Sheila Seiler Lagrand’s Remembering for Ruth series and the Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

I’ve been working on the final edits for my book, double checking sources, winnowing down words, axing the cliché … My brain is tired. And when my brain is tired, nothing gives it rest like a good story. I’ve found just the thing in my friend Sheila Seiler Lagrand’s Remembering for Ruth series. The latest installment is entitled The Bark of Zorro and it was just released last week.
I’ve always been a fan of the series. It makes me a little sad when I finish a book and must say goodbye to characters who have become like friends. This is one reason I’ve enjoyed Lagrand’s story-telling—she portions it out in the most delectable little bites. I have been charmed by her characters: Pastor Paul and Margot Goodharte who live in Mitchell, California, and care for Paul’s mother Ruth, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. Then there’s Paul’s older brother Matthew, who seems to be the epitome of the Prodigal in many ways, and a slew of supporting characters that keep life interesting in a small town.
If you like good character development, you’ll love this series. Currently, the chapters are available in e-format only. The plan is to collect them all in paperback when the installments are complete. But if you’re like me, the looking forward to the next bit is part of the fun!
So far, Sheila has released:
And the prequel: Yankee Doodle Christmas
I’m pleased that Sheila has offered to give away one copy of all the currently available chapters to one of my readers! Just leave a comment below by Thursday evening, 5/8, to be entered for a chance to win. Maybe you can tell me what your favorite series of all time is. I’ll announce the winner on Friday morning. I don’t want to be bossy, but this would be a perfect Mother’s Day gift. What? Your mom doesn’t have an e-Reader? Even better. You can buy her one and fill it with wonderful stories like these. At ninety-nine cents each, they are a bargain!

Trust me—a good story that mom can carry with her wherever she goes? That’s a winner.

With Open Eyes

An elderly priest who had spent nearly all of his life cloistered in a monastery fell seriously ill. One night, as he languished in fever he had a vision of an angel standing at his bedside.
“What have you come for?” he asked the angel.
“To lead you home,” was the reply.
The old man felt grateful that relief was within his grasp.
“And is it a very beautiful world to which I am going?” he asked.
“It is a very beautiful world you are leaving,” replied the angel.
As the priest considered the angel’s words, he realized that he had seen very little of his present world—only the fields and the trees around the monastery.
“But I have seen very little of the world which I am leaving,” he said to the angel.
“Then,” said the angel, “I fear you will see very little beauty in the world to which you are going.”
Gripped with sorrow and regret, the old man begged that he might be granted two more years with which to explore all the world’s loveliness. His request was granted and he lived out his final days with open eyes—finding beauty in the smallest delights. (Adapted from a story told by William Barclay in this book.)

Where will you find beauty this weekend?

Sharing with Sandy:

Playdates with God: Tell

Grandpa and Grandma Phillips

We spent yesterday at the family reunion and it made me miss my grandpa. It also made me remember this post I wrote three years ago:

We did not know our story.

We did not know that our father was the ninth child of a farming family—spoiled by sisters old enough to mother him. We did not know how hard they worked, or how hard they loved, or how they had their very own salt cave. We didn’t know that our uncle—dad’s oldest brother–had been a prisoner of war, didn’t know how the family would sit around the radio in the evenings and listen for news, or how one of the few times my grandpa spanked my father was during one such listening when he—small one that he was—would not be quiet.

Aunt Martha and Uncle Edwin

We didn’t know.

We didn’t know what a perfectionist our grandmother was, how she wouldn’t let her sister-in-law work on her quilts, or how she made extra money making rugs out of rags. We didn’t know how she wasted away from the cancer—how she waited too long.

We didn’t know our grandfather loved a fast car, or how he would shift the thing into neutral at the top of the hill and see just how far he could coast.

We didn’t know.

We didn’t know our roots ran tangled all over this place. We thought we were untethered…alone. No one told us otherwise.

Me and my sibs

When I would sink deep in sorrow, grieving our lack of story, I would hug the Bible to my chest and take heart from knowing I was part of a Bigger Story. That I have this Father–whose story started time–and these brothers and sisters and these ancestors in faith. Oh, yes, that is a rich heritage.

And it was these roots—the faith ones—that gave me courage to ask.

On my grandpa’s 98th birthday, I started asking. And people sent stories. Pages and pages–written in long hand, emailed, spoken into my tape recorder at the family reunion, or laughed over and rapidly scribbled down later.

I learned how my grandpa lost his big toe (I didn’t know he was missing one). And how my dad loved candy as a boy. I read letters from my uncle, written while he was serving our country. I poured over wedding photos and aged family snapshots.

That’s my dad on the gate. And Old Prince.

With each story collected, I was planted anew. My roots plowed deeper, weaving through the soil of the past until the dust quarried from my blood recognized the curling, twisting roots of these others.

Our stories are intertwined—we share the same blood.

I don’t know why, but it mattered.

And I stand here today with faith roots and family roots anchoring me deep—steeping me strong against the storms of life—and I know…

A story has to begin somewhere.


Don’t hoard it, keep it to yourself, be ashamed, or too sad to tell.Wrap arms around your sweetest, stare long into the fire and tell of your days gone by. Tell of legs strong for running, of favorite pets and bicycle ramps, tell of the lasts, but especially the firsts: first kiss, first car, first broken heart, first loss…


Because it matters.There is someone who wants to know. 
And something amazing happens in the telling. Love blooms.

Over at The High Calling, we’re still talking about Sabbath. Will you join us?

How do you embrace the God-joy? Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button:

A New Story

This morning when I go out to feed the birds I startle a white-tailed deer. Or, should I say, she startles me. The doe has come to eat the apples that have fallen off our Golden Delicious. She lifts her head and looks at me, takes one more bite, then slowly steps into the secret places in the overgrown meadow behind our house. I stand frozen, in the middle of the yard, holding a coffee can full of sunflower seeds.
On Independence Day, I rose early, got ready, and drove to work. The roads were empty, the sky a curtain of gray. By the time I reached the hospital, a thin film of rain was drizzling. We worked hard to get done early—the patients were firecrackers…all aflame and on the verge of popping. Their families were coming and excitement was a fuse. Don’t we all need a holiday?
I made it back home just in time to head to the family picnic. We had fried chicken and green beans and Texas sheet cake and Papa’s homemade peach ice cream. We sat in air conditioning while the rain fell outside. Cousins and second cousins met in that awkward place of shared blood—even if it only does mingle once or twice a year.
Later, when the rain stopped, we went for a walk. The young ones skipped ahead and we elders talked of year-round school and running goals and the missing niece who just moved to Atlanta.
Small talk. It builds a bridge.
I told the boys, “Talk to your boy cousins—you don’t see them often.”
Jeffrey said, “I’m not good at starting conversations.”
Teddy said, “Tell Jeffrey to.”
So they just shared the same breathing space and cupcakes and smiled shyly at each other when no one was looking.
I’ve been thinking about things that are better left alone. Like what it means to really be free. To not be held captive by anger and regret and what someone else has named me. It’s funny how a simple question like, “Tell me about yourself” can open up a well of sorrow that a person thought was long forgotten.
This morning I read this from Annette Simmons:

 “People need story to organize their thoughts and make sense of things. In fact, anyone you attempt to influence already has a story. They may not be aware of the stories they are telling themselves, but they exist. Some people have stories that make them feel powerful. Others have a victim story, a story that proves your issue is not their problem, or a story that justifies their anger, frustration, anxiety, or depression. If you tell them a story that makes better sense to them you can reframe the way they organize their thoughts, the meanings they draw, and thus the actions they take. If you can convince them they are on a hero’s journey, they can begin to see obstacles as challenges, and choose behaviors more befitting a hero than a victim. Change their story and you change their behavior.” (The Story Factor)

 When I reach up to fill the feeder, I find something unusual on the brass lip of its saucer. 
A shiny nickel.
It must have been left there by a mischievous jay–a bribe? I haven’t fed the birds for a few days—caught up in these swirling thoughts, letting someone else’s story tangle me into melancholy. That shiny nickel? A love note dropped from heaven by a blue-feathered angel.
I’m telling myself a different story. A story of freedom, a story of love and grace.
A story of truth.

Because Sometimes You Need a Story (and a giveaway!)

I keep forgetting to eat breakfast because it’s not on the to-do list and there have been crises at work and crises at home and I have only gotten to run three miles this week and it looks like the rain is trying to make up for the drought all over the country today.
Sometimes I need a good story.
Sometimes I need to curl up with a warm beverage and Lucy Mae and just forget all the craziness of the world for a while. It’s good therapy. Really.
My friend Laura wrote just such a story. Her story makes me think hard about who I am—about who I want to be. Here’s what I wrote about it over at Amazon:

She’s been challenged to write a novel by a twitter friend and she just might do it. Maybe. But she has to find that darn tea basket first.

Laura, the complicated main character of The Novelist, never leaves her house (unless you count her porch or her soiree into cyberspace) but she takes the reader into “the great unknown” (as she quotes James Scott Bell from his book Plot & Structure). A copywriter who also writes poetry, Laura is completely daunted by the task of novel writing. The reader is treated to her internal process which delightfully weaves together her troubled upbringing, a broken romance, her love of tea, and poetry…beautiful poetry.

Such a clever book that highlights some of the tried and true rules of writing fiction and then breaks them all. Wonderfully. Plus there is all that delicious name-dropping of poets and other writers.

If you’ve read L.L. Barkat before, you’ll recognize her deep and smart writing but might be surprised by her storytelling. But if you’ve read her poetry, you won’t be surprised by the sensuality in this compelling story.

A lovely portrait that does justice to the complexities of life and the human spirit.

Have you read it? The Novelist: A Novella? You really should. And because it has been such good therapy for me, I’d like to make it easier for you. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of this lovely story. For more than one chance, tweet or Facebook this giveaway and you’ll be entered another time for each. Leave your comment by Monday and I’ll announce the winner on my Playdates with God post.
Because sometimes you just need a good story.