Thursday, December 12, 2019

Seeds of Wonder

Pomegranates are a beautiful fruit, with shiny red "jewels" called arils inside, containing sweet, juicy nectar that surrounds a white seed in the middle.  Opening a pomegranate and freeing the jewels from the fruit is hard work, but totally worth the effort.

Why would you want to spend so much time digging out those seeds? Someone said to me recently.
I was hunched over the kitchen sink, methodically nudging the beautiful shiny jewels from the flesh of a pomegranate.
Arils,” I replied, feeling smug. “They’re arils, actually.” 
My first time tasting the inside of a pom was back in college.
My roommate and I were studying for a Spanish exam. When the task of conjugating verbs became overwhelming, we took a break. “Want a pomegranate?” she grinned.
I’d never even heard of them.
Ten minutes later we were sitting cross-legged on the floor and eating the poms “Rosita-style”. Her method was basically to cut the thing in half and simply crunch down on the juicy center.
The juice dribbled down our chins, onto our arms, our clothes, our Spanish notes.
We laughed. We ran to the mirror to see our crimson-stained faces.
I could not get over the juicy red jewels and the robust flavor! Mother Nature’s pop rocks!
To this day I cannot hear the Spanish language without craving pomegranate, so rich and indelible my experience.
The harvesting must not be hurried.

Google has numerous tutorials on how to get the gems out. There is the cut and beat technique, one I do not endorse. This involves precise and delicate cutting, followed by pummeling the fruit into the bowl. 
One such video claims the whole transaction can be completed in 10 seconds.
No, I prefer the slow method: the gentle nudging-out of each jewel from the pith. In this way I experience the pomegranate twice – once while thoughtfully de-seeding it and a second time savoring the vitamin-laden arils. The Word of God cannot be rushed; it offers lavish jewels meant for gently nudging out.
Packed with Vitamins C and A and high in fiber, these powerhouses fortify me against cold and flu season. Laden with wisdom and daily instruction, the Bible fortifies me against bitterness, anger and depression.
The medicinal plant qualities of the red fruit have 3 times the antioxidant activity of green tea. A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22
The pomegranate is available in my local store from October through mid-January. This is why I have come to associate the fruit with Christmas. I have, in my stash of décor, a precious collection of golden pomegranates, made by Rosita. I can only smile with a grateful heart as I remember my friend who is no longer this side of heaven.
The sweet chin-dribble of red juice is my earthly reminder I will see her  again.
a cantar con los Angeles” dear friend!
Your laughter lingers in my heart’s memory.

This blog supports, timely gifts for all seasons.


Sunday, December 8, 2019

A Christmas Kaleidescope by Kathy Joy

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Do you remember the wonder of a kaleidoscope? As a child I remember peering into a tube with mirrors and pieces of colorful glass. The reflections made amazing patterns that changed when the tube was rotated. 

As a grownup, I'm just as intrigued.

Christmas is a cluster of images, thoughts and emotions; a collection of odd bits of memory, passages of music and  snippets of conversation. When these images are reflected in the mirror of memory, they form a kaleidoscope of the holidays. It's as though we're looking through a colorful lens at patterns and prisms that dazzle the eye and stir up long-forgotten emotions. 

Each element is keenly felt, yet the combination is a heady mixture of joy and pain, fulfillment and need. Please join me as I try to capture sound, color and light in a Christmas collage.

Christmas is the cry of a baby, changing the world forever. 

It's the kiss of peppermint, 

the comfort of hot cocoa, 

a moveable feast.

Christmas is the peal of a bell, 

a tangle of lights, 

a shiver of hope, 

a right jolly old elf. 

It's an awkward hello and a tearful goodbye. 

It's an empty chair, an aching heart.

Christmas is a velvet dress, 

a sticky giggle, 

a weary soldier, 

a solitary meal.

It's a whisper of snow, 

a hint of pine, 

a toothless grin, 

a festive package.

It's a hope deferred, a fragile truce.

 It's a living crèche, 

a dying wish, 

a watchful prayer.

Christmas is a drink from the cup of Forgiveness -- even when the dregs are bitter.

It's the bray of a donkey, 

the blending of carolers,

 a crackling fire. 

And, steady in the East, one bright star presides over all our distress and delight.

Christmas is, forevermore, Emmanuel, God with us.

This blog supports, timely gifts for all seasons.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

TED Talks and Whispering Possibilities

I’ve always wanted to do a TED Talk - always, ever since I first heard one on my NPR App. Maybe someday I will find myself on a TED stage, but until then, I had a mini presence that was profoundly connecting.

If you’re unfamiliar with it, a TED Talk is an exchange of Technology, Education and Design (TED) and it has a global reach. What gives it such appeal is that it’s storytelling at its finest and most engaging.

Who doesn’t love a good story?

When an author connects with the reader through the printed page, this is glorious; when an author connects with a live audience in a cozy library on a windswept Autumn evening — this is a splendid moment. That rare, splendid moment is what occurred recently in Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania, in the rural slice of Americana where I was blessed enough to grow up.

I’ve lost count of how many times my relentlessly pushy publisher has encouraged me to go back to my roots. “You need to speak where you already have an audience,” she insists. “Go and tell about your books where you are known and loved. Success isn’t always about large crowds — it’s about connections; it’s about finding your message and delivering it to pliable, ready hearts.”

She’s right.

That’s what happened on a breezy Wednesday evening in the heart of my home region; my roots, amidst a gathering of familiar faces who stepped away from their busy schedules to hold my story.

Capture Me Books, my launching pad, has announced “Breath of Joy! Winter Whispers”. It’s my 4th and final installment in a series of books about grief, grief recovery and joy.

I’m on a book tour.
It’s not easy.

As an independent publishing entity, we at Capture Me Books, do our own promotions, calling, packing and slogging. We call the newspaper and hope they’ll do a blurb. We call our friends and pray they’ll catch our vision, our passion and our deep longing for connection between book and reader.

As collaborative writers on a mindful budget, we show up at workshops, conventions and craft shows. We sit at tables for hours, sometimes without anyone so much as picking up our stories, our books, to have a browse.

It can be soul crushing.

For most of us,  our writing and publishing is a side hustle, something we care deeply about, but nevertheless a thing we must do in the margins of a full time job, being a care giver, trotting the kids to school and balancing the checkbook.

I used to think authors just sat in their sunny studios and waited for inspiration.

Not so.

We jot stuff down on the available napkin or scrap of paper. We hope we won’t lose that cluster of words before the final edit inside a book — we often feel daunted by the influx of great books out there, doubting our place in the literary world.We soldier on though, prompted by our faith, our fellow writers and our relentless coach and mentor, Laura. Her belief in us is unflagging and her gift for encouragement is unparalleled.

We soldier on, showing up at community  events, unpacking our books and often packing all of them back up for the net gig.

Writers are eternal optimists. We may hit a dry season, but we feel in our gut there will be a breakthrough somewhere, sometime.

So, back the the TED Talk Aha! moment:
In a sacred space, a mysterious moment where time stopped and hearts listened, I invited my friends to “hold my story” as I shared about grief, grief recovery and joy.

I related how, when we choose to hold someone’s story, we give them a voice. We offer them a safe place in which to spill their worries, losses and victories. Finally, and best of all, we get to sojourn with them in their journey of discovery and recovered joy.

This was my “TED Talk”, or, on the community level, my own “TEDx” talk.
It was a tender series of moments, including the moment in which a widow clasped my hands in hers and told about losing her husband and her son, all in the impossible space of a few years. How she was crushed under the weight of that grief, and how she is surviving with the help of her church family, her deep faith, the unseen but very real ribbons of hope that swirl around her.
In that moment we held each others’ stories.

I sold some books that night.
The euphoria of selling books, as giddily delightful as that was, actually held second place to the wonder of authentic connection.

Thank you, Karla, for organizing my book appearance at Sugar Grove Free Library,

Thank you, Laura, my Protagonist, for faithfully herding your wayward writers into our solemn, light-infused pathways.

Thank you, Dear Reader, for holding my story.

Kathy's Everyday Celebrations: Today I'm celebrating...cloudy days with sunny thoughts...whistling teakettles...and dinner with laughter.

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Rogue Breeze on a Hot Day

Sometimes joy is a planned-for event, a circle on the calendar; a much anticipated dinner out at the end of a long week.

And, sometimes, joy is a rogue breeze on the hottest summer day – a blast of cool air arriving to tousle your hair, jostle your bearings and make you laugh.

Today I enjoyed both kinds of joy, and it was doubly life-giving.

Meeting my good friend at a restaurant I'd never tried before, was the planned event. We lingered over delicious food, lively conversation and a wonderful server.

What happened when the tab arrived, was the second wave of joy: my friend picked up the receipt and said, “I'll pay. I've got this.”

My first impulse, of course, was to argue the point, to own my share of the bill – to claim what seemed equitable and fair.

But there are moments when “equitable” and “fair” get swallowed up in the large, jubilant space where Generosity waltzes in.

This, I quickly realized, was her moment to bless me with abundance.

To shut that down would have been to throw a damper on her spontaneous act of grace.

My reward was her vibrant smile and her heartfelt comment, “Thank you for letting me do this!”

As thankful as I was, I believe her joy was ten times greater. The dining room felt like it had expanded to allow for more abundance, more laughter, more pure delight.

We walked out into the evening on wings of hospitality, giddy with anticipation for the ice cream stand just down the road a bit.

A fitting dessert.

And she let me treat.

Sometimes it's not about the checkbook or the equal divvying out of responsibility. Sometimes it's about flinging out kindness into an unsuspecting world.

I can hardly wait to pay it forward.
Photo by Limor Zellermayer, Unsplash Photographers

I invite you to look for my coffee table books, the Breath of Joy! series.  So excited to announce the newly-launched volume,  Breath of Joy! Singing Spring.

This blog supports, timely gifts for all seasons.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Grace Runs to Pain

Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Grace runs to pain like healthy blood to a wound. 

Have you been the recipient of grace lately?  It's a swoosh of comfort; a balm of healing; an ointment of relief.

Have you been the giver of grace lately?  It's a nod of affirmation that needs no words; a squeeze of the arm, a spark of warmth in the eyes.




Some of my work includes greeting the public. We are Human Services, so there's a steady of stream of humans in need of services we may offer, including family help, parenting classes, addiction referrals, mental health providers and housing.

As a Christian I am called to serve others with the love of Christ.

As a Christian in a government-run organization, I am restricted in the earthbound realm.  Even so, I am wholly free to share His grace in surprisingly easy ways: by showing kindness on the phone, by listening carefully to the client who is confused and distraught, by spilling a bit of laughter into a tense moment.

Grace is tangible; you can feel it rush to the place of pain.

Maybe you've heard the story of the small boy who learned that his neighbor was grieving the loss of his wife.  The boy asked his mom if he could go next-door and see the man.

When he returned home, the boy's mom asked what he said to comfort the sad neighbor.

"Nothing," he replied. "I just sat in his lap and helped him cry."

Grace is light and airy, but oh! It is profoundly powerful, rippling into a needy world.
Infusing it with hope.

Last year, in preparation to lead a women's conference, I wrote a poetic essay about the activity of grace.  I hope you like it; I hope you recognize the winsome contrast of grace to the stuff we often experience in the day-to-day.

The world is a fist.
Grace is an open hand.

The world loves a snappy comeback.
Grace loves a kind word.

The world runs from pain.
Grace runs toward the hurt.

The world thunders, "Me first!"
Grace whispers, "You first.

The world upends.
Grace mends.

The world abandons.
Grace abides.

The world quits.
Grace perseveres.

The world shrugs.
Grace hugs.

The world mocks.
Grace grieves.

Grace re-frames everything.

In the workplace, in church, at home -- wherever your day takes you, Grace is a currency we can all exchange with good will and generosity.  We can trust the quiet, capable, dynamic activity of grace to heal and heighten and bolster up.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.  Philippians 4:23

This blog supports, timely gifts for all seasons,.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Hay Bales and Recovered Treasure

"O God my rock." I cry. "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?" Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, "Where is this God of yours?" Psalm 42:9-10

It started as a small sliver of aggravation and grew into an impossible mass of resentment: my marriage was in a fragile place and I was painfully aware of my part in it.

Dial the clock back to 2004 – the year my husband decided it’d be a good idea to move away from our beloved Colorado to the hills of Pennsylvania.

“We’ll have a farm property,” he said. 

“We’ll give our daughters the rich heritage of taking care of animals and driving a jalopy. They can chase fireflies and row across the pond. We’ll camp out and have bonfires and do all the things we got to enjoy as kids.”

He was thrilled at the prospect; as for me and the girls … not so much.

A wise woman at my Colorado church counseled me: “Kathy, you need to follow your husband. Even if he’s making a mistake. Roger is the spiritual leader of your family and it’s always best to honor that commitment. Don’t let this drive a wedge in your marriage.”

I’ll always remember Monita’s gentle caution, her loving words to me – such a tender reminder in a counter-culture that rejects the notion of wives accepting the leadership of their husbands.

And yet.

We made the 15-hundred mile trek. One car and a moving truck, bursting at the seams with all our worldly goods. We were pioneers, but in my mind we were heading in the wrong direction -- backwards, to a life I'd left in my past. 

We swapped our newer home in the suburbs of Littleton for a 100-year-old farm house on the top of a hill.

In the middle of nowhere.

This wasn’t my dream; it was his.

At first, I managed a fake bravado, encouraging our daughters to make new friends and dream new dreams. I even came alongside my 6-foot-2 gregarious husband to host a yearly potluck in the orchard, a tradition that would become a much-anticipated event for the neighbors and friends on our rural hill in the woods.

Over time, my façade gave way to a strange, quiet rage.

I know he felt it.

Eventually, we formed a brittle alliance that held together just enough to get by.

It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t godly. There was little joy in our awkward dance of just-getting-along.

It was a God appointment that I went to lunch one day with a friend, Dorothy, who handed me a smooth stone that fitted right in the palm of my hand. 

Etched on that stone was one word: Forgive.

That began to nag at me.

Over the next year, I would receive gentle nudges from Dixie, a woman at our Pennsylvania church: “You need to forgive your husband,” she’d say. It was never delivered as a reprimand or a judgement. Looking back, I know to my core it was her simple obedient act of delivering a message that lay heavy on her heart.


Oh! But I was just not willing to release my right to be upset! Digging my heels in, I did not move toward Forgiveness.

Finally, and maybe after a dozen or so gentle nudges, Dixie sought me out after the church service one Sunday morning.  There was a sense of urgency in her voice. 

“Kathy, have you found a way to talk to Roger? You need to forgive him.”

A few days later, on an ordinary day, I asked my handsome German fellow to sit with me in the living room. Haltingly, without fanfare or clever words, I explained how mad I’d been and how I no longer wanted to be held in the grip of fury.

I spilled it all. I held back nothing.

The release of all that bottled up emotion was a huge relief.

He shared, too, and we moved toward each other with a gift I can only describe as unfathomable Grace.

As there was work to be done, we headed to the hay fields. We’d had a soggy summer and much of the baled hay was on the edge of mold; some of it could only be salvaged for mulch.

I drove the tractor and Roger pulled the wet bales up onto the wagon. I remember the sun was setting and it was a spectacle of reds, blues, purples and pinks.

We drove to a neighbor’s barn where the hay would be stored and dried. 

With a decisive shudder that huge old barn door was closed on those smelly hay bales.

That was a defining moment for me, for both of us: The creaking and the closing of that creaky barn door symbolized the end of our silence. 

It ushered in the beginning of a new alliance as husband and wife.

The putting up of that old hay was a visual for the putting away of all the lost opportunities that had pushed us apart. 

We moved forward as a team and the peace that whispered around my shoulders was Supernatural.

It was bliss.

Three months later, Roger died suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack.

We couldn’t have possibly known.

We never do.

Months later, I found that stone with the little word, “forgive” in my jewelry box.

How I miss him! The ache is ever present, and so is the gratitude.

How grateful I am God got through to my unyielding, stubborn spirit.

He cracked my heart wide open with faithful, persistent voices who spoke into my life.  The light flooded in, the forgiveness flowed and swirled and flung a balm of healing over our family.

Going forward as a widow, it has been a challenging journey. Not what I’d choose.

But, thanks be to God we were able to clear our grievances and embrace life together – no matter how fleeting it would prove.

Like the Psalmist, I end my lament with a declaration of gratitude: 

"Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again - my Savior and my God!" - Psalm 42:11

I invite you to look for my coffee table books, the Breath of Joy! series.  So excited to announce the newly-launched volume,  Breath of Joy! Singing Spring.

This blog supports, timely gifts for all seasons.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Border Bullies and How to Dream Anyway

Proverbs 4:25-27
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 
 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 
 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Have you stood at the brink of Possibility, only to have someone list all the reasons NOT to venture out? 

This, dear reader, is your Border Bully; your living-safe-within-the-boundaries-non-risk-taker-adventure-squashing border bully. 

If you're particularly challenged, there may be more than one.

Seriously.  It's maddening.

For instance, I've got Retirement on my radar -- these days I find myself leaning into the unknown, curiously peering into the future which holds, I'm quite sure, many adventures. This anticipation, this giddy breath of rare air, gives me a ripple of joy.  

The very notion of turning my writing into a full time passion? It's heady stuff.  The new opportunities for travel, for ministry, for investing deeply in people and dreaming new dreams?  I feel light and airy just thinking of it.

But here they come: the well-meaning, ever-so-careful, people in my life. Otherwise known as ... the border bullies. These are the ones who stand at the finish line with you, begging you not to break the ribbon -- pulling you back from victory, keeping you from getting the prize.

"You should wait until you're 66 to get the full benefits."

"Are you sure you'll have enough to fund your dreams?"

"You'll have to lower your expectations."

"How on earth will you manage the medical expenses?"

And on it goes.  Propelled by worry, fueled by fear, these voices nip at my ears, reminding me of the economy, the uncertainty, the risks.

These are the times when I think of a wise friend's words. She said, When it comes to finances, I have to remember my job is not my Provider; God is."

Yes, it's important to plan. As believers we are called to be good stewards of the resources we are blessed enough to enjoy. It's smart to save and avoid careless purchases. 

It's also helpful to listen to people's advice.

But here's the thing. If I hang back in order to gain approval from people, I'm making my world smaller. 

Bruce Wilkinson, who coined the term, "border bullies", says it like this: "If you want your dream more than you have to have people's affirmation, that's how you break through your border bullies".

This is what I know: I serve a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-11) His resources are rich and unfathomable. He will take care of me. As a widow, I've learned this promise, time and again.

You may be looking eagerly into a new career. Perhaps you're building a relationship. Maybe you're exploring the creative side of you who longs to paint or dance or write a poem.

Watch out for those border bullies. 

Stay the course. Fix your gaze directly before you, and go forward with every confidence that God placed that vision in your heart, and He goes before you.  

Yes, there will be naysayers. I say, stand your ground. Show some grace. Smile. Prayerfully and with joy, follow your heart. 

I invite you to look for my books, Breath of Joy! Simply Summer and Breath of Joy! Ah, Autumn, and the newly-launched Breath of Joy! Singing Spring.

This blog supports, timely gifts for all seasons.