The latest details and exciting progress toward the publication of my debut novel, The Hidden Legacy.
Today, I’m taking a bit of inspiration from Burl Ives and The Little Engine That Could. While I drove my kids to the sitter’s this morning, we sang along to some classic tunes by the beloved children’s folk singer of decades that passed long before I took my first breath. The last song to play before I dropped off the kids and switched the radio to Dave Matthews was “The Little Engine That Could.”
“Just think you can, just think you can,
just have that understood
And very soon you’ll start to say,
I always knew I could.”
Those lines had my brain rolling along for a bit. Thoughts arose of confidence and self-doubt, of faith and discouragement, and the roles they play in achieving our goals.
The children’s diddy oversimplifies the concept, of course, but it does speak a nugget of truth: our mindsets drive our actions. There is only so far you can take yourself toward a goal you don’t believe you can achieve. On the flip-side of that coin, there are few forces that can defeat you when you believe you can succeed no matter what.
Confidence is born of faith. Faith in the abilities and passions God instilled in your unique self. Faith in your willingness to try. Faith in God’s promises to be your strength and wisdom. Faith in your destiny to make a unique, unrepeatable contribution to the lives of anyone within your reach.
If you know who you are in the eyes of God, if you know your Maker and therefore your makeup, it is not vanity to believe in yourself. Instead, it is foolhardy to doubt.
I don’t know about you, but there are few things that carry me forward with more joyful strength than the opportunities to look back and say, “I always knew I could.”
I have a bit of an announcement to make. It is both happy and bittersweet. For nearly ten years, my manuscript has been created, nurtured, pruned, and grown under the title Full of Days. It was not the original title. The original title was a terrible, overly dramatic phrase I will not admit to here. Before the first draft was finished though, my little story had become Full of Days, and so it has remained… until now.
When I got into the nitty gritty of collaborating with the editor assigned to me by my publisher, she asked that I consider changing the title. The first time she asked, right there on the title page as her very first comment when the edits were sent to me, I mentally refused. She stated that title’s strength did not match the story’s strength. I frowned and muttered and thought how absurd the request seemed to be. The next time she mentioned it, I wondered if I should at least think about it. The third time she mentioned it, I’d spent a number of weeks reviewing her subtle changes and astute suggestions throughout the manuscript and had to humbly admit that maybe (just maybe) the editor knew what she was talking about. I don’t remember if there was a fourth mention. There might have been. I only know that by the time I reached the final page of the manuscript, completing my review of her work on my story, I was deeply grateful for how she’d sharpened the writing and developed my perspective on giving the reader the best possible version of the tale and characters I’d created.
Thus began my deliberation over the title. Oh, how I wrestled with it. By the time I sent a handful of title ideas to the publisher to get their opinion, I’d brainstormed and eliminated at least twenty possibilities. Always, in my mind, Full of Days was still in the running. It was a contender but not the guaranteed winner.
The goal was to create a title that captured the interest of a reader who knew nothing of the story itself. Someone who might be perusing books in this genre, looking for something new to intrigue them enough to at least read the back cover’s synopsis. The title needed to create curiosity and hint at the heart of the story.
Making the choice felt like renaming a newborn child after first deciding on a name quite early in the pregnancy. It was akin to spending all that time of nurturing and development calling the child by one name, then, upon meeting him face to face, realizing it simply is not the right name for him. It happens, and I imagine it is quite a bittersweet change to make in that moment. Such a change would transition from difficult and uncertain to happy and confident as the new moniker became familiar. That is exactly how I’d describe this process.
So, yes, after all that rambling, I am here to tell you that as of Tuesday, my upcoming novel has a new title! I invite you all to be on the lookout in the coming months for news of the release of the debut christian historical novel titled The Hidden Legacy.
Harold’s run stalled outside a brick bungalow on Cedar Street. The skyline was rimmed pink, with everything above still ink and stars. Daily, before dawn, Harold ran one and a half miles at an eleven-minutes-per-mile pace. Every single morning, except Sundays, and he did not stop for anything mid-run. Never.
“You’re seventy-two. It’s okay to slow down,” Harold’s doctor said at his most recent check-up. “Maybe mix it up with walking or swimming, something a bit easier on the joints.”
Harold lied when he told the doctor he’d consider it.
He checked the tracker on his wrist. The device was a gift from his son. Harold had scoffed at learning its features and tricks, or even growing comfortable with its bulk around his wrist. He was loath to admit to anyone how much he appreciated it now, with its details and data and graphs, its uncanny ability to measure the value of his daily movements.
Eight-tenths of a mile to go.
So, why had he stopped? Why did he stand, feet planted on the damp sidewalk instead of striking it at his self-regulated pace? He stood still because he was traveling through time, and travel like that tends to take a person’s breath away.
Inside the house, on display through a wide picture window, was a diorama of the past. A living room: white walls, gray sofa, black recliner, and two lamps glowing from each of the end tables framing the sofa. Family photos in frames. A book on the arm of the recliner.
A woman and a child.
Harold’s pulse throbbed. He felt it in his chest, in his neck.
“My girls,” he whispered.
The woman – slim, average height, pixie-cut chestnut hair – stood in the center of the room, her arms wrapped securely around the child lying against her, chest to chest. Her head was bowed with her cheek resting on the crown of her daughter’s blonde head. Her eyes were closed.
The child’s face was turned away from the window, tucked into the curve of her mother’s neck. She looked to be two, perhaps, clothed in plush, yellow pajamas. One little hand held the ears of a well-loved, stuffed bunny, and the other hand rested on her mother’s shoulder.
All was still. A three-dimensional snapshot of thirty years ago.
Harold reached for the tree branch above his shoulder. The coarse bark beneath his palm broke the spell his senses were under. He pulled his eyes away from the house, away from the intimacy of moment between mother and child, and forced himself to move.
At the end of the block, where Harold typically turned left to return home, he turned right. Then he turned right again, then left. He jogged into the cemetery, along the gravel paths to a headstone beneath a birch tree. There, he kneeled.
Harold waited for his heartbeat to slow. He laid his hands in the dewy grass and squinted at the sun mounting the treetops.
“I saw you today, Rosie.” He cleared his throat. “I used to see you everywhere. Everywhere. But it hasn’t been like that in a while. It was you and Sadie, when she was just a little thing. It was our living room. I mean, I know it wasn’t. I know it wasn’t you, or Sadie, or our home. For a moment though, it was, and it was the happiest and the saddest I’ve been in a while.”
He leaned forward on his knees, pressing his palms into the cold, solid stone. He rubbed the ridges of her name with his thumb and sighed.
“It was wonderful to see you.”
Harold stood, and ran home.
Let’s get back to basics, my friends. Specifically, the alphabet. I’ll be writing a series of flash fiction pieces off of one word prompts, from A to Z. Enjoy! And if a word comes to mind for any upcoming letter, please make your suggestion and I’ll consider it for a prompt.
It’s January 29th and I am now sitting down to write up my New Year’s thoughts. That should give you some notion of how the first 29 days of 2018 have been. Whoosh, and they’re gone. That’s the gist of it. This isn’t me registering a complaint so much as me slowing down enough to acknowledge reality.
My 2018 word for the year is Build. Maybe it should be Breathe instead… but I’ll stick with my first choice. Here’s why.
Last year, my word was Worthy, and I somehow managed to blog about it before the new year even began. I spent the year attempting to recognize what investments of my attention and energy were worthy of those resources, and learning to say no to (or at least shift down the priority list) those things that didn’t qualify as such. It was an exercise in both self-discipline and exploration. I found new ways to invest in myself, in becoming a better, stronger, healthier, happier version of me. I pushed myself over the edge of my previous efforts. In the course of 2017, I stretched and shifted until my comfort zone was expanded well beyond what I’d clung safely to in years past.
One key reality I noticed as 2017 came to a close was the lack of regrets I had about the year. Sure, there is always some wishful thinking about what more I could have tried or accomplished. That’s bound to happen. Compared to December 31st in most of my adult years though, this was almost nil.
That is why my word for 2018 is Build. Because I don’t want to let up. Because I want to take advantage of the gains made last year and push them to new levels this year. I will build on the foundation I’ve laid. I will nurture and grow what has taken root. Honestly, I’m pretty darn thrilled with the efforts of last year, and I desire to reach the close of 2018, God willing, having spent my twelve months building upward and outward.
When complacency creeps in, when there’s an inkling of stagnancy in my days, I have to remember why I started. I have to remember! Remembering where I used to be; remembering what I set out to do in the first place; remembering why I started is all the impetus I need to keep building.
New heights can be frightening, but not as frightening as standing still or sliding backward.
I sat beside my sister at the funeral of our dear friend’s mother. Our eyes fell on my sister’s young daughter. She sat contentedly in the lap of her grandmother, beside us in the same church pew.
My sister reached over and squeezed my hand, voicing no response. She didn’t need to reply. I knew. I knew the struggles she and I had navigated over the years. I knew what it took to eventually believe ourselves beautiful.
The funeral began with an old, familiar hymn, but the thought remained with me. As the priest blessed the family and friends filling the rows in the church, I couldn’t shake the question: are we more beautiful than we realize?
I’d encountered a lot of beauty in the past week. Easily overlooked beauty. Misconstrued beauty.
It was there to see in the face and hands of my best friend. Exhausted, no makeup, eyes not long dry from the most recent of many tears, she greeted me with a long hug when I arrived at the hospital where she and her family kept vigil with her dying mother. We sat at her mother’s bedside, talking in reserved voices that rose with emotion then quieted as her mother’s ragged breathing fluctuated. My, she was beautiful. The love in her eyes. The gentleness in her fingers as they grazed the blankets of the bed in front of her. The aching tenderness in her glances at her mom. My friend had spent years caring for her mother. Years of tending to her needs, housing her, shuttling her to appointments, encouraging her, upholding her dignity. Loving her.
Then there was her mother, Connie, who lied dying beside us. If my friend hadn’t let me into the room, I would not have known I was in the right place. She was unrecognizable, seemingly a shell of her former, spirited self. Seemingly. Except, if I kept my wits about me, I could see that she was still her whole self. She was still Connie, who battled cancer for all these years, never willing to give up. Through treatments and sickness and depression, through remissions and reoccurrences, she’d plodded onward. Yet, here she was. She wasn’t a woman defeated. She was a woman ready. She was a woman ready to leave. She’d done her work and fought her battles. Her readiness was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking.
So there I sat in the church pew, wondering over how many different ways we miss the beauty. Wondering why we can’t see it.
I want to see it. I want my spouse to see it. I want my children to see it. I want you to see it. This life, it’s so much more beautiful than we think. Its beauty is only surpassed by the people, by us. We are more, much more beautiful than we think we are.