Boom! It’s 2021 and Crazy Town

HI there and welcome to Crazy Town. At least that’s where I am right now. So busy I don’t have much time to bemoan our political landscape or wring my hands about the COVID virus, and thank God because if that was all I thought about I’d be in bed most days.

I’m in the midst of releasing a book with an energetic and forward-thinking publisher and it’s a LOT! Since my background is advertising sales, copywriting, and marketing, I have to do it to the utmost, which takes a lot of time and patience. Neither of which I have, but we do what must be done, don’t we? Yes. Most of the time, anyway.

So while whittling away at a press release, preparing for yet another ZOOM call with my author launch team, biting my fingernails calling potential virtual event venues for our “Truth and Lies in Mysteries” tour, I had a moment of panic when I realized I hadn’t updated my website and a lot of folks (a lot) were going to check it out now and I’d better have something current. It’s even on my publisher’s information sheet, ‘how many times do you update your website a month?’ and I got a little red-faced at that question. So…welcome to my world for the next few weeks, and in the middle of that, my publisher offered me another contract! For Book Two and Book Three of the Olivia Callahan Suspense Series. Book One of which (The Deadening) releases next month, and is available for pre-order now.

My mind is spinning with how much there is to do after a mainly puttering-along writing life, and it is now full systems go and I have two more books to write starting, well, now. It is a happy time and a busy time and I am over-the-moon grateful for a blessing in the midst of a fiercely alienating landscape, a horrid disease, and the pervasive loneliness that hatched in 2020. Thanks to my writing addiction, I now have an instant group of encouragers and ZOOM meetings at every turn.

Into the vast Unknown…

Tip-toeing into 2021, I’m cautiously optimistic that we may see some light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s certainly nice to have a bunch of activity going on. It is WAY too easy to slide down the tunnel of regret and take the highway of discontent right now. (Dumb metaphors, I know, I know). So for now, I’m happily engaging in phone calls to potential virtual events or future signing events when the great unmasking occurs (being positive, here), I’m delighting in the lively wit of other authors and the sharing of promotional ideas. I’m excited about the fact that my editor believes in and supports my books and that I’m building a fan base (I love you guys).

Not watching news. Just no. For a while.

I’m stepping away from 24/7 news, which has had me glued to my phone. If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that we cannot believe the media. We must do research and find out for ourselves, and even that may not be exactly right, so…we just need to live our lives. Pursue that wonderful thing that God made us to do. Believe that better, more hopeful days are ahead. (Preachin’ to myself here, too.) Stay busy. Find something we love and do it. Persevere. Stay ahead of depression. Go visit someone with a three-year old, it will totally change your outlook for the better. Promise.

In the meantime, I think I’ll keep writing.

Happy New Year, everyone!

‘Tis the Season

The marsh grass is the color of wheat, now.

Little did I know, that when we bought this house, the lowcountry marsh behind it would change color with the seasons. I have a desk pointed in that direction, so I can study the panorama and think deep thoughts as I write. Or think nothing, which seems to be my default position these days.

My creativity has leeched away temporarily. There’s a lot on my mind, but this week, the week of Christmas, I’m pushing it all away. I’m choosing to focus on the holiday. All is calm, all is bright, joy to the world, amen.

The holidays are never calm in my house, since there are multiple adult kids and families to consider, so it’s a choice to remain calm. My mind goes back through the years. I think the only ‘Silent Night’ Christmas I remember was the Christmas I’d just gotten divorced and the absence of stress and relationship struggles made all the difference. I still remember that time fondly, sounds strange, I know, but a horrible marriage does not a calm and silent Christmas make. But the peace…it felt incredible.

Lately, I’ve been fighting for peace and sanity amidst the pandemic and the voices that fan terror and strife from the media, which I no longer trust to tell the truth. Fighting for sanity amidst the changing landscape of shopping and planning events and interacting in general as a society. I think we can all agree, it’s been a tough year, and we’ve been infected with more than a virus. Tensions are at an all-time high, and it’s harder than ever to choose ‘calm’ or ‘peaceful’ or ‘optimistic’ but we must. I can either give in to fear or choose faith. I can let my feelings overtake me, and drown in depression; or choose hope. I can become angry and tense when things don’t go my way, or I can let go and choose love. Love is the highest road, the best road. Always. Even when we disagree, we can do it patiently. Kindly.

So…I’ve determined to love even when I have to grit my teeth. I’m choosing to remain silent when I want to blow up at someone. (Not always successful here, but I’m definitely trying.) I’m choosing to focus on the birth of Christ and God’s incredible gift to humanity. I’m excited about seeing the ‘Bethlehem Star’, which happened with a spontaneous gathering of neighbors, complete with binoculars and telescope. A magical moment, and a time for quiet speculation. Hope in the midst of the storm. Light in the darkness. Reassurance that as a country, we will move on, we will learn from 2020 – the year of radical unmet expectations – and our country will not give in to despair and contention. I’m letting petty differences and the fear I’ve picked gifts that my loved ones won’t like slide away. I’m determined to ignore a messy kitchen and an even messier life…for now. I’ll pick this stuff up again next week, but I want a timeout. I’m forcing a timeout. At least mentally.

My zillion gifts I bought for kids and grandkids and husband have been Amazoned (this should be a verb now, right?) to their destinations, and the rest wait patiently under my tree for the parts of my family that will be here. I have an entire week on my calendar that has nothing on it except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My cats have not ripped up the gifts and the tree, for once, so that is something to celebrate! A small thing, but still. Notable.

Like the marsh grass in winter, my outlook lies dormant and devoid of color. 2020 has been a long, rough season. But like all seasons, it hasn’t come to stay. It will pass.

Though we may not feel it or see it right now, we are passing through. Spring is on the way!

Finding Virtue in the Virtual

Virtual church is not working for me.

Attending church was the one day I absolutely counted on to dress up a little, force myself to put on a decent amount of makeup, and head out to enjoy the company of the faithful, learn awesome biblical truths, and belt out joyful worship songs in a group setting. Afterward, (I remember fondly…) we’d hang out and talk. My granddaughters would burst out of their classes and join us at the high tops in the lobby and we’d ooh and ahh over their latest creations. Friends would pause on their way out. We’d chat and catch up.

Now, I slouch to the couch and turn on YouTube with a sigh. I alternately gaze at my phone and the TV, because, hey, who is there to judge me? It’s too easy to be distracted at home. And I’ve begun starting at the teaching part, skipping announcements and worship songs. Because…well, it’s weird to sing alone in my house, and my husband won’t sing with me because he definitely thinks it’s strange, and so there you are.

Just not the same.

My husband and I have tried masking up and attending church, which is even weirder. As though we’ve entered an alien space where people are afraid of each other, and if we do try to share a few words, conversation is muffled and hard to understand because we are speaking through two or three layers of cloth. Not to mention that we are marched in and out of the auditorium like unwilling soldiers in an Orwellian tale.

On the up side (and there always is one) I have a much higher regard for handwashing, and give it a full twenty seconds. The tireless employees that wipe down and scrub and disinfect everything in sight, in addition to their other responsibilities, have my undying respect. I’m grateful my husband works at home and does not have to battle life in an office, which has got to be incredibly hard right now. ZOOM has been a lifesaver, and at least a connection with the outside world in which masks are unnecessary.

Life is stressful at best right now and I am pressing hard into my time with God each morning. I pray for our president, and our country. I pray for justice and righteousness to prevail. I pray for our economy, which is bouncing around like a ping pong ball, and I of course pray for the plague to dissipate and life to resume. Wisdom during a time such as this is elusive, but I reach out to God for true and honest wisdom to help me accomplish the things I’m called to do…be a good grandmother, a good wife and mother; continue to write books and not bemoan the current state of affairs which precludes an in-person book launch. The deep divisiveness of the political climate plus the hostility of left-wing rioters has affected many close relationships. Keeping channels of communication open is harder, now, and another thing that keeps me on my knees.

I’m so grateful God is my source, and not circumstances. With the amazing power of prayer, the stress, division, and fear of the unknown retreat. I have even learned to wear a mask without complaining! When we are powerless over circumstances, God lifts us above them and helps us persevere with dignity and grace.

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast (that is, committed and focused on You in both inclination and character), because he trusts and takes refuge in You (with hope and confident expectation).” Isaiah 26:30