Dear Reader, What do you do with the unexpected?

IMG_7413Saturday morning I was moseying along when something jostled me, and my daily cup of morning coffee sloshed over the back of my hand.

I tried to hold on and salvage it–I mean, it was my COFFEE! My friend! My muse! My EVERYTHING!–before finally letting the cup drop to the ground.

But the damage was done. That coffee was hot. So hot, it melted off a full layer of skin without even bothering to blister it first.

And now I’m sidelined.

I can’t do anything with my hand that involves dirt or water, including gardening and the dishes (***wink, wink, dear husband!***). I’m feeling a bit like The Fugitive in my own home. Although laundry, unfortunately, can be done quite well with one arm.  Otherwise, it turns out that there’s a lot of daily activities that involve dirt and water. And even more in my work as a nurse.

Oh, it’ll heal in a week or two, but in the meantime, it’s annoying. In short…

…it’s throwing off my groove.

Has something like that ever happened to you? Something unexpected that forces you to slow down? To pause? To take a deep breath and be still?

Last evening, I wanted to spread mulch and pull weeds and get stuff done, but I couldn’t.

So I sat on our patio swing.

I took a deep breath.

Before long, my dog was swinging with me.

Then one son.

Then another.

The sun fell below the trees and the paper lamps began to glow. We lit a few torches to keep the mosquitoes away. I noticed lightning bugs. I heard the long, rhythmed sigh of cicadas. And I remembered:

It is good to be still.

Especially with the ones I love.

With all the busy-ness of back-to-school and life in general, finding time to savor the here-and-now feels counterculture. Unnerving. Weird.

But oh the peace of realizing not everything has to happen right. this. very. minute!

If I’ve learned anything about writing novels, it’s that the story will get written in its time. I struggled for a long time feeling like my words had to be perfect when I turn them in to my editors. Not that I want to give them crap, of course. But you see, I’ve been amazed time and time again as my manuscripts go through the editing process how–just when I think I’m either done or at my wit’s end–precisely the perfect anecdote or bit of factual setting information or visual that I need to make a section of the story shine “lands in my lap” at the very last minute. This even happened with the stone which appears on the cover of Then Sings My Soul.

These small gifts of thoughts and phrases happen in unforced spaces and unpredictable moments.

In the grace of the empty.

In the elusiveness of now.

Sometimes the predicaments we find ourselves in are precisely the quenching solutions God offers for places within us we haven’t even realized are parched.

Speaking of parched, here’s my injured hand and my ICE COLD DIET DR. PEPPER. It’s a poor substitute for my morning mud, but I’m still a little panicky over the thought of holding a hot cup of joe, so it’ll have to do… 

***  ***


What do you do with the unexpected, Dear Reader?

If you’ve been forced to the sidelines or to be still, what have you learned there?


Dear Reader is a series I post on every week. If you’re a reader and have an idea or question you’d like me to write about, relating to books or writing or editing, etc., jot me a note and I’d be much obliged to take a stab at your request. Also, if you’d like to read all the Dear Reader posts, click here. If you like insider information into my books or writing life, be sure to sign up for my author newsletter by clicking here.

hems and notions. a poem.

i used a colored pencil to mark the seam 

against the same heel that 14 years before 

pressed against the inside 

of my belly and made me giggle with the hope of

what he will be.

I used a hot iron to stiffen the creases 

and a needle to press through the fabric 

tacking up the hem

tugging at my heart.

what’s a mama to do with the bittersweet seams

on one side, the world

on the other, emptying arms