While More Than a Point of Honor won’t be available for purchase until January 14, you can pre-order it here. The audio book will probably take a couple of more months to be finished.
At long last, here is the promised cover reveal for the re-release of More Than a Point of Honor. This time, it will not only be available as a print book, but also an e-book in various formats, and a audio book narrated by the fabulous narrator of What the River Knows, Kayla Ricker. I’ve cut some scenes, tightened the writing and made it, I hope, a better book.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the buy links. They will also have a clearer view of the cover. Evidently, I still have much to learn about videography…
Two of the trees are gone now, replaced by deciduous trees. Trees are gone in my life, too, but like this grove, the roots that connect us still intertwine, holding the circle together. Much has changed in my life and the world, but this grove, like my circle, remains steadfast even through change. Merry Christmas, everyone. Tell those around you that you love them, and even more, SHOW them. Love will win.
(Author’s note: This post first appeared several years ago, before the lights were changed to white, before the hospital was updated, back when there was a Christmas truce in wars. But despite change, I think it bears repeating.)
They stand near a busy intersection in Pratt, America. Just north of the empty, snow-dusted swimming pool, they serve as a stepping stone in a path of parks stretching from the highway that borders the south edge of town to the capstone park adjoined by Highway 54 as it cuts Pratt in half. They must be visible from some of the hospital windows, just above them on the hill, these seven stately evergreens, each wrapped in a different color of festive lights.
As I drove past them last night, intent on just where on the racks and shelves of the busy stores I would find each item on my list, I was stopped short in my mental rush by the simple beauty of the arrangement. Each tree is unique in its own right. Though all are old and tall, some tower above the others. Some are full and round, others tall and spindly. Some cluster together, but two stand aloof at opposite ends of the grove. Some have branches that drape down, others’ branches sweep upwards as if in praise. Each is a testament to the glorious diversity of evergreen trees.
Then the lights — white, yellow, red, orange, pink, green, blue. Some are spaced precisely around the trees, others splashed on with a hurried hand. The orange lights blaze out for all to see. The blue ones are so subtle, they can’t be seen until night is well advanced. Together they present the same colors that make up the spectrum and the rainbow.
Shopping finished and more at peace, I drove back past the lights — and there it was. Glorious diversity. God made each of us as unique as this grove of evergreens, the tree that symbolizes the never-failing quality of His love for us. Some of us are round and full, others tall and spindly. Like the trees, some of us gather together, while others stand aloof. Some of our shoulders droop, while others of us lift our hands in praise. We are covered in many colors of skin, just as the trees wear different colors of lights. Yet each of us is a testament to the glorious diversity of the world we live in.
As this Christmas season rushes by us so fast that the bright colors begin to blur, I hope we can take the time to appreciate the world God made for us — the glorious diversity and the marvelous complexity of it. Each year near midnight on December 24, the entire world does seem to pause, to hold its breath for just a moment. Warring guns fall silent, and people around the world stop. Some give thanks that a baby was born nearly 2,000 years ago, just so He could die for us. Some people may even look heavenward, wondering when that bright star may come again.
Until it does, maybe from time to time we can remember the lesson of this grove of evergreens. Although each of them is different, they draw their nourishment from the same source underground, where their roots intertwine to help each of them stand. They all draw warmth and life-giving light from the same sun. They’re not so very different from us, this grove of trees. And as they stand together to celebrate this season, their lights send a message to all of us.
At long last, the book I have been working on with Matt Deighton is finished and available! Volunteer: The Path to Healing reveals what motivates eight very special people to give of their time and hearts to help others and what they receive in return.
It tugs at the heartstrings. Hopefully, it will motivate you to help others. For now, it is available to purchase at https://squareup.com/store/wheatstateproducts or you can contact me. We hope to have it on Amazon in the near future.
Some quotes from the back cover:
“How resilient we are when we stand as one.” Josh Garcia, once manager of Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.
We recently had an assignment to write about our muse. I didn’t think I had one. But listening to and being moved by the music of the Community College’s Christmas program, I realized that music plays a big part in my understanding of the world. When I hear music, I don’t just hear a beat; I hear the tribal (modern or ancient) rhythms that influenced that particular song. I don’t just hear the lyrics, I envision the story behind it, whether it’s the “I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights” of a country song or the personal connection of “Hallelujah.” As a mother, I can relate to “Mary, Did You Know?”
But it goes deeper than that. When I hear the school’s rendition of “The Lord is With You,” I know why they are doing that song, because of the theatre director’s connection to Dollywood. I remember vividly the number of times I watched Scott Self perform as the Angel Gabriel, and my son-in-law Chaz as Joseph, with the live 7-piece band, and the rest of the play that went before this piece. I remember (and have on video) my daughter performing as Mary, herself pregnant as she sang Mary’s fears of rejection by her parents and her fiancé for the holy child she carried. After all these years (20?) of listening to my daughter sing, I still forget to breathe when she does.
I remembered attending a Mexican dance with friends, not understanding most of the words to the music, but enthralled by the First Nations rhythms of a dance that mimicked an eagle’s flight and another that brought visions of a bullfighter’s dance. And thinking about my connection to that dance reminds me of the friend that brought me and a tense drive home in white-out conditions. Yin and yang.
There is also music and rhythm, primal and eternal, in nature. The graceful soar of a hawk, until he spots lunch hundreds of feet below, and dives in perfect precision to catch it. Life and death, both necessary for all. The trill of sandhill cranes in migration, too high to see, marks the change of the seasons. Often, the coo of doves wakes me on weekend mornings, while the pip-pip of the cardinal makes me search for the flash of red. The interaction of the animals in my yard, from the worms to the occasional possum, tells me the health of the heart of my individual ecosystem.
There is art in the structure of trees. Cottonwoods that have been beaten by wind for decades mimic the uplifted arms of the “Keeper of the Plains” statue. I think I know where Blackbear Bosin found his model. Golden fall cottonwoods twinkle like grounded sunlight, while wind sighs through pines. In April rains, lavender redbud blossoms contrast starkly the charcoal of their trunks.
Our history runs deep through our veins. I remember standing in Bandolier National Monument and feeling the spirits of the old ones watching, wondering if we were deserving guardians of their past. I heard the spirits whisper at an abandoned fort on the New Mexico plains. I’ve stood in the Lincoln Memorial, read the immortal words of the Gettysburg address aloud, then stepped partway down the stairs and gazed at the other memorials before me: Vietnam Wall on the left, surreal Korean War memorial on the right, reflective pool before me. Beyond the pool, the World War II memorial, the Washington Monument, and the halls of Congress. Then I looked down, and below my feet was inscribed, “Here on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”
Having lived through the Cold War, Vietnam, Woodstock, Kennedy’s assassination, Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, and my son’s mission in Vietnam to bring back our MIA’s, I have a deep appreciation of how events shape people and people shape events. The “there but for the grace of God go I” attitude guides my writing, as I can empathize with most people in most circumstances. It drives my “what if.”
I believe many writers strive through their writing to change the world, to bring about peace. Often, we write things and then check the facts only to find that what we wrote was true, coming from an unknown well inside us. I think this well is a connection to the collective unconscious, that place where all of us yearn for peace and harmony. That is the source of our muse.
We all live as neighbors on this big blue ball, and our fate depends on each other. To quote John Donne, “Every man’s death diminishes me, for I am involved in mankind. Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
To The Wild Rose Press!! That’s right, the publisher of What the River Knows has elected to take on further editing, cover and marketing of More Than a Point of Honor. So for a while, if you look for it on Amazon, you won’t find it. Hopefully, the process will move quickly, and you can get the “new and improved” version soon. In publishing terms, though, that probably means a year or so. They did such a fantastic job with River, though, that the wait will be worth it! I’ll be working with my wonderful previous editor, and with luck, might get my same cover artist. At any rate, The Wild Rose Press is fantastic to work with, personal and business-like at the same time.
The recent headlines about the tensions in North Korea reminded me that similar headlines appeared when I was writing The Judas Seat. For a while, I wondered if life imitated art instead of the other way around. Still, the situation regarding North Korea is delicate. A comment taken wrong, misreading a tweet, misinterpreting an action: these could lead to Armageddon. Or we could stay in the uneasy balance we have lived with for many years. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to tell the ones you care about that you love them. Just in case.
The Best Gift of All
Think about the most stupendous Christmas gift you have received in the past. Was it those adjustable roller skates that clamped to your shoes? Shiny new bicycle? Hair accessories and crimper from the 80’s? Brand new, curved, 3-D, 70” TV? Maybe something more substantial, like an engagement ring or a cruise?
Great as these gifts are, none of them will last. The skates will rust, the bicycle will lose its shine. Let’s not talk about the fashion choices of the 80’s. The TV will become obsolete, probably in less than a year. The cruise will turn to only memories. Even the engagement ring will go through hard times when it doesn’t feel so sparkly. The only gift that will truly last is the very first Christmas gift.
Jesus Christ really was a gift. Sent by His Father to be a sacrifice for the sins already committed by the world and those sins yet to come, Christ came not by command, but of His own free will, by request. What parent could offer his or her child for betrayal and torture by people who didn’t care? Yet God loved us enough to allow His Child to volunteer (not my will, but thine) for this, to create a way for us to be reconciled to God. And because Christ lived as a human, He intercedes for us with God, fully understanding how fragile and foolish we can be.
This gift never rusts, never becomes obsolete, never goes out of fashion, never loses its sparkle. He will never leave us, never betray us, always love us. Accepting that personal relationship, that friendship, with Jesus gives us life eternal, in a place with no more tears, no suffering, no pain. What greater gift could there be?
Wimpy Dog (aka Bart) is aging. Now 13, he shows his age in the silver in his gold face, the heaviness of his jowls, and the care with which he navigates stairs. Like any 90-year-old, he’s careful where he places his feet and prefers not to walk on slippery vinyl floors. That’s why there is a path of rugs tracing his usual routes through the house. Lately, though, with fall approaching, I have the puppy back, in attitude if not in the leaps he used to make as high as the top of the doorframe. He has to know everything I’m doing, especially offering to help sample cooking food. I can almost hear, “Are you gonna eat that?” when he looks at me during meals. He’s asking to go for walks again, though when the temp reaches 80, he signals he wants the air conditioner on. Anyone who thinks animals can’t communicate with humans has not tried hard enough to understand.
My yard is tired of summer. The heat wave in July and August exhausted all its resources and now the yard is ready for fall. In late August, the sun sets a little earlier and comes up a little later, stealing more of the sunlight the plants crave. My redneck-engineered sprinkler system has experienced some system failures (the hoses cracked), so is not delivering water efficiently or effectively. I was gone during the worst of the heat wave when the plants needed more water than I had prescribed. The squashes just gave up and died. Butterfly bush quit putting out flowers. Rhododendron all but died. One of the bales in the straw bale experimental garden leaned over on its side, though the Early Girl tomatoes are still producing with the plant growing sideways.
However, when I mow the yard now, it doesn’t rush to grow back. The weeds don’t even try to hide from the mower blade as it brushes over them. The mower, too, is careless, anxious to be serviced and put away for the winter. The swath it makes is only half-heartedly cut (to be fair, that could be due to a dull blade and not the mower’s attitude). I should make another pass over the raggedly cut path, but I am tired of mowing. I look at trees that need branches trimmed and think, “I’ll trim them in winter, when my time isn’t consumed by mowing.”
Grasshoppers jump out of my way, sort of, knowing their time is short and ready to move on. Tomatoes that ripen are smaller now than the giants I got in early July. Pepper plants are covered with blossoms, but show no interest in producing jalapenos, bells and poblanos. I only harvested a handful of Romas before they surrendered. The grape tomatoes produce fewer every day, and I eat them from the vine as I check them. The ceaseless Kansas wind, even, is too tired to blow. Leaves and grass blades hang limp and still.
The roses put out fewer, smaller buds now, though the zinnias still bloom with enthusiasm. The surprise lilies have come and gone quickly. Tiger lilies and irises have withered and turned brown, what leaves aren’t serrated by grasshopper teeth. Hollyhocks bloomed quickly and then produced seed, too tired to bloom all summer as in the past. Even the sand burrs are turning yellow; they had too much rain early on to spread during the hot and dry. Then when it turned hot, it was too hot.
Like most people, I guess I am eager to move from this season to the next. We are always waiting for Friday to arrive, the holidays to get here, for the next birthday, for Christmas, for retirement. In this headlong rush to the next good thing, we miss some wonderful, here-and-now gifts: the enthusiastic “ki-eye” of a Mississippi kite as my mower drones, the wild kitten who flattens itself as its momma has instructed directly in my path so I won’t see it, the meteor showers, the beautiful full moon almost a harvest moon already.
Maybe it was the devastating heat that dragged on so long. Maybe it was the plethora of bad news from every device we use, of wars and disasters and violence fueled by hatred. Maybe it was the campaign season that has dragged on far too long. Whatever the reason, not only is my yard tired of summer, I am, too. I anticipate. . .