July 2021 Storytime Blog Hop

Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

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Crossing the Line

I read Charlie’s file and my stomach hurt. No, my head hurt. No, it was definitely my stomach.

Charlie was the reason I almost quit Grim Reaper Training School.

Well, not Charlie personally. I had never heard of him before I picked up the file from administration twenty minutes ago. But his kind. I could learn to deal with a lot of what death had to offer, but I didn’t know how I would ever successfully handle watching the Charlies of this world die.

The training academy had counselors for this sort of thing, but I had wanted to graduate top in my class and I didn’t think it looked good for the valedictorian to have emotional issues directly related to his chosen profession.

So I gutted it out; told myself I would learn and adapt. It’s funny how easily we can convince ourselves of lies when we desperately want them to be true. In so many ways Reapers were no different than the humans we served.

I went straight to Charlie and confirmed what I had no reason to doubt. Charlie was two years old, healthy, and cute as a puppy.

Now, I had two days to dread his imminent death. It’s just as well that Reapers don’t sleep, because I couldn’t have gotten any if I had wanted.

I sat at one of my favorite spots, near the flowing river, tossing rocks in absentmindedly.

For a day and a half I tried to figure out a way to avoid watching Charlie die. The worst part was it would be an accident. No one would see it coming it.

Nothing reasonable came to mind. I could trade with someone—that was allowed, but it had to be for a good reason. I could say that my parents needed me, but administration verifies. I couldn’t ask my parents to lie for me.

I had exhausted all of the ways I could feel sorry for myself when crunching leaves behind startled me.

Sheila.

“What are you doing here?”

“I haven’t heard from you and I got worried. Are you hiding?”

I wanted to be mad, but my heart had skipped a beat when I saw her. I guess it felt good to not be alone.

“What’s wrong?

I tossed another rock into the river. There was probably no reason to keep it from her. Sheila had a way of knowing things—like how I would be here.

“My next delivery. It’s a two-year-old.”

She sat, like she suddenly couldn’t stand. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m not ready for this.”

She placed her hand on my arm. “Do you want me to ask one of my siblings to trade with you? George needs the extra work because his fiancé wants a big wedding. And Margaret loves to watch people freak out when someone dies. She would love to watch Charlie’s mom discover his dead body. Margaret’s always been odd.”

The thought of someone knowing I wanted out frightened me more than the assignment. “No.”

“I would trade with you but I haven’t been trained yet,” she offered. “But then again, no one has to know!”

“No, I couldn’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not asking; I’m offering.”

I looked at her for the first time since she had sat down. You know, if I focused on her eyes and squinted a little, she wasn’t that bad looking. I placed my hand on hers, which remained on my arm. “I appreciate the offer, I really do, but those goons from collections, last time they showed up right after Darren died. It would be too risky.”

We sat that way, in silence, for what could have been hours. Time was running out and there was no way to avoid it. If I wanted to continue as a Reaper, then I had to do my job. I had to collect Charlie’s soul.

I stood with as much certainty as I could muster. “It’s time.”

Sheila looked up and I saw compassion deep within her eyes. “Would you like me to go with you?”

Having Sheila with me might look strange to the collectors when they arrived for Charlie. I shook my head. “I need to do this on my own.”

She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and I stood there, all thoughts of Charlie gone.

I arrived a few minutes early and tried to picture Charlie’s death in my mind in order to prepare me to not look away. I had found out the hard way that not looking when someone died meant their soul could easily escape.

I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t even pretend to watch him die, how would I ever watch the real thing?

Charlie played in the sand box, digging a hole while filling another. He was happy, focused, and oblivious to the dangers lurking near. His mom lounged on the deck, a close eye on Charlie.

Then like a vision, I saw what would happen. A gray, stuffed wolf sat on the edge of the swimming pool. Charlie would see the wolf, toddle from his sand box, lose his balance trying to pick it up, and drown.

Immediately the sequence began. A beeper sounded from inside the house. Charlie’s mom took one last look at him before hurrying inside.

Charlie stood. “Kitty?”

It’s a wolf, but I guess that doesn’t matter. He won’t live long enough to learn the difference.

I’m not sure why or how, but I found myself racing to the stuffed animal. I picked it up.

“Kitty?” Charlie cried.

Before I had time to process what I was doing, I tossed the stuffed animal away from the pool. Charlie chased it down and returned to his sand box. A few second later his mom exited the house, looked at Charlie, then at the stuffed wolf and slapped a hand over her mouth. She glanced at the pool and tears welled up in her eyes. She ran, picked up her son, and hugged him tight.

I smiled.

And then I didn’t.

What had I done? I had just interfered. They were very clear that was not allowed. Very clear!

Maybe I could tell them I lost the soul. Fill out the paperwork accordingly and they would spend years searching the globe for Charlie’s soul, hopefully decades, before someone on the oversight board realized what had happened. By then I would be a big star among the Reapers and we’d all get a good laugh out of the story. Right?

“G.R.!”

Uh-oh.

Check out the other stories in the blog hop and leave us comments.
True Face by Nic Steven
A Touch of Summer Fire by Jemma Weir
Abigail by Barbara Lund
Storytime Blog Hop Juneta’s Website
Rainbow Girl by Katharina Gerlach
A Brood of Harpies by Sabrina Rosen

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What if? T-Shirt

Sizes: Adults S, M, L, XL

Color: Charcoal Gray

Cost: $15 + ($3.99 shipping)


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What if aliens have been in hiding since 1947

What if? What if the government lied? What if aliens survived the crash? What if they escaped? What if they’re still here…hiding, waiting, preparing? What then?

I am in Roswell, New Mexico, visiting family and preparing for the UFO Festival.

The festival brings a wide variety of people, from die-hard true believers in aliens to local residents interested in the activities to vendors hoping to capitalize on the tens of thousand of people who attend the festival every year.

Of course, this year it’s hard to tell how many will come after last year’s cancellation, this year’s reformatting of events, and the current remaining threat of COVID-19. I, for one, will be in attendance selling my books and the t-shirts I recently had designed and printed.

When I lived in Roswell during the mid-1990’s, I visited the UFO Museum and read about the crash in 1947 and the prevailing theories. Basically, one group of people believes the sighting and crash was a weather balloon flown by personnel from Walker Air Force Base, which was located south of downtown Roswell. Another group believes the crash was an alien spaceship and that the government hid the aliens and aircraft and covered it all up.

My science fiction series presents a third alternative. What if some of the aliens escaped before the government reached the crash sight?

In the first book, Vetrix, I describe what I believe happened on that day of July 2, 1947. While I won’t go into details in order to avoid spoilers, I will say that I explain my theory and play it out to its conclusion in the second book of the series, Earth.

Vetrix describes how three twelve-year-old sixth-graders from Roswell, New Mexico discover the truth behind the crash and alien activity on earth. Earth describes how the whole planet learns of alien presence on the planet.

Book three of the series, Zentron, follows the main character, twelve-year-old Flipper, and a group of both human and alien friends, as they continue to battle against a group of aliens set on destruction and domination. In Sevitan, book four, I describe a lot of the background of how the aliens came to be who they are and why two species from different planets remain at war.

Though I’d guess the idea of aliens escaping after the 1947 crash isn’t unique with me, I’ve never heard the theory presented elsewhere.

So, what if aliens not only survived the crash in Roswell but escaped authorities? What if they multiplied, trained and planned and are now ready to take over the world?

The only way to find the answer is to read the Vetrix series for yourself.

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Three Blind Mice

Eden’s Grandma is no killer, but proving her innocence is another matter entirely.

After solving a local murder mystery, Eden Price is beleaguered by reporters, and she hates every minutes of it. Together with her grandmother Maimeo, she sneaks out of town in disguise to cheer for Halstead at the Kansas 3A State Baseball Tournament.

But what starts out as a joyful challenge turns sinister when Maimeo discovers the body of one of the umpires. With the murder weapon found by the police, Lucas and his teammates are under suspicion. Eden needs to prove the Halstead players’ innocence, but everything she uncovers points toward Maimeo as the killer.

If she can’t fit the pieces together in time, Lucas and the Halstead Dragons can kiss their shot at a State Championship goodbye. And her grandmother may sit in jail for a very long time.

Three Blind Mice is the second book in the Halstead Mystery Series.

Purchase Three Blind Mice

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Pandemic Devotionals

When the pandemic and shut down hit the world, every aspect of our lives changed. An alternate reality became our norm, and each person was faced with unprecedented choices. Pandemic Devotionals is an anthology of stories collected during the 2020 and 2021 aftermath of a virus that brought the world to its knees. However, in the chaos and confusion, God remains a tower of unchanging strength. As we learn to overcome fear with faith, we can find courage that God is moving mightily on the behalf of those who love Him.

I was honored to contribute a devotional for this anthology. All proceeds are being donated to the Salvation Army.

Purchase Pandemic Devotionals

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April 2021 Storytime Blog Hop

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Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop.  Leave us comments.  We love hearing from you!

Grit Nearly Succeeds

I was determined not to fail…again.

I had been following Darren for days. It was overkill, I knew, but desperation had overtaken me. I had to catch a soul. The authorities understood a learning curve, but mine had yet to curve.

Darren was active, but 92 and his heart would soon give out.

I knew the time and place—we all do. That’s how we can be on hand to collect the souls. It wasn’t good to have a lot of lost souls roaming the earth. It took the cleanup crew years, often centuries, to collect souls that were lost at death.

Armed with confidence from my last assignment—I had witnessed the death for the first time—I was determined not to get distracted. I would collect the soul this time around.

The higher-ups had made it clear that I was on a short leash. I had to start producing or it was paperwork for me. While paperwork sounded better watching people die, I wouldn’t survive in an office processing kills. I needed interaction with others.

Darren cried every night. His wife of 69 years had died a few weeks prior. At first his crying worried me, then it became annoying. Now it had me curious. What is it about his wife that makes him cry all the time?

Every day he tells his children and grandchildren that he will be with her again soon.

Tonight, Darren’s son brought him a glass of water and Darren drank as he sat on the edge of the bed.

“The doctor called and said your heart is healthy.”

“It’s broken,” Darren insisted.

“Your tests all came back positive.”

“It isn’t the kind of break that machines can measure.”

“Dad, I wish you wouldn’t talk that way. You should be more positive.”

“Son, I am positive. Your mom and I were never apart more than a few days since we met 73 years ago. I don’t intend to start now.”

Tears ran down his son’s face, triggering Darren’s own tears. “I promised your mom I would outlive her so she wouldn’t have to experience the pain of losing a spouse. The only reason I fought the cancer years ago was to keep my promise.”

“You still have so much to live for,” his son argued.

“You and your sister have your families, and as much as I love you and all my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, your mom is my first and greatest love. She needs me. And I miss her.”

His son helped Darren lie down before turning out the light. “Good night, Dad.”

Darren waited for the door to close then whispered, “Goodbye, Son. I love you.”

He starred up at the ceiling. “Sweetheart, I’ll see you soon.”

He was all smiles as he drifted off to sleep.

How could he be so confident that he would die tonight? I mean, he would, but how did he know?

How could a person be so full of love? I loved my family, but not as much as Darren loved his. I had gone on a date with Dale’s sister Sheila, but I couldn’t imagine ever loving her like Darren had loved his wife.

I felt myself longing to love someone the way Darren loved his wife…or even his son. I had only known Darren for a few days and I felt myself drawn to him like no one else in my life. I wish I had met him years ago so I could know more about him.

He only had a few minutes left. My excitement rose as the time neared that I would be able to talk to him. I had so many questions. I’m sure the guys in processing wouldn’t mind me spending a few minutes with Darren before I turned in his soul. After all, I hadn’t turned one in yet, so late would better than never, right?

I sat on his bed, his face full of contentment, even in sleep. At least his death wouldn’t be gruesome like the one I had witnessed. He would die in his sleep.

Suddenly he sat up. “Who’s there?”

I stood, startled.

“Who are you?” he demanded.

“You, you can see me?”

“Of course I can see you.”

“My name is G.R., and I’m…”

“You’re here for me,” he finished matter-of-factly.

His face softened and his smile returned. “I’m ready to be taken to my love.”

I was unsure what to do.

“I’m sorry. You’re not dead yet.”

“Oh.” Disappointment filled his voice. “But you are here for me, are you not?”

“Well, yes. Any minute now. I have so many questions for you.”

Everything within me wanted him to live longer. I wanted to know him better, know what made him tick. I felt like I had so much to learn from Darren.

“I’ve waited long enough.” He laid his head back down on his pillow, closed his eyes, and within seconds his heart abruptly stopped.

Darren’s soul departed the dead body. “I’m ready. Take me to my wife.”

We floated up through the roof and he stopped to take in the view of the city.

“I will, I promise, but first I need to ask you some questions.”

Suddenly two guys I recognized from collections arrived. The pair, about equal in height, would dwarf any human.

Rick carried himself like he was in charge. “Congratulations, G.R. You finally caught one. Cost me the office pool though. I thought it would be another two weeks.”

I wouldn’t have considered his stature thin except compared to his partner, Stan, whose extreme enthusiasm for his job clearly had made an impression on many of my former classmates.

“I had you at never,” Stan laughed. “Make sure you turn in your paperwork within three days to get credit. We’ll take it from here.”

“Wait…”  But they were gone. I didn’t get to ask Darren any questions.

Check out the other stories in the blog hop and leave us comments.

Love’s Sweet Pick by Sabrina Rosen
For A Breathe of Air by Nic Steven
Pitch by Sandra Llyn
Bees by Barbara Lund
Bullied by Elizabeth McCleary
Welcome To Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop by Juneta Key
A Day to Remember by Katharina Gerlach
Were’s The Rabid Rabbit by Jemma Weir
VI – The Lovers by Raven O’Fiernan

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A Fun Visit

A couple of weeks ago I had the treat of visiting the seventh grade language arts class in Cottonwood Falls.

Bill and Kinsey posing with her copy of When the Time is Right.

My cousin’s daughter (I think that makes her my second cousin, but who’s counting?) presented a book report on my cozy mystery, When the Time is Right. Having a book I wrote as the subject of a book report was a first for me, so given the opportunity I gladly agreed to appear in person.

Unfortunately, due COVID-19, I appeared via Zoom instead of in person.

It was a treat for me to watch and listen to Kinsey talk about my book. I enjoyed visiting with the students, though this group was one of the quietest I have come across. Maybe they were awestruck by my celebrity status. 🙂

Bill and Kinsey in D’Angelo’s (better known as the Pizza Parlor).

The biggest treat for me happened the weekend before my visit to the classroom. Kinsey came for a visit to Halstead with my Aunt Nyla and Abby (another second cousin, I believe). They wanted to see the actual places that I wrote about in my book.

We started by eating pizza at D’Angelo’s (better known as the Pizza Parlor in When the Time is Right). Nyla took pictures of the inside of the restaurant and I posed with Kinsey in one of the booths.

From there we walked to the hospital and took several pictures and I told them how I envisioned the story playing out as I wrote it. I showed them the house across the street that I used to begin my description of Dr. and Mrs. Emmett’s house.

As we circled the hospital, I think Kinsey peeked inside every window she possibly could. She even took a couple of pictures.

My family ran out of time and had to leave, so I didn’t get to take them up on the levee and show them where Eden and Lucas took the critical walk that led them to an understanding that they needed to work together. We’ll save that one for next time.

Maybe one day When the Time is Right will be big enough to supplant Picnic as the go-to reference for what gave Halstead its biggest exposure to the outside world. Or maybe it will be the whole collection of the Halstead Mystery series. Maybe not.

But maybe…

Bill and Kinsey being silly and re-enacting the break-in scene from his book.

Kinsey pretending to break into the hospital.

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Sevitan

The Snader Lord has awakened. The Chase is on.
Can the companions keep him from the weapon he desires?

Allison remains trapped on the Snader spaceship. With a power struggle among leaders, she uses her dreaming ability to warn her friends of the Snader Lord’s intentions. But is the information she’s gained helping her friends or leading them into a trap?

The destination?  An abandoned spaceship laboratory containing hundreds of experiments and a few dead bodies. When Flipper and his Gude friends arrive at the city-sized spaceship, they must discover what it is about the wreckage that attracts the monster’s attention.

The only clues they have come from a single visit by Allison and strange messages from a distant Prophet relaying information through Chezlor, who’s stranded on Sevitan, a planet without technology. Soon, a scarier and more urgent question arises—are they alone on the spaceship?

Can the trio use their resources to keep the Snader Lord from what he’s after?

Can Flipper turn enemies into allies in time to save the galaxy?

Don’t miss out on Flipper’s scariest and most exciting adventure yet in this fourth installment of the Vetrix series!

Purchase Sevitan on Amazon

Watch the trailer for book 1 in the series, Vetrix

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Author Interview: Taryn Oakley

Taryn Oakley with her latest novel, Dreams of July, making it to the bookshelves of Faith & Life Bookstore in Newton, Kansas. (Photo credit: Bethany Martin)

Taryn Oakley is a second grade teacher in the Bentley/Halstead school district where I live. I don’t know her personally and only learned of books recently when Jared Janzen (Editor for the Harvey Independent newspaper) interviewed her. I enjoyed getting to know her through this interview process and look forward to reading her books!

Share a little bit about your latest book, Gathering up the Stones

Back Cover:

He needs a family to want him. One family wants him but can’t have him.

Emmaline Holcomb has waited years for God to grant her a child of her own. In the wake of miscarriages and a failed adoption, she resigns herself to believe a child will never come. When her husband prompts entering the world of foster care, it’s not long before Ollie arrives in the Holcomb household and their resolve is tested once more. In Emmaline’s eyes, he is a stone, cast away, and she can’t wait to gather him up. But she must let him go–another season she must endure.

Seven years pass. When a discovery that could alter the trajectory of both their lives emerges, Emmaline must race to unveil the truth if she hopes to ever gather up her stone. Told through the eyes of a lost boy, a struggling mother, and a woman who hopes to be one someday is a tale that personifies the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 3:5.

The story revolves around foster care and adoption with heavy themes focusing on Christian elements.

Tell us about your previous book(s)

I have written one other novel titled Dreams of July. Focusing again on Christian themes, Dreams is a clean, romantic novel, somewhat like you’d find on the Hallmark Channel.

The back cover blurb says it best:

A story of sorrow, faith, and a love mighty enough to restore the Dreams of July.

​For two years, Laney Sanford has lived with the remains of a dream after her husband is tragically killed. She’s turned from everything–her faith, her family, her career. But she’s had enough loneliness to last a lifetime. Moving back to her small-town home in Henson, Texas, she hopes to be rid of the past once and for all. Yet, just when everything seems too painfully familiar, she runs into a new face. His kind eyes evoke a sense of awareness to something she should remember, but the answer evades her like a cool breeze in summer. What could it be about the handsome stranger, other than drawing out emotions she longs to have but shouldn’t feel amongst her grief?

Firefighter Lucas Taylor is no stranger to grief and sadness. His job is to rescue and protect, but when it’s mattered most, he’s failed one too many times. Seeing Laney again revives the shame. Yet, this could be his second chance–at least that’s how he saw it at first. What he didn’t plan on was falling for her. How will she react when she learns what he’d done? Will her newfound faith in God be strong enough to withstand the truth? If so, can he bring back her dreams of July?

How long have you been writing and why did you start?

In middle school and a little bit of upper elementary, I’d write stories for fun. I shared a few with friends, but mostly it was for my eyes only. I didn’t start taking writing seriously until late high school and early college. I tinkered with a story in my mind for several years before finally finishing it one summer post-college.

This became Dreams of July. Soon after, I penned Gathering up the Stones. My goal with writing is to share Jesus. I want the entertainment a story can bring to mingle with Truth and speak to the heart of the reader. I aim for depth to stir emotions that will hopefully spur questions and desire to find Salvation through Christ.

What has influenced you the most as a writer?

Other authors have definitely influenced me. I love Karen Kingsbury and Deborah Raney (local author). I wanted to be like them–not necessarily style, but influencer like them. I wanted to be able to reach as many people as I could in a way that I felt gifted in–through the written word.

You labeled both books as Christian on Amazon. How does your faith factor into your writing?

My first novel revolved more around the story than the message, while my second novel began with the message and the story molded around it. I love Bible stories and the Truth of God’s Word, and I wanted to incorporate storytelling with Truth in a way that resonated with my audience. So Gathering up the Stones took a verse from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:5 about gathering and scattering stones, and I basically wrote an analogy using the lives of people who are lost and looking for a place of belonging. I also include direct biblical references and don’t skirt around my message. Direct, yet including imagery, speaks volumes in my novels.

Taryn writing her second novel during the summer of 2020

Where do the ideas for your stories come from?

Stories of people around me and my imagination. I like to listen to stories, read the Bible, and read news articles. Plotlines spin off from those areas in my life.

Are teaching and writing related or two separate activities for you?

Teaching allows me to understand people better. The way children behave versus adults helps me bring my characters to life. I get a little insight into the minds of kids as a teacher, which I incorporate into my novels. Otherwise, the process of teaching versus writing are different ball fields.

What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

Being patient enough to get the right story on paper. I itch to write, so waiting for the whole storyline to come together before beginning can be hard. I like to know how I’m going to get from point A to point B. But the details can sometimes bog me down. But I’m proud of how it ends up. The details are the best part. They’re worth the wait.

What is next on your writing agenda?

I have a few ideas floating around in my mind, but the full picture isn’t formed yet. Hopefully a new novel will be in the works soon.

Taryn appeared in the Harvey County Independent on January 28, 2021.

Biography:

Taryn Oakley always dreamed about writing stories ever since elementary school. A lifelong resident of the Midwest, she is inspired by the open backdrop of her home. As a child, she would stare out the window on road trips, daydreaming as the wheat and cornfields flashed by. Those daydreams were the birthplaces of her stories. The possibilities were as endless as the landscapes.

Her debut novel, Dreams of July, officially propelled her into the world of writing, leading to her second novel, Gathering up the Stones. Through her stories, she hopes to bring the joy of Jesus’ life-changing power to her readers.

When she is not composing works of fiction, she teaches public school and enjoys time with her husband and daughter.

Excerpt:

It came to a head one night when I caught Jesse scrolling through an adoption website. He clicked on a child’s profile, and a boy popped up on a new screen, his bio detailed on the right.

I turned away. “How can you consider this?”

Even to my ears, I sounded cold.

Jesse ignored me and continued reading.

Angered, I lashed out. “Are you actually considering adoption? Have you given up? Don’t you believe God will give us a child?”

“I haven’t given up, Em.” He sounded sad. “I want a child. Just like you. But I keep thinking, what if this is how God’s going to answer our prayer. What if it doesn’t have to be our own flesh and blood? I mean, look at these faces. I read the stories. These kids don’t have a chance at a family unless someone chooses them. What if they’re crying out to God to give them a family? What if we are their family?”

He stopped when he saw my mouth agape. I didn’t know what to say. His words stung. A fear crept over me. He was no longer on my side. He’d abandoned me for them.

The pride welled. He was wrong about this. He had to be wrong, didn’t he? Surely, God would fix me and we’d have a family, just like we wanted. He was, after all, the Healer.

I left Jesse on the couch and went to bed.

That night I tossed and turned, wrestling for understanding. The idea, and possibly the truth, festered and rooted into my dreams and in the daytime as I grasped for answers.

I couldn’t escape it.

What if Jesse was right about God’s plan?

But, I balked, I can’t desert the idea of a child of my own. Not permanently.Because, what if I’m right, too?

Yet the revelation grew and molded around my heart, softening it like potter’s clay. Before long, I was hunting down information. Maybe we could test the waters. Do a little good in the lives of these kids without jumping in with both feet first. There was, after all, a bridge: foster care.

Websites/Social Media:

Website: www.oakleybooks.weebly.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/oakleybooks
Email: booksoakley@gmail.com
Book Locations:
Print and eBooks at Amazon
Print only (but local business): Faith & Life Bookstore

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Whatever you think of me, it’s probably true

If you entered my house you would quickly notice that I have areas of clutter, especially my bedroom where few people see. My house isn’t terribly dirty—I don’t keep dirty dishes and such lying around—but I don’t always put things away. I don’t have a place for everything so I tend to have piles lying around. I easily ignore them until I need something from that pile. Your impression of me from the visit might be one of a lazy, uncaring, disorganized, and unmotivated person.

However, if you focused you attention on my lifestyle you may get a different opinion. I work full-time, am a single parent, run 5-6 days a week, am involved at my church, am a published author, write several books a year, and I use my website to blog and market my stories. From that perspective, you might call me driven, disciplined, focused, well-organized, overachieving.

The fact is, both are true. I’m complicated—highly organized and disciplined in some areas and lazy and unmotivated in others.

The same holds true on a deeper level as well.

I view myself as a failure. Why? Because I have a half century of factual data to support that conclusion. I’ve failed professionally, personally, morally, spiritually, financially, relationally; with multiple examples in each category. Need I got on?

It isn’t that I haven’t had successes; I have. But the truth is I’ve had enough failures (and enough big failures) that those experiences are ingrained into my self-identity.

There is a large piece of me that I battle nearly every day, that wants to kick back, find an easy job, and spend my time being comfortable and safe. I want to disconnect from the world; from reality.

I would like to fiddle away as much of my life as possible watching movies, sports, whatever, just to limit situations that provide an opportunity to fail. I am so tired of making mistakes, feeling frustrated, disappointing myself and those I love, and not living up to the standards I have set for myself.

That easy, relaxing, less stressful life sounds so, so, so inviting.

But the other part of me is driven—maybe even from the result of the aforementioned failures—to find a way to justify my existence. I’m afraid that if my life ended now that I would have lost, failed to fulfill my purpose. I love to do something to prove my life was worth it.

I have an inner longing to find a way to feel like I’m contributing to the world. I strive, continually, to figure out what I need to do so I feel like I’ve tipped the scale and the positive contributions of my life outweigh the failures.

It’s complicated, because I often feel like two people at war—both with the same scars, fears, and anxiety—but with completely different needs.

The truth is, whether you see me as a person who’s disorganized and cluttered, or as disciplined and productive, the truth is I’m both. I’m a giant mess doing the best I know how.

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