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If you came here from my newsletter, you know where this cat got her name.
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Easter Egg Hunts? Easter Bonnets? New Clothes? Ham Dinner with Hot Cross Buns?
Easter 2020 is going to look much different for us. We may still be able to hold on to some traditions. A hunt can happen with ten or less people. You can still cook and dye eggs. But you won’t be walking into a church most likely (and shouldn’t) or have a huge family gathering. Not this year.
But like the Grinch who couldn’t really steal Christmas from the folks in Whoville, the Corona Virus cannot steal Easter. Others have tried. You know the story. Kill him. Roll a huge stone across the entrance of his grave. Post soldiers. Jesus rose anyway.
See that little lamb in the picture above? He seems to be alone and a bit startled. The photo reminded me of the parable of the lost lamb. Here are Jesus’ words from Luke 15: 4-7 NIV:
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
If Jesus is your friend, you can’t stray away too far for Him to find you. These are tough times for some, really dark days for others. Even if you are isolated, you are not alone. Remember 911? Churches were filled as people thought they better get right with God because tomorrow might be our last. It’s a startling revelation when we understand we are not in control of everything. It need not be startling or even scary because there is One who is in control. Trust brings peace. Fear brings uncertainly and panic. I recommend trust.
In my opinion the church was never meant to be solely for celebrating. We do need worship, but that is for God. I hope you are worshiping online this Easter. Or reading an inspirational book, or walking in God’s nature to worship Him.
But the church, the true church is not closed. It can’t be. It’s the people. That may seem hard. I mean, how can you be the church if you cannot BE with people? This pandemic has come at a time when we aren’t, most of us anyway, truly isolated. We have the internet. And there is always the phone and letters.
My friend’s mother who is in her 80s loves to minister to people. She’s still independent and drives herself to functions and helps out those in need. Now, however, she is one of the most vulnerable and must self-isolate. She takes short walks in her neighborhood and drops off notes of encouragement in her neighbors’ mailboxes. That, friends, is being the church. I’m sure many of you reading this have done things like this, perhaps through neighborhood Facebook groups, or you’ve called out to your neighbors from a distance to greet them. It’s simple, often low-tech, but it means so much. Jesus is alive because we carry Him to others in our actions and our words.
I’ve seen people discussing this on social media. How will this change our habits and our outlook on life? It will, for sure, I think.
We won’t take for granted being able to shop whenever we want. We won’t take for granted the ability to go to a restaurant, a movie theater, a sporting event, church. We won’t take for granted hugs and whispers, and group dinners. And hopefully, we won’t take each other for granted. This has become a forced Sabbath, a time to reflect and grow closer to God, and in a strange way, closer to each other.
In this 2008 video a woman who lived through the 1918 pandemic explains it better than I can because I’m not on the other side yet.
When you travel, do you bring home a souvenir? I think most people do, especially when traveling to a new place. I did buy several gifts on my trips to Ireland, and some things for myself. But that’s not the kind of souvenir I wanted to talk about today.
First, be sure it’s okay to do this.
My cousin Scott Brown (pictured here) collects jars of dirt from various baseball parks he has visited. The picture above is from the farm where baseball legend Mordecai Brown grew up. Below is from the site of the old West Side Grounds in Chicago. Don’t worry. He asks first.
His is a pretty unique collection. It literally grounds his memories of these places that are special to him. (Pun intended.)
When I was in Ireland on my last trip, my husband and I spent some time walking some beaches on the west coast. It was April, a very unusually chilly April for Ireland, and we were alone on these beaches. They were not beaches that you might think of in America. They were pretty wild and lonely. Not that no one ever visits, they do. There were carparks (translate: parking lots), but at this time they were deserted.
I picked up a rock. And then a shell. And then a few others. I did not want to part with them so I brought them home, just a small collection, mind you. My husband found a piece of sea glass. I’ve never found sea glass before. I keep these things in a glass box on my desk. I’ve taken a photo of them spread out for you.
And where they usually sit:
Did you know that rain takes on the scent of what it lands on? There’s much more to the science than that. You can look it up. I did and had trouble interpreting it all. My brain doesn’t work that way, but it’s true. Rain of itself does not have a smell, and yet we can all smell the rain. I sincerely believe I smell Ireland on these rocks. It’s a fresh smell, hard to describe. In any case, it’s a sensory experience that takes me back there, not unlike what Scott’s collection does for him.
Let me know in the comments. Since this is a time right now when no one of us are able to travel, these collections help us remember special times in our lives.
The Irish are social people, that’s for certain. Pubs, sessions of traditional Irish music, parades, plenty of Irish dance and music. But make no mistake. They are also creative. Much of St. Paddy’s Day today in 2020 will be celebrated online. Need an authentic recipe for an Irish meal? No problem. The Irish American Mom has you covered. Check out what the Irish eat.
Here is one of I expect many free online concerts. The Gothard Sisters
Watch an Irish movie. If you haven’t already, search for
The Quiet Man
The Secret of Kells (learn more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_of_Kells)
To just name a few!
You knew this was coming, right? And not just my books (although I hope you’ll read those and post reviews!)
Here are a few Irish books by Irish authors I’ve enjoyed (and this is a huge variety!):
Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly
Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry
The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Anam Cara by John O’Donohue
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor (born in the UK but living in Ireland)
Anything by C.S. Lewis
Maeve Binchy books
….I better stop!
Have you joined our readers Facebook Group? We would love to have you join us!
There are many interest groups on Facebook. I belong to some on Celtic Christianity and Irish Genealogy. You are not alone.
My final bit of advice to keep you occupied this St. Patrick’s Day is to do some studying up. I think Patrick’s story is inspiring. Did you know that he first came to Ireland (that’s right, he’s not native Irish) as a slave? He escaped. Later became a bishop and then willingly returned to a land that he felt was dangerous for him to return to because he felt called by the very Irish themselves. Called to come and help them find faith in God. You can read more in this past post.
You can find a chapter on him in my book.
Huh? Well, there was more to my interview than made it into the episode. That’s to be expected. Some things end up on the cutting room floor, as they say. There was actually some stuff I thought was pretty interesting that didn’t make it in so I thought I’d share some it here.
I was not aware of all that would be included. I did not know the family or what their issues were. I did not know what other “experts” would appear and what other evidence they found. The producer had mentioned a plane crash, so I wasn’t surprised by that part. Not much was said about the Geis family. Theirs was a tragic tale than touched me, but it didn’t fit in that well with what the medium sensed so out it went. She did say she sensed an older woman needed care and maybe cancer. But that was about it. If you want to hear more about them, keep reading. But first, the Shambaugh family.
For many families in the late 19th and early 20th century, infant deaths were sadly quite common. If you’ve done some family research, you’ve most likely encountered this fact. In 1900 in some cities in America the infant mortality rate was as high as 30%. People had more children then. Birth control was not widely available, and what people did have to use was not very effective. My grandmother was born in 1900. She was one of nine children. Children died of diseases now curable. There was no understanding of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but it still occurred. We believed at least one of the Shambaugh babies died from SIDS. She simply stopped breathing. That was something in the interview that ended up on the cutting room floor.
The focus on the show was the fact that there was too much death in and close to the property. For the Shambaughs that meant three of seven children died and not long after, Mr. Shambaugh passed away from a painful kidney disease. You will see on the show that I said, “And then she died.” She died 13 years after her husband. Something else that didn’t make it? She was much younger than her husband. I think it should have been included because in the walk through Amy did note “young woman” (if you’re lost at this point about “walk through”, remember to read my previous post linked above because I explain how the show is set up). In fact, I think Amy said it more than once and Steve pointed out that Lizzie was 47 when she died. (Something people have been stringing him up for on social media, haha! That’s young!)
True that was how old she was when she died—and that’s young to die—but she died 13 years after her husband. She would have been a very young mother when some of her babies were born and died.
One last note about Lizzie Shambaugh. Her death notice states that she died in 1913 in Franklin County. Her husband died there on the property in question, but she did not. That is said by both me and Steve and in the reveal Amy says this woman might not have lived in that very house. Still, not being into this paranormal stuff, I don’t know if folks believe a dead person can haunt a place that is not the location where they died. Maybe that happens. In their world and in their understanding, that is. In the narrative we originally talked about, we discussed how after all that death on this property, Lizzie Shambaugh packed up and got out of town just a few years after her husband died. Steve mentions that briefly in the show. Amy speculates that this woman may have had mental problems and was sick. I’m sad about that. I get caught up in the human stories I research and this was no different.
This is a more recent family that lived at the address where Feliza and Kevin now live with their grandchildren. But not the very house. Ellenor died three years or so before this house was built, at least according to the information I found on the age of the house. Why the previous owner would tell Feliza that Ellenor died right there in the living room is beyond me. Even if it were true, why say that? That’s not exactly a selling point. I don’t get that.
However, what a terrible tragic tale the Geis story is. Both Ellenor and Paul Geis were injured when they were hit by a drunk driver in December of 1979. Ellenor had it much worse than Paul did. They filed a lawsuit against the driver. The show was going to report that, but again, that was cut out. You can read about that here. There is no evidence of a ruling on that lawsuit that the show ever found. Yes, they looked. Yes, they did a lot of work that was never used. It doesn’t appear the Geises ever got anything. Another thing that got dropped was their occupations. Ellenor worked at a lab and Paul was a gas station attendant and probably held other jobs later in life. Their lifestyle was severely altered as a result of this accident through no fault of their own. Ellenor died just over three years after the accident. She did develop cancer in the area of her injury. I don’t know what her medical report looked like but in the lawsuit she claimed the cancer occurred because of the injury. The show had found some evidence of an auction that showed that Paul sold off what he and Ellenor had owned, suggesting that they did not get a settlement from the accident.
That’s basically all we learned about the Geis family. I think it was brought into the show because someone told Feliza that a woman named Ellenor had died in the house, which wasn’t correct, and Feliza said in the show that she believed the presence, or one of them, was Ellenor. Ellenor died in Georgia. But she’s buried in Pataskala cemetery. In our interview, Steve had said, “So she came home again.” And I repeated that. That was cut because it wasn’t needed for the show, but i thought it was a fitting end to this part of the story. Paul Geis died in 2003 and is buried beside her. Again, I felt bad for them. I was pleased, however, to learn that Ellenor was not blamed for any of the paranormal activity in the house.
(I also thought it was good they did not blame the client’s nephew who had reportedly killed himself for haunting the young boy in the house. Seeing the young man’s photograph, Amy said, “Oh, no.” Glad she said no. I can’t image the pain the family would have dealt with otherwise. You can see that in the episode, which I think is a statement that this show doesn’t want to hurt people.)
There are probably many stories about every property. Why do some people believe their homes are haunted? I have no idea. But they do because The Dead Files has not run out of material and are now filming their 13th season.
Amy says she talks to dead people. I listen to dead people. Not actual voices, but I listen by uncovering details about their lives.
This is just my opinion, but I think we all need to learn the stories of the people who lived before us. If we listen to the stories of their lives, appreciate the pain and sacrifices made, we can learn and appreciate them so that their memory never dies. I think it’s a mistake to think we are the only ones who have dealt with whatever problems we are experiencing. Pain, sorrow, death… all a part of the human experience. Acknowledging that teaches us that we are not alone. The survivors had to press on. We have to too. And knowing that they did, that Lizzie survived the death of so many children and then the sudden death (it came very quickly) of her husband and lived for 13 more years tells us that it’s possible. I don’t know how well she coped. If any of her descendants find this I’d love to hear more of the story. But she did carry on. By selling her land. Perhaps by moving in with relatives or finding employment. There is ALWAYS more to the story.
And that’s another takeaway point. There is more to all of these stories. That’s why I thought I’d share just a little bit beyond what you saw on this episode. Now I’m curious about the other things mentioned that I didn’t know about. That doctor? That airplane pilot? And what about the dogs Amy mentioned. Yes, always more to discover.
As some of you know, I choose a word for each year. I try to do this prayerfully, but I believe God will use whatever I choose to teach me what He wants me to learn, so long as I listen. I’m trying! In fact, one year my word was Listen. If you search this blog for “My One Word,” you’ll find most of my previous words (although not last year’s. I apparently didn’t blog about that one.)
My word for 2020 is Grace. Like the years I chose Love, and Peace, this one was easy to hear spoken at church and to discover in the Bible. Grace is an essential element of Christianity, so of course it’s important and I need to study it. So I will.
The Sunday after Christmas, I heard this in church:
And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.~Luke 2:40 NIV
The grace of God was on Jesus, so of course, I want that too!
Usually I go into the year with a preconceived notion of what that word is going to teach me. My word for 2019 was Discover. I imagined all the wonderful things I’d learn and the great adventures I’d take in 2019. I thought it would be fun and thrilling. Discover in 2019 for me ended up going way beyond that. I discovered what life is without my mother, who passed away in June. I discovered a close family member (thanks, Ancestry.com) who I hadn’t known about and who I got to meet in person and still keep in touch with. I discovered secrets kept from me as a result of that discovery. I discovered that I do have enough energy to watch three little grandkids, two of whom were born in 2019! I picked the right word. There was much to discover and thus much to learn about myself.
So, I’m thinking Grace will teach me that even though I might fail, even though I might not get things done I think I should, God spreads His Grace over me. But what will Grace really mean to me in 2020? We shall see!
Isn’t that how most people see the new year? A chance to start all over again if we didn’t meet our goals for 2019. Is that how you look at it? Rather than beating ourselves up for what did not achieve, try again.
Even though I’ve read James Joyce’s Ulysses (ugh! I’ll never get those hours back again!) I didn’t remember this quote from one of the characters in the book until I came across it in some rabbit trail Googling I was doing while writing my current novel. Yep, this ended up in said novel.
A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.
Ah, grace and discover both covered there! I will try to use my mistakes, accept the grace offered when I fail, and discover something worthwhile along the way. How about you?
It’s my pleasure to host Jennifer Allen (JPC Allen) on my blog today. I’ve watch her grow as a writer in my local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) group and I can tell you she’s one to watch!
A lot has happened to me in the last fourteen months as a writer. I’ve had two short stories published. Since I’m getting paid for those stories, I am officially an author. But becoming an author of Christian fiction has meant so much more than getting a paycheck.
I’ve been writing stories since second grade. As I entered my college years, I began a novel and had always thought of myself as a novelist. After my kids entered school, I wrote a YA Christian crime novel and spent years improving it because it was the kind of story I like to read. But I got nowhere seeking an agent for it. I’ve had many agents ask to see sample chapters and my business plan only to have them to turn it down for various reasons, usually because the YA Christian fiction market is so tough to publish in.
Then I had the opportunity to write a short story for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. The only constraint was that it had to be set in Ohio. Although I am a huge fan of mystery short stories and have read hundreds of them, I’d never thought about writing one. My first crime short story, “Debt to Pay”, appeared in the anthology From the Lake to the River, last September. I was now an author. But that word took on a whole new meaning three months later.
Last December, Mt. Zion Ridge Press was accepting submissions for Christmas short stories. I had two weeks to come up with 5,000-word story that actually made sense. Since it had taken me years to get my novel in shape, 5,000 words in two weeks seemed as unconquerable as climbing a 5,000-foot peak in my bare feet. But I decided to go for it.
As I worked on my YA mystery, “A Rose from the Ashes”, I became more concerned with writing the story the way God wanted me to rather than taking it over and writing it to please myself. I didn’t think of it as my story. For some reason, God wanted to filter this story through me. I was very aware that it was finely balanced, and I didn’t want to wreck it.
And something funny happened. As I wrote and revised and sweated, the story became exactly the kind of story I’ve always wanted to write. Christmas is my favorite holiday, and some of my favorite mysteries are set at Christmas. Here I had the chance to write one. I’m a country girl at heart, and the story is set in a rural county in Ohio. The mystery hinges on mercy and forgiveness, two qualities I focus on as I grow as a Christian.
Getting paid for my art and having the owners of Mr. Zion Ridge Press accept my stories was a wonderful validation of my hard work. But I think I truly became an author when I collaborated with my heavenly Father as a junior partner and began thinking of the stories as His. I can’t wait to see what other projects He has in mind.
I’m holding a book giveaway on my site! Click here for details.
Christmas fiction off the beaten path
Not your Granny’s Christmas stories …
Step off the beaten path and enjoy six stories that look beyond the expected, the traditional, the tried-and-true.
Inspired by the song, “Mary Did You Know?” – a mother’s memories of events leading up to and following that one holy night. MARY DID YOU KNOW? By Patricia Meredith
A young woman seeking her own identity searches for the man who tried to kill her and her mother on Christmas Eve twenty years before. A ROSE FROM THE ASHES. By JPC Allen
Princess, tower, sorceress, dragon, brave knight, clever peasant – combine these ingredients into a Christmas-time story that isn’t quite what you’d expect. RETURN TO CALLIDORA. By Laurie Lucking
Anticipating tough financial times, the decision not to buy or exchanged presents leads to some painful and surprising revelations for a hardworking man and his family. NOT THIS YEAR. By Sandra Merville Hart
Years ago, a gunman and a store full of hostages learned some important lessons about faith and pain and what really matters in life – and the echoes from that day continued to the present. THOSE WHO STAYED. By Ronnell Kay Gibson
A community of refugees, a brutal winter, a doorway to another world – a touch of magic creating holiday joy for others leads to a Christmas wish fulfilled. CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS. By Michelle L. Levigne
JPC Allen started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo. She’s been tracking down mysteries ever since. A former children’s librarian, she is a member of ACFW and has written mystery short stories for Mt. Zion Ridge Press. Online, she offers writing tips and prompts to beginning writers. She also leads writing workshops for tweens, teens, and adults, encouraging them to discover the adventure of writing. A lifelong Buckeye, she has deep roots in the Mountain State. Join the adventure on her blog, Facebook,Instagram, or Goodreads.
As I hinted in my newsletter this month (July 2019), life has been challenging lately. I know I’m not alone in this. We all experience the valley from time to time, right?
I’m inspired by the title of a book. Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins has several biographies or autobiographies published. One of them, the one that I read, is titled, “The Game is Easy, Life is Hard.” It’s common knowledge that getting into the professional level of baseball is quite difficult. Continuing to play at that level is hard as well. Excelling at the Big League level long enough to be elected into the Hall of Fame happens only for a select few. But for Jenkins, all that was easy compared to the challenges and heartache he experienced in his life.
Similarly, getting published, selling enough to continue to get published…very difficult in this day and age. But easy compared to some life situations. I do not mean to make light of anyone’s challenges. Compared to a lot of people’s, mine pale. Yes, my mother passed away recently, June 25, just three days after her 90th birthday.
I had my mother longer than many people have theirs. I have wonderful memories. She shared a lot of love. However, late in her life we experienced a long road of health and memory issues, about ten years when I think back on it. Combined with some family strife (extended family, not my immediate family) it has been quite challenging. My writing and my publishing success were undoubtedly adversely affected. I shared the care of my mom with my sister Sharon (in the photograph when we were growing up) and I’m grateful for the late nights she spent with my mom, her continual checking up on her care, and so much more.
Like I said, many people struggle with life issues. As I mentioned, Fergie Jenkins dealt with losing many people in his life, some to suicide. Life is short. Take nothing for granted. That was his advice. He admitted to me in person (I interviewed him when I was working on the book Three Finger) that he never felt strong enough to endure what life hurled at him. He just had to press on.
We are not guaranteed happiness, But joy? Look for it in all situations.
I have been receiving a lot of cards and they have blessed me. In one, I found the following comforting words: “Those we love who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith, have not been separated from us. They are really much closer to us because they now live in the fullness of God’s love…”
So, yes, life can be challenging. But we do not grieve as those without faith. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
While my mother was declining, a miracle came forth. Emree Jayne was not due until this month, but was delivered early and healthy. Just 12 days before my mother passed.
What we do for an occupation may be difficult and challenging, whether playing professional ball, writing a novel, fighting fires, serving in the military, pastoring a church, or just working long hours to provide an adequate living. But what matters is who we are to the people around us. My youngest son said this in a Facebook post after his grandmother (my mom) passed away.
“I wanted my kids to know my grandmas. I am thankful that Maelee was able to experience the same joy you had every day that I experienced when I was a kid. …You set the standard for what it meant to love your family. Thank you for all the memories. You will be missed by the many lives you’ve touched.”
That. That is a legacy. Hard to achieve? Yeah, probably so. But so worth trying!
I took this photo during a time author Shelly Miller calls “Forced Sabbath.” That’s a time when we take a rest we hadn’t planned. The worse example of this is when we are sick. We are forced to rest, and can sometimes use that time for reflection and a time to seek God.
But on this day, it wasn’t anything like that. It was a snow day! That means I was not babysitting my granddaughter. I miss her, of course, but this was a bonus kind of day where I was up early anyway. So I sat in my office, prayed, reflected, and enjoyed the morning light coming through the window.
For most people, it’s hard to find time for this. Some people even avoid taking time to pause. They like to stay busy. I’m not talking about sleep, but intentional times to chill, goof off, read, relax.
We all need to rest, if only for a few moments. It’s amazing how slowing down improves your mood and your ability to focus. Jesus offered us rest when he said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NLT) And he followed his own advice many times: “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark 1:35 NLT)
If you’d like to read more about Jesus and rest, I found this article.
In Shelly’s book, she doesn’t play the blame game. Start off giving yourself permission for just a few minutes if you can’t find time. You can expand as you get used to the idea. Like any spiritual discipline, pausing takes practice. If you forget or get distracted, or if something you must do comes up, just begin again later.
If you’re interested in Shelly’s book, you can find it here.