’t perfect: he screams at traffic and hates to exercise and teases me mercilessly about the coincidence that I moved to Colorado the same month that marijuana did.

No one who knows him can understand why he’s suffered these last six years. He’s in a place, at this moment, where only God’s divine intervention can save him. Pondering this last night, I remembered what one of my friends wrote for my book. Regarding a risky pregnancy, she had said to God, “This is Your chance for a miracle. You can do this now, and we will proclaim this is Your miracle. No doctor can take credit. If You don’t, then that’s okay.” The circumstances are different, but my prayer was basically the same: “If You save him tomorrow, then everyone will know it was You and everyone will praise You.”

“Shouldn’t you praise Me anyway?”

God, as I worshiped You last night, so will I worship and praise You regardless of today’s outcome. You have a perfect plan that is designed to carry out Your ultimate will: that all will know You as God and be saved by Your sacrifice of Jesus. I don’t understand the parts of Your plan, but I trust that You know best and act as necessary to bring about Your will. And I thank You for sometimes letting me be a small part of that plan, even when it is painful.

In Wonderland

Books, Community

I’ve been a fan of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland for as long as I can remember. It probably started in 1985 when I first saw the mini-series directed by Harry Harris. It’s a beautiful film incorporating both Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It stars everyone who was famous at the time, my favorite being Carol Channing as the White Queen. I made my parents “tape it” (back when VHS was the newest thing), and I watched it until I literally wore down the tape inside the cassette.

Many years later, Alice inspired my high school valediction:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat (75).

I hoped the text would inspire my fellow graduates to put more thought into their futures than Alice had and to plan their paths carefully. It went ok.

As an adult, I find myself referencing Lewis Carroll’s great work more and more often:

“If everybody minded their own business, . . . the world would go around a deal faster than it does” (70).

“…we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad” (75). 

“Now, here you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” [Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass (Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1897), 50.]

The fantastic dream-like writings of a nineteenth-century author are surprisingly relevant to my life. Who doesn’t feel as if the world is watching her, she is slipping into madness, and she can’t catch up with her own life? How many times have I said to my editor in the last year, “I feel like Alice in Wonderland,” referring to the publishing process alone?

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A hibiscus bloom the size of my head.

This week I had the chance to spend three days in Wonderland. Not Lewis’s Mad-Hatter Wonderland that is the now-frequent backdrop of my life, but Disney’s “Golden Afternoon” Wonderland. In the last 10 years, my parents have turned their backyard into the most beautiful garden you’ve ever seen. Even in the Tennessee heat and humidity, there is always a breeze here. My mother’s roses are breathtaking, my father’s grass is perfectly manicured (actually, that’s nothing new), the wind chimes are just the right tone, and a family of rabbits with parents the size of the Cheshire Cat lives there. It is colorful and inspiring. It’s everything that I loved about Wonderland when I was a child.

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Guardian of the Garden: “Ya-hooty 2”

But what would a day in Wonderland Garden be without its caretakers–my father the kind and guiding White Knight, and my mother the sweet-and-sometimes-frazzled White Queen? I have had the best time with my parents this week. I told someone that I hadn’t had “quality time” with my mother since we moved to Denver, but she noted that we really haven’t had so much one-on-one time since I married. We bonded. We did silly things such as getting pedicures with psychedelic paint colors only Carroll would approve. We talked about old boyfriends. We shared a secret and kept it from Daddy (for now).

I need to come back to Wonderland more often. It inspires me, obviously, but it also reminds me of my childhood and refreshes my spirit. When adult life makes me feel like disheveled Alice at the mad tea party, I want to be awe-struck Alice in the serene garden.

Ghosting

Community

“I’d like you to meet Amanda. She’s a ghost.” That is not how every hardworking woman wants to be introduced by her boss, but it happened to me several times. Ghost isn’t a derogatory term in literary circles, although I am happy to be a flesh-and-blood author now as opposed to an apparition.

Ghosting is a funny job. In my experiences, the publisher asks you to write a book on behalf of a too-busy “name author.” Sometimes you get to design the material; sometimes you’re given an outline. Sometimes you work directly with the name author; sometimes that person doesn’t even know your name. Always you must capture the “voice” of the credited author: no reader should ever suspect the book wasn’t written by the name author.

This week I learned a different definition of ghosting, but that profession is far more insidious. Monday morning I was frantically trying to pack David for an impromptu work trip when I got an email from RedBox thanking me for my purchase. I’d supposedly rented “Blood, Guts, and Guns” (or something like that) to play on an XBox I do not own at a kiosk a good 20 miles away from my desk. I called RedBox immediately, and they were confounded: in order to rent a RedBox DVD, you must physically swipe your card. “Have you lost your card?” they asked me. Nope. And David had just booked that last-minute $900 flight on his–those cards were in our possession.

My next call was to the bank. By then I had another email from RedBox: “Thanks for purchasing ‘Zombies Attack Vampires’!” again for the XBox I will never own and this time 25 miles away from my desk. Long story short, someone–I assume a man–had physically swiped my card when I made a purchase and later “ghosted” my card (copied the digital information to a physical card). The RedBox trips were the ghost’s trial runs to see if the card worked before he went to buy expensive stuff.

I like to think my ghost will thank me someday for being so obsessive about monitoring David’s and my digital identities. I like to think that I saved this idiot from a federal charge of “grand theft” and a lifetime of crime. You see, this person had to be a newbie:

  1. My credit card was linked to my email, so RedBox sent me a confirmation of each transaction immediately.
  2. RedBox tells me the exact time when the purchase was made.
  3. RedBox tells me the exact location where the purchase was made.
  4. RedBox has a camera in each of their kiosks.

There was no way he was getting away with this.

Our bank has always done an amazing job of watching out for our identities. While I was on the phone with a bank operator, I received a notification from the bank asking me to verify the RedBox purchases. The transactions flagged because the games didn’t seem to be things I’d purchase; the ghost wasn’t imitating my “voice,” if you will.

Maybe he’ll have better luck next time. As a ghostwriter, I always did a better job when I’d met my author face-to-face. My identity thief will get a chance to do just that in a couple of months. He committed the fraud in Denver, and I’ve been invited to his arraignment.

I don’t think I’ll be hiring him as my ghost anytime soon, but I bet I’ll be “haunting” his dreams.