Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Village Without Books: Ashling, The Dreamer

**This is a story I wrote earlier this year from the writing prompt "Reading."

Ashling’s eyes were large and watchful, his muscles taut with caution. He had never seen a stranger before. The old man’s snores filled the air like the buzzing of bees. The breeze through the window lifted strands of his silver hair causing wisps to sway like the tall grass in the meadow.

“Oversee him,” King Eldredge had told Ashling. Perhaps the king’s assignment would silence the naysayers in the isolated, but goodly kingdom of Serendipity. As a boy he had been ridiculed, called ne’er-do-well, silly heart, fanciful, and dreamer. Indeed, Ashling means dreamer or visionary.

King Eldredge was kind but he wasn’t a dreamer or visionary. He was content. For decades, none had entered Serendipity or left. The people were happy because they knew no other existence. Their minds were not cluttered with wonderings like Ashling’s.  

Ashling was no longer a boy but not quite a man.  He spent his days climbing trees, meandering through the forest, wading in the river called Mighty, and frolicking with the animals. He was in awe of his surroundings, but he had many questions. Where did the waters of Mighty journey to and from whence did they flow from? By what miracle did apples grow on trees and berries on vines? Who gave birds their song? How did the moon and sun change places? What caused females to give birth? What lies beyond Serendipity?

He pondered this and much more. When he asked questions, people answered, “It is the way of things. Only a fool and dreamer would ask such questions.” Their answers left him with an aching desire to know more.

As he approached manhood, his father said, “You must find your purpose, Son. Your head is in the clouds. Will you be a fisherman? Hunter? Planter? Carpenter? Healer? There are many choices, but you must decide.”

 Instead of thinking about his purpose, Ashling lay in the meadow in the evening. He wondered about the moon and stars. Why didn’t they fall to the ground? How did the moon change shapes from night to night?

It was the next day, while he sat in an apple tree that the old man arrived. Ashling heard braying and watched as two donkeys slowly approached. One carried pouches and crates. The other carried a man who was slumped forward. His hair was silver and his skin like burnt leather.

Ashling plucked two apples, offering them to the donkeys as he called softly, “Sir.” The old man didn’t respond. Ashling saw blood dripping to the ground and the awkward angle of the man’s right leg.

He alerted his father who summoned King Eldredge. The king’s face reflected his perplexity. “We shall care for this stranger until he is well, then send him on his way. You, Ashling, will be his overseer while my healers tend to him.”

Ashling kept his eyes watchful while his fanciful mind spun tales of the stranger. The sound of the old man’s snoring lulled Ashling into slumber. Later Ashling was roused by a hand on his shoulder. The old man’s eyes probed deeply into his as if dissecting his mind and soul. “I am Sage. My travels take me wherever I feel led. On my journey to find the dreamer, a snake frightened my donkey, who pitched me to the ground, wounding my leg. Are you the dreamer?”

“I’m Ashling. I have been called a dreamer.” Ashling’s voice trembled.

“Fetch my pouches and crates, Dreamer.”

Ashling did as he was told. He removed the objects as Sage instructed, making neat piles.

“These are books, young Ashling. They contain answers to your many questions. I am here to teach you to read.”

“I know nothing of books or what it is to read.”

Sage smiled. “Ah, my young dreamer, hand me the book on top. It is a collection of best loved poetry. It’s exquisite.”

Sage caressed the book before opening it. As Sage began to read, Ashling felt his heart sing and dance. In the words, he heard the song of birds, the rushing waters of Mighty, the growl of the lion, the symphony of forest creatures, the laughter of children. Oh, if he could do as Sage and make words from the pages burst into the air.

Sage lovingly touched each book. “This book explains the oceans, lands, and skies. This one tells of great men who have done marvelous deeds. This tells of animals, this of herbs and spices and plants. This reveals secrets of the human body.”

Sage explained each book. Every question Ashling had was answered in the books. “And you will teach me to read, Sage?”

“Yes, young dreamer, I will teach you. Reading will be your gift to share with this kingdom.”

There was one last book – old, worn and shabby. “And this book? Is it least important, Sage?”

Tears filled Sage’s eyes as he cradled the book to his bosom. “This book is life. It tells of the One who created everything you have wondered about. It tells of a love like none other. This is greater than all books combined.”

“But why is it so shabby? Have you not cared for it properly?”

“Young dreamer, this book shows the wear of many hands who have loved it with their lives, but also, the hands who sought to destroy it. It is my most treasured possession.”

From that day, the legend is told of how books and reading came to Serendipity.

(© 2014 Do not use without permission. Property of Leola Ogle.)

So keep dreaming. dear friends. YOU, like young Ashling, may have a gift for your kingdom.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Love/Hate Relationship With Christmas: Confessions of a Christmas-holic

It is two days after Christmas and I have been reduced to a drooling, mumbling, pajama-clad couch potato. In December a few years ago, I made a trip to the dermatologist where my daughter, Stephanie, works. I had burning, itching hives covering my neck and chest that felt like a hundred stinging ants.  “Well, looks like you were here last December for the same thing,” said the doctor.  “That’s it! It has been confirmed. I’m allergic to Christmas,” I replied.

I love Jesus. I serve Him as closely and faithfully as I can, but I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love everything about it. I hate the amount of work that it entails. I confess, I am responsible for much of my Christmas to-do list. All those cookies I bake – dozens and dozens – to give to neighbors, family and friends. And my family reproduces like sex-starved rabbits, so my gift list is a continually growing, demanding parasite.

Thank God gift giving is my love language. Otherwise, I would eradicate that leech-list – set fire to it and cackle like the Wicked Witch of the West. Even though I purchase sale items all year long, I find myself scrambling and searching in a psychotic frenzy at the last minute every December. This year I had tons of little boy gifts, but many more little girls than boys in the family. Seriously, though, why can’t a three-month-old baby girl get a set of Hot Wheels as a gift? Who makes these rules anyway? I have a confession: little boys are easier to buy for than little girls, but men are harder to buy for than women. That is my truth, so there!

Then all the meals! Somehow I manage to keep up my usual “everyone-comes-to-my-house-for-lunch-after-church-every-Sunday” ritual. I had not fully recovered from all that cooking/baking I did for Thanksgiving when the kitchen fairy – that cursed, wretched, slave-driving creature – reminded me I have much to do in December.

And don’t ask me why I drive myself to be the Queen of Christmas Decorating. I even do the front yard décor with lights and everything. But I have learned a valuable, sanity-saving secret. Let there be no item set out at Christmas – or any other time – that is more precious to you than the tiny hands that may break it. My younger self was not so gracious about this. But now I let my grandkids and great-grandkids rearrange my village, take baby Jesus out of the nativity, touch Santas with not-so-clean fingers….you get the idea. And every year, something gets broken. And I always ask the tearful offender, “What do I love more? You or (that thing) you broke? Of course, I love you more.”

To make this December worse, I started off the first week with some coughing, achy, sneezing, fatigued virus from hell. It lasted a week. Then the Sunday night before Christmas – after having thirty plus people here that day for lunch and to play that steal-the-gift game – I got a horrid bug that kept me up most of the night with some demonic minion twisting a burning knife in my stomach.

I had to babysit a grandson Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. To top that off, my youngest daughter, Heather’s, husband ended up in ICU, so I had those three grandkids too. I was facing a Christmas Eve meal and festivities for 20-30 family, plus preparing a complete meal to take to the in-laws in another city on Christmas day.

Heaving a heavy sigh while every bone and muscle in my sixty-six year old body groans in protest, I am forever grateful for Jesus Christ, Incarnate God, who chose to be born as a helpless newborn with a destiny to sacrifice His mortal, human body because of His profound love for mankind. Words are inadequate to express the depth of my love for my Lord and savior.

This Christmas, I am especially grateful that my son-in-law, Bobby, got released from the hospital to be with his family for Christmas. Also, my sweet grandson, Nathanael, and his wife, Jessica, handed me a box of Cerrata’s Chocolates, and said, “Our other Christmas gift is that we’re going to have a baby.”  A miracle I have been praying about for almost two years. Only a handful know the significance of that announcement. 

And because I love my family and friends, I will always look forward to Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 at My House

Ah, Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving 2014 is now a thing of the past. I trust yours was filled with family, friends, food, fun, fellowship, and gratitude for all the many blessings in your life. Please don’t say you have nothing to be grateful for. The fact that you are alive is a blessing.

My family is huge. Okay, I know I’ve said it before about my huge family. Make no doubt, I KNOW I am blessed and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But the human dynamics when you get so many people together usually has an element of stress for me and my sweet husband, Jeff. We are peace-loving, no drama, let’s-just-all-get-along people. Conflict keeps us awake at night.

Forty two people were at my house for Thanksgiving and we all did get along. We usually do. BUT….there’s always that potential for fireworks. The majority of my family is Christians, but we welcome all family whether they’re believers or not.

We also have some drama lovers, some who struggle with drugs and alcohol or other issues. Every family has those. We even have a couple of ultra liberals. That’s like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole when you come to my house.

Well, the alcoholics stayed sober, the drama lovers kept their actions and attitudes in check, and the ultra liberals kept their mouths shut. It was a very blessed day, indeed.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV) “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

It’s not the great food that people will remember when they come to my or your home. It is the love and acceptance they feel. Always be kind and loving, even when it’s thrown back in your face. Love covers….everything. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

While Fires Burn in Ferguson

A shared post which is the best I've read so far about what is happening in Ferguson.

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:
I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.
I'M HOPELESS, because I've lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I'm not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.
I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

All About Grammas and Grammar

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  That pretty much sums up my life. It probably wouldn’t be as much of a problem if I wasn’t a procrastinator. And exactly what kind of plans do mice make anyway?

I love everything about this time of year – Halloween through the New Years – especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. But my family is so huge that I usually work myself into a frazzle. After cooking, baking and planning a big family celebration for my husband, Jeff’s, 50th birthday this past Sunday, I decided this week I would drag in the tubs from the garage and sort through them. I mean, that shindig on Sunday didn’t wear me out enough, right?

These tubs contain gifts I’ve collected all year because my gift-giving list for Christmas is enormous. But I get a text Sunday night asking can I watch my five-year-old granddaughter, Jocelyn, because she’s sick and can’t go to pre-school. Jocelyn thinks my purpose on earth is to entertain and play with her every minute she’s here.

Yesterday amidst making cookies with Jocelyn (her idea, not mine), I get a phone call from Miranda asking can I pick up my five-year-old great-granddaughter, Ariana, from school. Uh, sure! I mean, I am Super-Mimi and I seriously do love all my kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids more than words can say.

Between the chaotic mess of two little girls – who aren’t all that sick – and mystery tubs scattered around, my house looked like a tornado hit it by the time my husband, Jeff, got home from work yesterday. And I looked like the tornado was still sweeping over me.

This whole process with Jocelyn and Ariana is repeated today. My morning consists of, “I don’t want Fruit Loops like Jocelyn. I want Coco Puffs” – “What are you making, Mimi? Pumpkin pies? Yay, can we help? How come? Then can we make cookies?” – “Can we have marshmallows? This isn’t too many" (said through giggles and chipmunk-cheeks stuffed with marshmallows). – “I’m still hungry after marshmallows. Can I have M&M’s? Why not? No, I’m not hyper, Mimi.” – “Can we go outside and jump on the trampoline?”

Today is officially Jeff’s birthday, so despite the chaos, I decided to send him a mushy text in the manner of that book Love You Forever. My text:  “Happy birthday to my precious, wonderful husband. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m alive, my husband you’ll be.”  After hitting send, it was back to pie making. I heard my phone ding. Jeff: “I love you, too. Who’s Alice?”

Alice?  Stupid autocorrect changed alive to Alice. “As long as I’m Alice, my husband you’ll be.” Stupid autocorrect also recently changed my facebook post from, “We’re on our way to the RWA (Romance Writers of America),” to, “We’re on our way to Rwanda.”  As if I have time for foreign travel.

Back to pie making. Seriously, whose idea was it for ME to bake a pumpkin pie to celebrate Joy’s birthday at our blog group tomorrow? Not me. Or maybe it was me. Anyway, then on to overseeing Jocelyn and Ariana as they rolled out, cut, baked then decorated cookie dough. Oh, and can I pleeeaaase help them built a house with Legos. And please take our picture on the trampoline. I should feel so good when I’m sick. I can barely jump on the trampoline when I’m well.

What’s a Mimi to do, huh? Well, for now, I need to get a birthday gift together for Joy, fix myself up so Jeff and I can go visit some friends, then to dinner with the hunky birthday man. That is, after these adorable girls get picked up.

Just call me Alice. Maybe her plans never go awry, I think, as my gaze travels over these darn tubs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I Could Be A Reality Star

Do you watch reality television shows? I could be a reality star. Honestly, it seems it doesn’t take much to be on reality television nowadays. You can even have your own reality show. In the 1960’s I missed my chance, I guess. Teen mom – that was me. Teen Mom on MTV seems to be fairly popular. Who knew back then?

Those girls have nothing on me. I had my third baby when I was nineteen years old. My first, Tammy, was born when I was sixteen, a month before my seventeenth birthday. I guess I was kind of unique in that I was married and was not pregnant when I got married. I was….a virgin when I got married.

Somehow I survived – my babies did too – without much help from anyone except for friendly advice and the occasional offer to babysit. You know what else? My friend, Sande, did too. We were both teen moms with three babies.

We had no idea that what we were doing could someday be viewed as a potential for stardom. We spooned baby food into tiny mouths, rinse and washed soiled diapers (there wasn’t such a thing as disposable diapers), rocked cranky or sick babies, went without sleep, did laundry that we hung outside to dry, and juggled schedules while keeping our sanity.

We did it because we wanted to be mommies. I can’t imagine being a teenager and doing all of those mother things in front of a television camera. I value my privacy. I can’t imagine, either, that anyone behaves as they normally would without a camera recording it all.

I had two more babies – five children total – by the time I was twenty five. I did it all without a – television show. And that’s not the only reality show my life could fit. I am – was – a cougar before I even knew there was such a thing. I recently celebrated my twentieth anniversary to Jeff, who is sixteen and a half years younger than me – a second marriage for both of us.

But that’s a story for another time. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pecans and Pumpkins or How To Waste Not

What is a poverty mentality? If I didn’t coin the phrase, I should have. My definition of poverty mentality as it pertains to me is that I can’t stand to waste anything.

I grew up poor, only I didn’t realize we were poor. Mom was the queen of recycling – before it became popular – and resourcefulness. She made use of everything, either for our own needs or to sell. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am like her. Fortunately, because I can stretch a dollar until it rips, or unfortunately, because I find it hard to throw anything away. I am a smidgen of a hoarder. Think of that reality television show Hoarders. NO – that is not me.

I was recently in Stephenville, Texas visiting family. There are pecan trees all over Stephenville. Pecans lay in yards and on sidewalks and streets. Many people use them but many pecans go to waste. People step on them without giving it a thought. Think of fingernails on chalkboard. That was me, cringing whenever a pecan was stepped on.

I did come home with a big bag of unshelled pecans, compliments of some friends there.  But it was all I could do at times to keep walking over pecan lying on the ground or sidewalks. I wanted to holler, “Stop! Wait!” to my family while I scooped pecans into my purse. All I could think of was how much I pay for walnuts and pecans, especially this time of year when I do so much holiday baking. To see pecans wasted caused me to hyperventilate and have heart palpitations. I thought I’d swoon just like Scarlett in Gone With The Wind.

I made it home without having heart failure.

I bought three LARGE pumpkins before Halloween. I’ve never done that before, but I needed them for my Trunk R Treat theme at church. Well, Nifty-Thrifty me can’t let those pumpkins go to waste.

I discovered I am not a pioneer or pilgrim woman. My shoulder is sore from carving those pumpkins to cook. My kitchen floor had more than one disaster of spilled cooked pumpkin. I swear pumpkin seeds are like insects – they just crawl off and end up all over the place. I made six pumpkin pies today and that was just from one pumpkin. I cooked another pumpkin today. Ugh! I have one more pumpkin to cut and cook. Maybe I’ll throw it away.

NO, I won’t. My poverty mentality won’t let me. There are starving people in other countries – even in my country. God bless the USA!

And why am I bothering with pumpkins? I am knee deep in NaNoWriMo – National Writing Month. I have a word count to meet. Pumpkins or writing? Grrrr. I'm so torn.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lone Star State

Texas! I think if I had to pick another state to live in besides my beloved Arizona, it would be Texas. Perhaps it is my misconception, but it seems friendlier to the gospel (more church signs and billboards about God/Jesus/faith/Christianity). For the most part, the landscape is beautiful.

My dad, God rest his soul, was from Texas. I love the Texan accent. I think I’ll write a a book based in Texas. Oh, wait, I am doing that already.

We are currently in Texas in a smaller town of Stephenville. We’re visiting our son, Jason, his wife, Danielle, and granddaughter, Kate. We stay at Danielle’s grandparents’ bed and breakfast. I’m not a bed and breakfast kind of person, but Marlene and Ed have become great friends.

This is all the perfect setting for a novel. Are other writers like me? I view everything now through the eyes of novel settings. On our trips to Stephenville, we fly into the Dallas airport, rent a car and drive to Stephenville. To get to Stephenville, we pass through the small town of Tolar, population 681. It looks like a town that has endured hard times, at least from the appearance of abandoned, dilapidated buildings on the main street. All I think about when we pass through is the possible story plots.

Or how about the current Ebola threat in America? On our flight from Phoenix to Dallas, the passenger aboard the plane in the seat directly in front of us was wearing a particle/germ mask over his mouth and nose. I whisper to my husband, “Is he afraid of catching something or spreading something?” All the possible story plots from that alone are endless. Besides the fact it truly did concern me.

Keep your eyes and ears open, and a notebook handy for jotting notes. Story plots are around us every day and everywhere. I love to get story plots from the sermons our pastor preaches. I’m constantly scribbling during Sunday services. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

When The World Spins Out of Control!

Everyday there is something in the news that causes fear among the people of our nation. Diseases, terrorists, economics, political battles, special interest group agendas, and the list goes on. 

As Christians now is not the time to let down on our prayers. We should be praying and bombarding heaven as never before. But do we? I'm as guilty as anyone of allowing "things" to distract me. Some days I just can't seem to muster the energy or time to pray.

God forgive me!

I have a large family. Yes, I know I've said that before. But in a family my size, there will always be a crisis, circumstance, or a need that needs God's intervention. Often we don't even realize what's going on. 

BUT! God, the Holy Spirit, always knows. Have you ever been praying and begin to weep and travail without understanding why? I do, frequently! Probably because my family is so large and the Spirit is prompting me to pray for something I'm unaware of. Sometimes I weep in prayer over things I am aware of. 

Romans 8: 26 (NIV) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
Philippians 4: 6 (NIV) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we're told to pray without ceasing. Of course we can't pray 24 hours a day, but God is instructing us to always be in an attitude of prayer as we function throughout our normal day activities. You can breathe a prayer or pray in your mind at any time and anywhere. 

Please, during these troublesome times, I encourage you to not let down your prayer guard. We need to be praying like never before. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Overcoming Failure

Reading a book isn’t like watching a movie. You get a visual image in a movie, but in a book, the writer strives to create a visual image for you through words. In a movie, you see facial expressions, what a person looks like, whether it’s day or night. A writer has to tell you those things.

So much can be determined about a person’s state of mind by their body language, the things they say, their facial expressions, and their eyes.

He gave so much away by all the things I just mentioned. It was easy to detect the despair he felt, the hopelessness. He was a co-worker when I worked at Teen Challenge – an international faith-based ministry that helps individuals with drug, alcohol and other life-controlling issues and addictions.

Although I wasn’t one that had, most employees are those who have previously gone through the rehabilitation program. This young man had come to be on staff in Arizona after completing a Teen Challenge back east.

A nice young man, he did very well for awhile. Then he was gone, just took off and no one knew where he was.  After several days, someone reported seeing him in a dive motel across town. Some of our guys went to rescue him. He had fallen – fallen to the lure of prostitutes and drugs. When they brought him back, he was a mess.

Teen Challenge is all about restoring people with God’s help, but this young man could not overcome the shame of his failure. It was a cloak he put on himself. Everyone was showing him love and compassion. I’d pass him several times a day. The slump of his body, his countenance and demeanor said it all. He was ashamed and discouraged. He kept his head hung and wouldn’t look you in the eyes when you spoke to him.

One day I said, “Why are you allowing your failure to beat you down like this? God forgives and restores. Accept that. We all love you. Others here have fallen. You're not the only one.”

Unable to overcome his shame, he left. Weeks later, our director received a phone call from a motel manager up the street. This young man had been found in his room dead from a drug overdose. He had been dead for a few days before they discovered him. I had already gone home for the day when another co-worker called to tell me. I laid my head on the kitchen table and sobbed.

Failure isn’t the final say in our lives unless we allow it to be. Are you discouraged? Do you feel defeated, ashamed, humiliated, desperate, hopeless? God is able to bring hope and joy and peace into your life. It might not be instantaneous, but if you allow Him to help you, it will come. 

There but for the grace of God go any of us. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Fear or Not To Fear

I was at a church women’s conference recently (AZWI Retreat) and the speaker asked us to think of what our fears are, then take them symbolically into our hands and offer them to God.

I had to really think on that for a moment. What do I consider a legitimate, debilitating fear in my life? I have normal fears, or I guess concern is a better word. I don’t want one of my loved-ones to die before me. I don’t want to suffer a painful or slow agonizing death, nor do I want a loved one to go through that. I don’t want to suffer poverty to the point of being hungry or homeless. I don’t want my husband to stop loving me and leave. I don’t want someone I love to hate me.

Some basic fear is good. It’s what causes us to take fight or flight when danger threatens. But what do I really fear? And is that fear healthy? I finally concluded that I fear that when I’m gone, who will stand in the gap for my family in prayer. Who will carry the burden and longing to see that everyone makes it to heaven?

I also concluded that there are so many things out of our control. For those things we can’t control, we have to trust God. And use the knowledge and wisdom He’s given us. If I’m walking in the woods and see a bear in the distance, I don’t keep walking towards it because.....well, I’m trusting God. I turn and walk or run in the opposite direction. Maybe that’s a silly analogy, but you get my point.

Other than God, family, and friends, my focus at this juncture in my life is my writing. I do care and have a concern that my writing will fail to bear fruit. But that is definitely when I need to trust God. 

Do you have a fear? Is it a normal fear, or an obsessive one? 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Forever Friends

Chin hairs? Upper lip hairs? If you’re a woman and older, you know that these are just one of many banes as we age. I saw a post on Facebook once that said, “A true friend is one who will pluck your chin hairs for you when you’re in the hospital.” Oh, how true!

Years ago, a psychologist told me, “A true friend speaks the truth even when you know it may hurt.”  She was referring to my comment about my friend, Debbie.

Debbie, who went home to Jesus at age fifty, was one of the sweetest people I knew. She passed from this life because of complications due to obesity. We headed up out church singles’ group together.  All she wanted was to get married and have children. Sadly, it never happened for her.

Debbie was beautiful inside and out, but her extreme weight kept men from being interested in her. In her yearning for love, she fell repeatedly for men who did not, and would not, reciprocate. She spun wild tales of someone’s imagined interest in her, and I found it difficult to tell her the truth that, “He’s just being nice. He has no romantic interest in you.” In fact, only once did I try to tell her that, and she sobbed so broken-heartedly, I retracted my words.

“That’s not being a true friend,” the psychologist told me. Gulp! What do you consider to be a true friend?  How do we define friendship? Speaking truth isn’t always wise. Some things are better left unsaid when the overall result is more harm than good. But I should have been truthful with Debbie and perhaps she would have set her sights on someone more attainable. She always went for the drop dead, gorgeous guys. 

I feel privileged to have friends I've known since grade school and my teenage years. I have a special friend I’ve known since my early twenties. She was my pastor’s wife first, but gradually became a dear friend. This friend is eleven years older than me, and in the twilight of her years, is suffering many debilitating health issues. One is Parkinson’s. Her whole body shakes and jerks continually despite medication.

She fell and broke a hip over the weekend. One of my daughters, Denise, and I went to visit her in the hospital. Still slightly groggy, she told the nurse as I entered her room, “This is my forever friend. She will take my teeth out and brush and clean them, won’t you, Leola?”

Gulp! Although I have dentures, I have a slight aversion to such things. Have I said I have a slight aversion to such things? I did this for my elderly mother, changed her Depends, cleaned her vomit, etc. Have I said I have a slight aversion to such things?

So what did I do? I took my friend’s teeth and cleaned them, then helped her put them back in her mouth. Why? Because it’s what friends do. It is a demonstration of love.

As a friend, please love me enough to give me an honest evaluation of my writing. Oh, and pluck my upper lip hairs if I'm in the hospital. I'll try to clean my teeth myself.  Said with a chuckle. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Will My Writing Endure?

Will something you’ve written today be remembered after you’re gone? In the future, will people be reading a book you’ve written and encouraging others to read it? Will others be quoting from a blog you wrote? Will someone remember a devotion of yours as something that touched and changed them?  Is it possible that family and friends will recall something you posted on Facebook or Twitter after you’ve passed from this life?

What does it take to write something that will outlive you? Do you really want to know? I do, but I don’t have the answer. How has the Bible managed to exist all these years and still be a best seller – despite the many who have sought, and still seek, to silence its message?

For believers, we understand that the Bible is God’s inspired, anointed, infallible message to mankind. As a Christian, if my writing is inspired and anointed, it should endure after I’m gone. Perhaps only one person will read your writing when you’ve passed on. But if only that one person has been blessed or challenged or changed, isn’t it worth it? My friend, Jan, writes beautiful devotions. I would wager that most of the people touched by her devotions never tell her. That’s where trusting God comes in.

Every day I pray that God will bless the fruit and labor of my hands and mind. It’s often discouraging to write when you see no beneficial results from it. As we commit what we do to the Lord, then He is responsible for the outcome. Many times I’ve written something that was therapeutic for me – it brought healing in some area of my life. Sometimes that is the only purpose God has for something we’ve written. It is because we needed it!

Keep writing, dear friends, and trust God with the results. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

We Shall Never Forget

The following is a story I wrote in 2010 as a FaithWriters Weekly Challenge entry. It's my story about 9/11.

TITLE: I Was There!
By Leola Ogle


It was a pleasant dream! The irritating, incessant beeping was an unwanted intruder into this pleasantness. I tried to will the noise into nothingness, but it was no use. My eyes fluttered open, drawn to the sunlight peeking around the edges of the window blinds. It was September and Phoenix was still having 100 degrees days.

Groaning, I shut off the alarm, toying with the idea of sleeping another hour. Life would not end if I was late for work. Faithful to my responsibilities, I was determined get up. 

I glanced at the emptiness of the bed, glad that my husband would return in a few days. I never slept well when he was gone. He was in Argentina attending an international revival conference with the leadership of our church. Although grateful for how God was touching their hearts, I would still be relieved to have him home.

Turning the television to the morning news, I reluctantly made my way to stand before the bathroom mirror. I must have left the pretty, young me asleep on the bed because I wasn’t sure who that tired, older woman in the mirror was. Leaning closer, I asked “Who are you?” Strange, her lips moved with mine. Pointing at her, I said “We better get it moving.”

Clutching my hairbrush, my hand stopped in midair. Did someone just say bomb? Explosion? Airplane? The brush clattered into the sink, as I rushed to stand before the television. I saw the billowing smoke; heard the panic, shock, horror in the voice of the reporter. Was it scenes from an upcoming movie? It had to be! It seemed surreal as I watched a plane fly into the side of…what? Where was this? What building was that? 

I flew down the stair and turned on the television. It was the same scenes. Did I think the television upstairs was lying? I began switching channels. It was all the same. Someone mentioned it was an attack. Surely someone didn’t just say war! Oh, dear God, so many people running – running frantically amidst the smoke and flying debris. 

Numb with disbelief, I slowly climbed the stairs, noticing that they needed vacuuming. Vacuuming – I should do that after work. It was reality - mundane normality. This other wasn’t. 

Oh, God! Oh, God! I didn’t realize at first that I was moaning out loud, calling on the only source of help that I knew. I felt stricken, violated, paralyzed! My country, my fellow Americans! I whispered over and over “God help us!”

What was happening to America? My husband was in another country. Did the group from my church know? Of course they would know. We lived in a day of live, instant media coverage.

I drove to work, softly crying and praying, rivulets of mascara marking my anguish. I was hundreds of miles from New York, yet I was there via radio and television. I stared out my van window, unable to comprehend that nothing seemed different. 

Arriving at work, I saw the somber, shocked faces, and knew that they knew. We gathered for prayer. Our nation gathered for prayer! In ensuing days we would watch the many prayer vigils across the nation. God, we need you! We’ve always needed you, but we usually ignore you, or worse, blaspheme you. Shame on us!

My husband called at mid-morning and I burst into tears. Please come home, I begged. He told me that there were no flights out. All flights into the U.S. had been cancelled. He finally arrived home that weekend.

Mesmerized, unable to tear our eyes from the horror, we watched the never-ending news reports. I flew the American flag. I bought t-shirts. I watched the opening game of the 2001 World Series between the New York Yankees and Arizona Diamondbacks. I bought the poster of the teams bowing their heads in remembrance. I cheered when the Diamondbacks won the series, but somehow felt that the Yankees should win – our gift to New York. My husband smiled compassionately, said I wasn’t a true fan.

Every year we watch the tributes and memorials. For a few years we wore our t-shirts on 9/11. Our lives returned to normal. But for thousands, life would never be normal again. So many lost their lives - many would never see a loved one again. My remembrance seems an insignificant offering in comparison.

I was home in Phoenix, Arizona on September 11, 2001, yet I was there - in New York City.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Share The Good News...and Your Books

Friends don’t let friends….go without books. I love that I have friends who think and talk books. We even share books, or make suggestions to each other about good books we’ve read.

Last week I received a book in the mail from my friend, Sande, who lives in Oklahoma. She isn’t just a friend, we’ve known each other since our teen years. Although our lives have taken different paths, we still know each other very well. However, I don’t think she knows how much I love true stories – good true stories.

The book she sent, City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, isn’t just a true story, but it is a story about missionaries to China. Ministry is dear to my heart. I especially love missionary stories – probably because as a young girl, I felt called into ministry to be a missionary. Alas, life happened, I made some bad choices (I married at sixteen to a young man who didn’t serve God), and thought I’d never fulfill the calling on my life.

But God is faithful. His Word says in Romans 11:29 (NIV)  “For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” In 1992 I went to work for Phoenix Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge is a Home Mission Ministry under the umbrella of The Assemblies of God.
I am currently working on my memoirs from my nineteen years at Teen Challenge, so receiving a book like City of Tranquil Light seems especially appropriate right now. Thank you, Sande, and all my other friends who share books with me. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Success as a Writer? Stay Humble!

By nature, I really am shy. I’ve learned to be outgoing.  I was shy in school until I got to know someone. I was never one of the “beautiful” people in elementary school, but I always had lots of friends, got good grades, and teachers liked me.

Then along came high school. It was a huge school with over five hundred in the freshman class alone. I was a tiny fish in a large pond. Although I was a brainy kid, I’d always hung out with the average kids. In high school I was placed in all the accelerated classes for brainy kids. I was separated from my friends. My shyness and insecurities kicked in. There was a definite distinction between the popular, beautiful kids and everyone else.

She was a popular, beautiful freshman. She was running for class secretary. I didn’t know her. I was not part of her inner circle, nor would I ever be. But she started greeting me each time we passed in the halls. She’d gush, “Hi! How are you?” I was flattered.

The first time I greeted her after she won the election, she stared right through me. She never spoke to me again. *sigh* Lesson learned. She'd gotten my vote, so now I didn't exist. Sadly, this is all too common. People achieve some measure of fame, success, a position of authority, or some other notoriety, and pride creeps in.

Writers, beware. Do not let success separate you from the common folk. Be a friend to struggling writers and newbies. I can list many writers/authors I’ve become acquainted with, or crossed paths with, who are warm and kind, and genuinely care about helping others. Sometimes all it takes is a smile or hug and a “don’t give up” from you to make a difference to another writer who hasn’t “arrived” yet.

Stay humble, especially as Christian writers. If you don’t learn the beauty of true humility, God, because he loves us, has a way of helping his children be humble. It's better to work on it ourselves than having God do it for us.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Resurrecting My Creativity

Slump! In fact, a bumpy slump. I’ve been in a writing slump. Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s nothing new for most writers or artistic people in general. I’ve given myself pep talks, tried to pray my way out of it, but…..

So last week my husband, Jeff, and I were spending six glorious days in the beautiful mountains and woods outside of Prescott, Arizona. Our friends own a deluxe, luxury cabin and once a year we spend a week there so Jeff can paint – or rather, put a stain – on the exterior. And I, while he is painting, am free to do whatever I want. Well, besides making sure Jeff has meals.

This time I was psyched to do nothing but write. Ten thousand words of writing was my goal. It’s very doable since I do that amount whenever I participate in NaNoWriMo. I was going to spread the ten thousand words over several novels I’m working on and some short stories.

Did I accomplish my goal? I’m glad you asked. No! NO! Said with anguished tears and gnashing of teeth. In fact, I wrote not one single word.

For one thing, there were numerous storms that hit Prescott last week which messed up the WiFi connection, and interfered with Jeff’s ability to paint. Having no connection to the internet certainly would not prevent me from writing IF my computer would turn on.

After I got over my disappointment about not having WiFi, then an electrical storm sent my laptop into a tailspin. Yes, I had it plugged into an outlet without a surge protector. I was so distraught over the condition of my laptop, that I couldn’t enjoy the quiet peacefulness nor the beauty of my surroundings. For a couple of days, anyway.

If I trust that God is in control, then I need to let go of my expectations, which brings me to the place of still being on a quest to resurrect my writing mojo. It’ll come.

My laptop? This non-techie granny somehow managed to revive the thing. It went from repeated blue screens, dump crashes, shutting off almost as soon as I turned it on, and only opening in safe mode, to returning to its former state. I’m sure I need a new laptop, though. Hint, hint, Jeff! We have a twentieth anniversary coming up. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


How many times have you read a book or watched a movie where the villain is described by co-workers or neighbors as, “Quiet, but so likeable, a nice person” – everyone was surprised that hidden inside the person lurked someone completely different.

It hit home this week with the suicide of actor/comedian Robin Williams. I’m not going to discuss the moral issues surrounding what he did. Only God can judge. Often those who laugh the most do so to hide or help cope with the pain within. No one truly knows what goes on inside someone except that person and God.

I love television crime series that deal with profiling people. The upbringing, culture, environment, and care a person receives throughout their lifetime certainly determine much of their behavior.

We all have secrets. We hide wounds. We put on a façade. In my book Like A Cedar In Lebanon the reader starts out disliking, maybe even hating, Jack. He definitely isn’t a likeable person. The second half of the book takes you inside the heart and mind of Jack. The readers finds they now care about him.

What wound are you covering up? Does your spouse do things that hurt you, yet you keep silent about it? Communication is key to success in any relationship.

I suffered for years with deep depression brought on by my circumstances. I was plagued with thoughts of “ending it all.” I just wanted free from the torment. I overcame by my faith in God and surrounded myself with loving, caring people.

Writers, portray the story behind your characters’ behavior. Then, as a Christian writer, point your readers to the hope that is found in Jesus. With all honesty, I wouldn’t be here today if not for Him. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's All About People

Last week I shared in my blog about writing my memoir about the 19 years I spent working at Teen Challenge. Here's an excerpt from my WIP title Teen Challenge - Repairer of Broken Walls

Isaiah 58: 12 NIV
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

When my ninety day probationary time was completed, I met with Jeff Richards and Angel Rosa for an evaluation. It was easy to see the love and camaraderie between these two men. They spent the few minutes I was with them in lighthearted banter with each other, and bragging on me.

I was flattered, but answering telephones and manning the front office didn’t take a P.H.D. When I said that, Angel responded, “Well, it’s not the typical type of front office visitors and phone calls. It takes a certain personality to deal with it, and a heart full of Jesus.” He grinned and chuckled.

I chuckled too.  “This is definitely more exciting than I ever imagined it would be. I love it, and wouldn’t change a thing about what I do.”

That it was exciting was an understatement. Every day something out of the ordinary happened. If something exciting wasn’t happening, then working with some of the zaniest, quirkiest, and all-around awesome staff made it exciting. Going to work every day was like reading a good novel or watching a great movie.

There were several homeless people – some called them street people – who frequented our doors.  It’s easy to label all such persons in this category as a certain stereotype – mental illness, drug and/or alcohol addictions, no desire to get off the streets, deviants – but some sincerely were caught up in situations beyond their control. Most, however, that were frequent visitors at Teen Challenge did fit into one of the mentioned stereotypes.

There was the lady who came in at least once a week demanding food. The kitchen workers – and by kitchen workers, these were mostly students assigned to kitchen detail –  usually gave her a donut, or a piece of fruit. Our policy was that we didn’t give away food because it wasn’t always easy to provide meals for the students and live-in staff.

If this lady didn’t like what they gave her, or if they had nothing to give her, she would curse, stomp off, slam doors, and occasionally throw something. I had finally given up on greeting her with a cheerful hello because she just snarled at me. But I would smile politely if she looked my way.

Summer heat in Phoenix is brutal, especially to those who worked or stayed outdoors. The homeless are particularly vulnerable. Many organizations such as the Salvation Army set up stations around the downtown area to give out cold bottled water.

It was on one of those scorching days of temperatures over one hundred ten degrees that I had an encounter with this snarky woman.

Using the restroom was not a simple task for me. I usually would page into someone else’s office and ask them to answer the phone for a few minutes, or snag an intern as he walked by. This particular day, I couldn’t rouse anyone to help me, and I had to go. Since the restrooms were located in the breezeway in front of my office door, I decided to make a mad dash.

When I flung open the restroom door, there stood snarky lady. She was nude from the waist up, splashing water over her head and soaking her blouse and bra in the sink. Fire spit from her eyes as she let loose a stream of obscenities and kicked the door shut in my face.

I stumbled backwards, my mouth agape, and slunk back into my office, only to have her slam my door open in a few minutes, hair and clothes dripping water, and call me a foul name. Although I was compassionate toward her need to cool off, I knew I would not want to run into her in a dark alley. 

(this excerpt is taken from page 4)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Writing A Memoir

I’m writing this blog post today because I am working for the next three weeks at Phoenix Teen Challenge, therefore I will miss my blog time with my friends tomorrow, Wednesday. We meet every Wednesday morning at Crossroads Books and Coffee where we blog, drink lattes and espressos, and chat.

I worked at Teen Challenge from 1992 until 2011. It was some of the most fulfilling, exciting times in my life. Last year I filled in for a month for director’s wife while they went on vacation. I am doing it again right now. 

I love this ministry. Most people think of Teen Challenge only in the terms of a Christian drug and alcohol rehab, but it’s so much more than that. At least it is in Phoenix. Just this past weekend, they did a Back-to-School Bash outreach where they served meals to 1,900 people and gave out over 1,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to kids. 

Churches, individuals, and organizations donated the backpacks and supplies. A local fire department donated hot dogs, chips, and drinks. Not only did they donate the food, they were there to grill the hot dogs. Teen Challenge does many other outreaches to the community, plus house up to fifty men in the residential rehab.

I’m happy to be back there if only for a few weeks for reasons other than I just love this ministry. I recently started writing my memoir of the time I spent working there. Actually, I began writing this to enter a non-fiction contest. I typically don’t enjoy writing non-fiction, but I am enjoying this. Ah, the memories.

It was fun, it was exciting, it was heart breaking, it was sad, and overall, it was a tremendous blessing. If you think about it, please whisper a prayer that I can do this justice.

Oh, in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t want to go back to work there on a permanent basis. I miss the people and the ministry, but I don’t miss working every day. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Recommending A Book

I love watching movies based on true stories. I especially love when at the end of the movie they show pictures of the real people. I also like to read books about real people with unusual or interesting life stories. It’s an added bonus if I have ever met the person, or know of the person.

I recently read such a book. It’s by Corinne Smelker, Cori, and title is Answering Hannah’s Cry. I met Cori last year at a FaithWriters’ Conference in Portland, Oregon. She was teaching a workshop. I was immediately intrigued when as part of her introduction, she said she was the mother of five biological children, but she’d given birth to six others as a surrogate.

Having had five children of my own, surrogacy always was a little mind blowing to me. I assumed most women did it purely for the money. Labor and delivery weren’t the part of childbirth I didn’t like, it was the pregnancy. For me, the only way I would endure for someone else the violent morning sickness I always had, and the discomfort of pregnancy was if I was paid some seriously big money.

Cori’s book was an eye-opener. I’m sure the money helped, but she just wanted to bless others who longed for a child of their own, and for whatever reason, it didn’t or couldn’t happen. Cori did gestational surrogacy only, where it’s the mother’s eggs and father’s sperm.

This book, and the characters included, came alive for me through Cori's descriptions. I felt like I was right there in the examining room, in labor and delivery. It’s a beautiful, touching story that focuses not only on the minute details of what Cori went through, but the love and support of her husband and children. If this sounds like a story that would interest you, you will definitely enjoy Cori’s book. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Giving Book Reviews

Over the years I’ve gone to more “parties” and spent money I didn’t have to buy something I didn’t really need at an inflated price just because a family member or friend ask me or invited me to attend. Premier and Lia Spohia jewelry parties, Pamper Chef, Party Lite, Tupperware, and the list goes on. You get what I’m saying.

As I’ve joined more writing groups and become friends and acquaintances with other writers, I have a tendency to buy books by authors I know, or have become acquainted with. I do it to be supportive of other writers, but mostly to check out their writing style.

So far, I’ve only come across a couple of duds. I have to ask myself, “How do I handle giving this writer a review on Amazon or Goodreads?” The answer for me is simple. I don’t give a bad review. If I don’t like the book, I just don’t give a review, period.

Then I ask myself, “Is that fair?”  If someone didn’t like my book, wouldn’t I want to know the reason? Until I find a solution, or the courage to be honest, that’s my game plan and I’m sticking to it. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest when the mercy side of you doesn’t want to hurt or offend someone.

“To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jiggity jig.” Yeah, I know, it’s a silly, childhood rhyme. Marketing is a must for authors. Much like all the parties I’ve mentioned above, sometimes we can feel pressured to buy someone’s book and then give a five star review. I, as a writer, feel the marketing pressure to pressure (I know. It’s an overuse of the word pressure) my friends and family to buy my book and give a good review.

The difference between those parties and buying books? I absolutely love to read. To me it’s not like buying a piece of jewelry I’ll never wear, or a pan or bowl I’ll never use. (sh! I turn around and sell some of that overpriced stuff I just bought on eBay. At a loss, no less. Grrr)

But if I’ve read your book and don’t give a review, it’s probably because I didn’t care for it. Maybe it’s not my favorite genre, and I wouldn’t count anything off from that, but did it get and keep my attention? Was the writing good?

We only get one shot to draw a reader in, so make it good. **sigh** The things I’m learning as I go along. Titles, opening lines and chapters and their importance. Be fruitful and multiply, dear writer friends. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ACFW/CWOW - Christian Writers of the West's Rattler Contest

Do you love writing contests? Or maybe you hate contests. Well, I hope you enter this one and support one of the writing groups I belong to. CWOW -- Christina Writers of the West -- is a local division of ACFW -- American Christian Fiction Writers. I am secretary of CWOW, so I'll be sharing this repeatedly over the next several weeks.

Christian Writers of the West Blog: The 2014 Phoenix Rattler Writing Contest

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Be True To Your Voice

Have you ever said or done something that someone misunderstood or put a whole different twist to it? Of course you have. We all have. The worse thing, though, is when someone assumes something and you’re left scratching your head and going, “Huh?”

When Simon Cowell was on American Idol, he would irritate me. To him, talent didn’t matter if the looks weren’t there. He made rude comments to overweight contestants. But what really upset me was when a young person would sing a gospel or Christian song. His response was usually, “I didn’t get that song.” Or, “That’s a poor song choice. Most people don’t understand.”

No, Simon, YOU didn’t understand. YOU didn’t get it. They must’ve gotten complaints or someone decided that Christian music is popular because that ceased after awhile. There’s a definite market for Christian artists.

Have you felt discouraged or frustrated because others don’t understand your writing – some or most don’t get it? Is there a Simon Cowell, or several of them, criticizing your work? Maybe, just maybe, it’s them and not you.

We all need and desire affirmation. It will come in God’s timing. Trust your instincts. Trust your gut feeling. Follow your heart. Be true to your “voice.” You have a story only you can tell. No one else will feel your passion or tell it in just the exact way you do. You have an audience, a platform, unique to you.

Perhaps there is only one person in this whole world who needs to hear what you have to say, and you’re the only person they will read. Maybe they’ll just stumble across something you’ve written. God has you right where he wants you.