Monday, June 30, 2008

take the train

Two winters ago we experienced what locals now call "the big blowdown of '06" - a windy phenomenon that felled timber like matchsticks. The boys and I stood at our living room window (well, Paul had crawled under the rug) and watched as 4 huge cedar and alder trees fell in our front yard. The wind was clocked at 115 mph and for several hours we listened as the woods shuddered and heaved and gave up even more. It is an unnerving sound to hear even one full-grown evergreen fall - it does shake the ground! When they are falling all around all over it feels like an earthquake.

At the time I wouldn't have dreamed that this wind was a gift. Because the Master Logger decided to fell these trees, we sold two log truck loads of alder, cedar, and fir and were able to take our first family vacation. So last summer we boarded Amtrak in Seattle and traveled to Montana's Glacier National Park. The train pulled up right in front of the historic lodge and we nearly forgot to jump back on the next week! If you ever want a wonderful vacation, take the train to Montana. The dining car even serves grits!

That big storm and subsequent trip were a timely reminder to me of how the Lord sometimes works in my life. He shakes me up by sending a storm, or allowing one, in order to accomplish some greater good. It might hurt at the time and it might make a mess (we spent several days clearing our driveway of downed trees and debris and then Randy had to take his chainsaw and cut up lots of firewood and then he spent many days with chains and binders and heavy equipment hauling all these trees from the four corners of our property into large piles and then he had to call the lumber company and get the exact specs of each type tree that fell in order to cut them the right size and then he had to limb them/remove all the branches and hire a log truck to come load them and haul them, etc.). And this was all done after work! It took months. At this point we were not thinking of going to Montana and eating grits on a train.

But He was.

I once heard a pastor say that we are either going into a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of a storm. Although I wish the world worked differently, it doesn't. But I'm learning that He promises not to leave us in the middle of the storm.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me." (Psalm 23:4) The word through has a wonderful temporariness to it. The storm doesn't last forever. And His storms are bearable because He promises to be with us. And when they're over - or even in the midst of them -you'll be able to go on to greener pastures and still waters. Sounds like Montana to me.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

computer woes

I've been offline since Friday as my laptop decided to take a short vacation. I pushed the power button and absolutely nothing happened - lights on but nobody home kind of thing. I called technical support and they were able to fix it over the phone! My life just got a lot sweeter!! I am not computer savvy so get a little panicked. My USB is my best friend (that's a back-up device to save things like books and stuff, for those who are equally unsavvy).

Meanwhile my brother in Ecuador, who is not computer challenged in the least, put some new features on here but isn't finished and can't post anything else, including the family pics, until he gets back from his Andes trip. He has 32 folks from Ohio visiting at the moment and no time! He and Nicia host these missions groups regularly. I think I will sign up for the one in sunny Spain!

Anyway, it is a crazy kind of Saturday with the thermometer sitting at 80 degrees. I went out and weeded the garden early and the corn is just a couple of inches high but should shoot up in this heat. I wish I could post a picture of my Cecile Bruner roses - all 30 feet of them as they climb up an old cedar stump in our yard. They are so tiny and pink and highly fragrant - my very favorite rose.

As I weeded and watched out for snakes and bugs (our specialty is slugs) I chuckled at the recent blog I came across that is entitled "Gardening While Intoxicated" and wondered if I'd like weeding better if I tried it!

Randy is hard at work on the deck and it promises to be a booger. Prayers appreciated! See you Monday!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dogwood Winter

Yes, that's the working title of my book - Dogwood Winter. I can officially start the countdown for publication as it is only a year away. Seems like forever but the months really do fly by. I'm going to try to post a little counter in the margin so I can count down till August 1 of next year which is the contracted release date. When I was young I used to pray that the Lord wouldn't return until I got married (I love weddings!). Now I want to pray He'll wait till I publish this first book!

Pretty soon the artists should have the book cover done and I'm holding my breath! Of all the things about this publishing process, this book cover is dearest to my heart. When you write you always carry around a mental picture of the ideal cover. On the publisher's end, actual models are used in period costumes for book jackets. I have some definite ideas about the cover and hope we get it right. I've heard writers sometimes throw "a diplomatic fit" about covers they don't like but I shudder at the thought. How do you tell an artist that their vision of your book isn't yours? Hmmm. But I've prayed about every inch of this process so will rest in that.

Today is a no-writing kind of day. We're having lunch with our neighbors and then the boys have basketball camp. After that we're hosting a little cookout for their basketball friends. The weather has decided to cooperate and be sunny and 60'! Tomorrow Randy starts building the deck we've dreamed of for years and years. It will be the most level, plumb deck in the whole United States. He hates these kind of projects. Stranger still, this is a no-nonsense deck with no frills built by a no-frills kind of guy - basically a big rectangle overlooking our garden and orchard. But he is not fond of these projects though he is very good at them.

Alright, the day has come to post those family photos I've been promising to my faithful family and those few blog readers who visit. Bless you! I'm taking some of the pictures to my neighbor who has a scanner and we'll see what happens. Thinking of you wherever you are and hoping you have a blessed day!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

His workmanship

Last week was Vacation Bible School at our church. A youth group from Idaho came over to our part of the wild west and did the neatest job of working with our kids. Lots of soccer playing went on too. The boys rode their bikes down each day as we live only a mile from our little church.

This week is basketball camp - just two hours a day but great fun. We don't have many activities in this area so we take advantage of the few we have. It's interesting to watch Wyatt and Paul's reactions to the same activities. They are so unalike. At the end of yesterday's scrimmage, Paul told me he really didn't like basketball and doesn't want to go back (he's going).

Wyatt loved every minute. One of the coaches came over at the end and said Wyatt has some real potential for the game and recommended we invest in a good ball, etc. He asked how tall the men in our family are and if there were any basketball players. I mentioned he has a relative who is around 6'7 who played college ball. They're hoping he'll join the middle school team starting this winter. So next time we're in town we'll get a good basketball.

I was reminded of the verse in Ephesians (2:10) that says: For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

While I don't think Wyatt will be any more a Michael Jordan than Paul is Itzak Perleman, I do believe each of them - and us - has been gifted in certain ways. Before birth. That's what the scripture says - God prepared beforehand. Our job is to walk in them.

Want to know what God prepared in advance for you to do? Then answer this - what is your passion? What ignites your heart? The sick/handicapped? Orphans? Music? Senior citizens? Children? The lost? Missions? Business?

Max Lucado says that as a young man, he was unsure if he was understanding God's will for his life. He asked a minister he admired who told him this - "Don't preach unless you have to."

What is your passion? Find it and you'll find His will for your life.

Monday, June 23, 2008

summer memories

I love summer and have such good memories from childhood. Some of my most vivid are the ones made at my grandparent's farm in northern Kentucky. There's an old picture of me at about age 2 sitting in an old washtub in front of their farmhouse which burned down, I believe, on an Easter Sunday soon after.

I remember the smell of raw milk and tobacco and being chased by a mean old bull in a big field. I'm not athletic but I recall catapulting over that fence at a high speed! I really enjoyed riding the tractors. My Uncle Jim would take me and my cousins out to a secret fort in a far field which I later tried to find as an adult and couldn't. I remember all the cats running around in the barns and being bitten by mice in the corncrib. Am not sure what I was doing crawling around in a corn crib.

My Grandma Feagan whom I called Mamaw had very long hair she wore in a bun. I loved to be with her as she was so sweet and good - all the time. Never a cross word. She had so many children starting with my father. I wish now I'd asked her why she named them all "J" names. Jack, Judy, Joy, Jaynee, Janice, Janelle, Jim, JR, Jerry, and Jill but not in that order. My Dad tried to carry on this tradition by naming me J. Laura Louise Feagan but it didn't stick for some reason.

I hope my boys have good summer memories when they've grown up. Our summers are so short here they won't have the usual pool and sunburn and popsicle and catching lightning bugs in a jar memories.

Summer wouldn't be summer without a trip home to Kentucky. I'm almost counting the days. Cracker Barrel here I come! I fly into Lexington and go straight to Berea the middle of August. It will be my first time home without my Granny there waiting on the porch for me. But it will always be home to me. Till heaven, anyway.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Writing historical fiction is really about continuing your education. This past week I've been investigating all sorts of interesting things:

how to speak/read French and Shawnee
the recipe for Martha Washington's Great Cake (served sixty!)
18th-century military discipline (General Washington finally had to court-martial his men for relieving themselves in public)
Indian treaties
George Rogers Clark (an amazing man who ended up a drunk in the gutters of Louisville)
Alcohol in colonial America (ever heard of rum taffia?)
the Marquis de Lafayette (we probably wouldn't have won the war without France)
von Steuben (this man trained Washington's troops and couldn't speak English but could curse in 3 languages)
George Washington's terrible teeth

The list goes on and on. Research is such fun!! I think I mentioned this 2nd book is supposed to be 352 pages. It was about 440 but now has been whittled down to 385. And it wasn't nearly as painful as carving up the first book. Maybe I am learning something! I don't know that I'll get it down to the publisher's number. Am not sure how much it matters at this point.

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
Robert Heinlein (1907-1988)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Beth Moore and Bella

Beth Moore is an amazing woman made more amazing by Jesus. She has a great blog - check out She operates this blog with her 2 daughters. Lots of recipes, photos, and spiritual stuff. She is DEEP and very funny and practical.

I love her for her honesty. She is, or was, a self-professed mess which gives hope to the rest of us. She lives in Houston where her ministry is based. Her Bible studies are life-changing! I think I've done every one but the one on the book of Daniel. If you ever have a chance to participate in one, you will never be the same - guaranteed!

Also, if you want to watch a moving movie please check out Bella. It's a new release and getting great reviews. The main actor was a leading Latino hunk who gave up the screen after his radical conversion to Christianity. He went broke and then founded a Christian production company recently and this is their first movie.

p.s. the pictures i've been promising are coming. the photographer didn't like the way some of them were cropped so she's redoing them and should have them out this week. i just need to find someone with a scanner to post them as i remain hopelessly illiterate in this area. so if my brother is reading this and is back from Spain - it's okay if you come to my rescue!

Yet they seek me day by day and delight to know my ways ... they delight in the nearness of God. Isaiah 58:2

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

1 %

Did you know that of all the books written only 1% are ever published?

I've found this startling statistic on some other writer's blogs/websites. I don't spend much time reading this kind of thing but I'm going to mention it here if only to debunk it. If I'd read about this 1% a year ago I might have put my writing in a drawer again - forever. I think God laughs at such statistics.

The wisdom of the world is foolishness to God. 1 Corinthians 3:19

I wonder what the statistics are for walking on water? Parting a sea? Turning water into wine? Raising the dead? Creating something from nothing?

I'm so thankful that He defies statitics. I'm living proof.

Monday, June 16, 2008


I have a few moments quiet as the boys are out chasing sheep at the farm down the road. When the call came in you would have thought they'd just been offered tickets to Six Flags. Paul likes to tell me how much fun it is to catch them because they are so dumb. And soft. He likes the lambs. God has a lot to say about sheep, not all of it complimentary!

I've been thinking a lot about kids (not sheep) and this particular scripture passage: And they (parents) were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these ..." Mark 10:13-14

I wish someone had sat me down when I was a new parent and explained this scripture to me. Not in its obvious context but what is between the lines. It would have saved me so much grief and heartache. I love my children dearly but I am so like the disciples in this verse. I rebuke my children often. Why? Because they annoy me. They get in my way. They are messy. They do dumb things that children do.

The disciples sound like me - tired, distracted, trying to keep control of the situation. Maybe some of the children running around them that day were their own. Maybe the babies were pulling their beards. Maybe one of the kids was sick and threw up on their sandals. Kids are the same in any century! Look at all that's going on in this verse - wow! The disciples were irritated - these kids were clearly not on their agenda for the day.

But I love Jesus's response. He was indignant. Not with the children but with the disciples! "Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them ..." Jesus was the perfect Father. Never hurried. Never distracted. Never upset with a mess. I think he laughed when they pulled his beard and I think He had great compassion when, heaven forbid, they were sick on his sandals.

Until lately, I used to think my kids were hindering my spiritual life. It's hard sometimes to find a peaceful corner to be still and pray or read your Bible. And this is what I wish I had learned early on - that caring for children day to day does more for my spiritual life than anything else I can think of. Children take you through a spiritual transformation the likes of which you have never seen.

I wish early on my attitude had been like Jesus - let them come, let them interrupt and make a mess and keep you up for nights on end crying or sick, let them embarrass you or break that beloved heirloom on the shelf, let them snag your fishing line or spill a 40 oz coke in your clean car, etc. Let them be kids and train them with open arms and a smile. Let them see Jesus in you.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Paul - pet evangelist

Paul is our resident pet evangelist. He's 8 years old but very earnest. Before bed he picks some of his favorite pets (the stuffed ones - 21 converts at last count) and we have a prayer circle. The 3 crocodiles are the most devout. One of them is from Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington, KY. (but I digress). Somehow he stands them up and he holds their hands (do crocodiles have hands?) and he insists I do the same. Then he prays. But he really sings. Fast. Paul and his pets don't have a long attention span.

I sometimes do the same when I pray. I like to do it fast as I don't have a long attention span (just a long to-do list). I'm so glad the Lord is patient. This week Randy has been off work and so our usual 5am get-up time has shifted to 7-8 and my quiet time has been lost. Let me tell you, I've also lost patience, good humor, love, joy, peace and all the rest. When I start the day in the right way, the hours that unfold are so much sweeter - and I am too!

Since I'm working on a laptop so much, I sometimes forget to plug in the power. Gradually the screen gets dimmer and dimmer as the battery fades. But I'm so involved in what I'm doing I don't notice. Then a warning pops up on the screen and I reach over and plug the computer in to the power source. Hmmm. Suddenly the screen shines like its noon - sunny and bright. I always smile when this happens as it makes my work so much easier (I have bad vision).

You know where I'm going with this. The analogy is a simple one. When we stay connected to the source - the only One who can give true love, joy, peace, patience and all the rest, our lives are so much smoother and sweeter. And so is everyone else's we touch. When we operate in the dark, get used to the dimness, we will run out of power.

When your world gets dark, you get lost. He really is the light of the world.

I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life. John 8:12

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

King Ranch Chicken

I'm afraid I might have lost a few blog readers after posting that last recipe. It is a bit bland - I actually prayed that the folks who tried it would be filled with the spirit and have great success! Sometimes dumplings are not very cooperative. My husband claims I never make a duplicate dumpling. They all taste different.

Anyway, here is a recipe that will put some zing in your step (and fire in your belly). You southerners will love it - or maybe it is already a staple in your kitchen. When I gave up writing for five years I decided cooking was the next best thing. I had to take up walking as well. All that eating is hard on the waistline. I have a terrible penchant for disregarding portion sizes.


1/4 cup butter
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can 10 oz Ro*Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
12 corn tortillas, cut in halves or fourths
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup chicken broth

Heat oven to 325'. Cook pepper and onion in melted butter till tender. Add soups, Ro*Tel, chicken broth and chicken. Mix well. In 9x13 pan layer tortillas, soup mixture and cheese - repeating layers three times. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes till bubbly. Let cool a few minutes. Garnish with fresh avacados, sour cream, black olives, etc.

Serves 8 but this is an outright lie. In my house it serves 3-4 as we eat like pigs! I know gluttony is a sin but it seems like it should be ranked near the bottom, especially when it comes to this here recipe.

God bless and good eating!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

miscellaneous musings

Recent research indicates that physical activity boosts your creativity! I try to walk every day and after learning this my step was a little lighter - even with water dripping off the end of my nose. We're breaking records here for having the wettest, coldest summer weather in nearly a century, so says the Seattle news. Even my Washington born husband is tired of his webbed feet. Summer usually starts here in mid-July and then fades by September. Our garden doesn't come in till late August and our corn isn't ripe until the end of October/first of November.

I've been working hard on this second book. It is finished but I'm 75 pages "over-budget" so to speak. My contract specifies a 352 page book, based on the length of the first novel. I am so fond of overwriting. Now I have the pleasure of going back and slashing it to pieces. It's more fun that it sounds. The deadline for this second book isn't until August of '09. I'm so thankful as this gives me plenty of time to change the plot if need be or throw half the thing out like last time. I love this second book but feel it is a bit of a risk. It has a great deal more colonial history in it, etc. This third book will be a booger. Lots of prayer needed and I haven't even begun.

The pictures should be here by week's end - those family photos I've been talking about. Some of my relatives read this blog and haven't seen my boys in a while so hope to post those soon.

His peace as you go about your week!

Monday, June 9, 2008

visit Spain - vicariously!

My brother, Chris, and his family are in Spain at the moment. I hop over to their blog to see what they are doing as it is a nice switch from rainy Washington state. They've lived in Ecuador for many years being missionaries and are now transitioning to Spain. Spain is the least evangelized nation in Europe and that is one of the reasons they are moving their ministry.

The churches their team began in Ecuador are thriving under Ecuadorian leadership so they are moving on. Team Expansion is really a great missions organization as they do not set out to change the culture and try to Americanize missions, but build up the Ecuadorian Christians to pastor and grow their own churches. Plus they meet a lot of practical needs such as providing medical services to poor families who otherwise would go without and raising funds for housing for those families who live in conditions that make our poor in the USA look like Bill Gates in comparison.

If you want to learn a little about Spain through some quick video blogging, just go to You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, June 7, 2008


This morning it is a cool, sunny, windy 55 degrees in Washington. A good day for chicken and dumplings - or the Western equivalent called pot pie. Here are both recipes:

Pot Pie

whole chicken or 4-6 chicken thighs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon shortening
1- 1/2 cups water or cold chicken broth
green onions

Stew chicken. For noncooks, this means cover chicken with water and simmer till you have a rich broth. Remove chicken from broth and cool. Mix flour, shortening, and water or chicken broth till ball of dough forms. If dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. If too dry, add more liquid. Don't be afraid to do either. Roll dough out on a floured surface such as countertop or pastry cloth until dough is as thin as pie crust. Using knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into 1x2 inch dumplings. Drop dumplings into simmering broth. Cook uncovered 15 minutes. Add pieces of boneless, skinless chicken. Garnish with thinly sliced green onions:)

Southern Dumplings

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
1 -1/2 cups cold chicken broth

Mix well in given order. Roll out; cut. Drop into hot liquid, cook 15 minutes.

Dumpling making is kind of a lost art. My granny in Berea, Ky. used to make a lot of chicken and dumplings. Once when I was a girl, my brother, Chris, and I had a dumpling contest to see who could eat the most. Granny made a big kettle full of 72 dumplings and we each downed more than 30! I wrote this down in my journal at the time, otherwise I wouldn't remember. And I've had a weight problem ever since!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Barnes and Noble

I am ashamed to write this but today I visited my first Barnes and Noble bookstore. We live 3 hours west of Seattle and so have no major bookstores in the woods. We had to travel almost 2 hours today to get to a mall. The last time we went to the city was 3 years ago and that was pre-book contract time which meant I avoided bookstores like the plague. Didn't even like looking in the window. The bookstore experience made me depressed and I'm not being melodramatic. Somehow libraries didn't have the same effect on me. We have a wonderful library here in the wilderness.

The last time I was in a bookstore was years ago - maybe Waldenbooks is a thing of the past. Remember how narrow and dark and crowded they were? That was my last bookstore experience. Today I was very impressed with B&N! They even had a small section for Christian fiction. And they stock one of my favorite authors, Liz Curtis Higgs.

I'm not sure if my book will grace the shelves of Barnes and Noble. I don't ask my publisher too many questions at this point. This is all such a gift that I just smile and nod my head at them. I enjoy not knowing. Surprises are nice.

P.S. A dear anonymous reader asked for the pot pie recipe which I will gladly give first thing in the morning - but only if you let me post the real deal in dumplings right alongside it - southern style!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Philippians 4:8

Recently the marketing department of my publisher asked which writers I would like to request read my book before it is released for endorsement purposes. Endorsements are those little blurbs on the book jacket that tell how much other authors like your book. I selected 3 Kentucky authors since my novel is set in Kentucky and then a writer of historical fiction from Colorado. Since I love anything written by Liz Curtis Higgs, she was my first pick. I'll be amazed if she has time to read my book but thought I'd try. She lives in Louisville by the way and is an incredibly gifted writer and speaker. Her books are bestsellers.

Lately I've been thinking that at least one of these writers might not like my book after reading it. What would they then say for endorsement purposes? In future, what will I say if I'm asked to endorse a book I don't like? Christians are supposed to speak the truth (in love). Hmmmm. Suddenly this endorsement idea is not fun anymore.

Since all of this is new to me, I have only one reliable guide. Phiilippians 4:8 really is the right answer here:

Finally ... whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good report, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

This applies to books you don't particularly like - and people. Without expending too many brain cells, I can usually find something good to say about a Christian book I'm not crazy about - or my nosy neighbor. Try it. It's the truth. And you just might like it - or them!

Sunday, June 1, 2008


Husbands really are wonderful inventions, if you get a good one. Mine will be 38 Monday. For 6 weeks out of each year we are ten years apart in age so I'm always glad to narrow the gap. And I'm not the younger one in this equation! Hopefully you're mathematically challenged like me and won't figure it out. We'll be celebrating our 14th anniversary soon but have known each other since 1984.

Since Randy rarely reads this blog, I'll talk about his birthday. He's a man of simple tastes so his big present is my cleaning out the garage today. And you thought a writer's life was glamorous! For supper he's requested chicken and dumplings which northwesterners call "pot pie" for some reason. They simply cut up pie dough and throw it in some chicken broth. It's pretty good. Sometimes I sneak eggs and baking powder in but he can tell the difference. He's not fond of southern dumplings.

Randy is the epitome of 1 Thessalonians 4:11 - Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands.

There's not one funny bone in his body but he likes to refer to my writing historical fiction as "hysterical fiction" which makes me smile. He's my very best friend and I'm so thankful. Next to Jesus, he's my rock. I hope our boys grow up to be like him.

This morning I received our family pictures via email so promise to post some soon. The boys personalities really shine through, so the photographer said. I think you'll agree:)