Special Interview With Barb Masters

A Master’s Inn Character Interview

Hello, my dear readers! Hope you all had a great holiday season. And if you’re like me, you didn’t shed a tear to see 2020 hit the trail.

Today, we have the great good fortune to corner Barb Masters for an interview. Just by way of review, Barb is married to Tom Masters and they are the owners of the Master’s Inn, a bed and breakfast located in northeastern Washington State, right on the border with the panhandle of Idaho.

Image by nancyjane from Pixabay

If you remember, we interviewed Tom a few weeks back. He’s a Marine veteran who experienced three tours in Vietnam. He and Barb have been married more than four decades, and they’ve been through a lot together. And, as we heard from Tom, some of those experiences are off limits in an interview. Hopefully, there won’t be as many of those constraints with our interview today.

According to reviews I’ve read about the Master’s Inn, Barb is the gracious hostess and Tom is the hard working big guy behind the scenes. They make a good partnership, and I hear Barb’s a fantastic cook. I told her I’d extend an invitation to all my readers to contact her on their website to book a visit. If you’re interested, just put it in your comments.

Okay, I’ve got her on the line, so let’s get this chat going.

***

ME: Barb, good to talk to you! Did I catch you between batches of your famous chocolate chip cookies? I can almost smell them over the phone.

BARB: How did you know, Deb?

ME: Oh, a little Tom told me.

BARB: Yeah, he’s been loitering in the kitchen, getting underfoot. I shooed him out after he handed me the phone…but I’m pretty sure he thieved a couple and stuck them in his shirt pocket. I try to limit him on the sweets, but he’s never been a man who could be managed.

ME: That’s the impression I got when I interviewed him. So, switching gears. As you know, my readers want to get to know all of you before your story is released. I thought I’d ask some questions that will help them know you a bit, kind of from the inside out, so-to-speak. Are you game?

BARB: Well…okay. Do I have the option of saying, “I have no recollection of that, Senator”?

ME: Oh, that’s a good one. As a matter of fact, Tom let me know–in no uncertain terms, I might add–when I stepped on his toes. I had to do some back-pedaling in a hurry.

BARB: I heard about that. Sorry if he was rude. Most of the time he’s not, but if you push his buttons, watch out. It’s something I had to learn early on.

ME: Point taken. Let’s see, I think I want to start with this question. Should be an easy one: How did you and Tom meet?

BARB: In high school. He was my date for my first prom. His best friend, Mack, told me it took him about three months to get up the nerve to even say hello to me. I thought that was cute.

ME: Very. He seems so self-assured now.

BARB: The Marine Corps does that. It either makes you or breaks you. And sometimes it breaks you before it makes you. That goes for spouses, too.

ME: Tom wouldn’t talk about it.

BARB: And I just said all I’m going to say about it. But, I have a question for you, if you don’t mind.

ME: Go ahead.

BARB: Where on earth did you dig up that picture you texted to me…when you asked permission to use it? I haven’t had long hair for at least ten years.

ME: Tom sent it to me. He said it was his favorite picture of you. Was it taken at your home?

BARB: No, it was taken at my parents’ lake house. That’s their dog in the picture…

ME: Oh, what’s his name?

BARB: Dog.

ME: Just Dog?

BARB: Yeah, my dad’s favorite actor was John Wayne, and in one of his movies he had a dog named Dog.

ME: I see. Is it still okay with you if I use the picture for the interview? I don’t remember if you replied to my text.

BARB: I did, and it’s okay. At least I look ten years younger.

ME: Thank you. We’d better get on with this…I’m sure you’re very busy. How did you and Tom come to move to the Newport, WA area and open the Master’s Inn?

BARB: Well, that’s kind of a long story, one I don’t really want to get too deep into. Let’s just say we didn’t want to start a family in Boise. Tom had inherited his grandfather’s cabin, so we sold our hardware store, moved to the cabin, and began the remodel into a B&B.

ME: Wait…start a family? But Tom said you don’t have children. I got the impression you never had any. He seemed very adamant.

ME: Barb? You still there?

BARB: Y-yes, I’m still here. Tom said that, did he? Well, who am I to argue with a big tough Marine? Oorah and all that.

ME: I’m sorry—maybe I said something I shouldn’t have. Let’s get back to—

BARB: No, Deb, it’s fine. How would you know about our…

Look…I really have to get back to my preparations for this weekend. We’re hosting Tom’s nephew and family from California, and I’ve got a lot of work yet to do. Can we call this good?

ME: Oh, well, of course, Barb. I guess if my readers want to know you, they’ll just have to read the novel, right? It’s been very nice talking to you, and we enjoyed getting to know you a little bit. I’ve told my readers to look up The Master’s Inn website if they’re interested in booking with you.

BARB: Thank you. And now I really have to go. Goodbye.

ME: Have a great day, Barb!

***

And so, dear readers, you’ve met three characters in my debut novel, The Master’s Inn. It seems to me there just might be some trouble brewing. Did you get that feeling?

Let’s see…Tom and Barb both told us they’re hosting his nephew’s family, and yet…

And Joanie told us her parents are off to Las Vegas the same weekend, but somehow they all end up at…well, I’d better stop there.

As I’ve said, you’ll just have to read the story. I can say this though: fireworks are on the horizon at The Master’s Inn.

Stay tuned for the next Master’s Inn Character Interview. I’ve scheduled a chat with Susan Brown, Joanie’s long-suffering mother. And then perhaps I can nail down a time with Bill, Joanie’s “best Dad ever”, as she put it when we talked.

Should be interesting.

That Day In Sewing Class

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

“Let your speech always be with grace…” (Colossians 4:6)

When I was in the eighth grade about a millennium ago, I took home economics. It wasn’t my choice. I’d rather have been in shop, but back in the ’60s, girls took home ec and boys took shop. I’d have done better to learn how to build a house, fix a car, or weld something.

I didn’t mind the cooking unit. I liked to cook. However, it didn’t take a Junior High teacher to show me how to turn on the stove and throw some ground beef in a skillet to make spaghetti. Mom taught me how to do that just fine, thank you very much.

I also excelled in the unit on How To Clean Your Bathroom. There were four kids in the house, and all of us were trained in Toilet Brush 101.

Then came one dark day when I looked ahead at the next unit we’d start after Christmas break. I blanched as white as the freshly fallen snow when I read the word Sewing. I knew I was in trouble.

Mom was a fairly accomplished seamstress. She had one of those treadle machines, a big, clunky wood cabinet with an iron foot rest that moved up and down as she heel-toed through a sewing project. Much later, she upgraded to an electric machine.

Image by smartmdblond from Pixabay

Mom had given it her best effort over the years. She’d patiently tried to teach me, but I was an epic failure—I hated every minute of it. So, of course, my projects were…let’s just say they’d never make a magazine cover. Eventually, she gave up trying to teach me and let me read instead. Which was fine with me.

I lay awake at night in the weeks leading up to the start of the sewing unit. I knew some of the other girls who would be taking the class with me. You know the ones. The girls who helped make posters for upcoming events, who decorated the gym for the sock hop, who submitted their art work to the fair. The artsy ones.

I wasn’t one of them.

The sewing unit began, and I suffered through it. Crooked seams and bloody finger tips from stabbing myself with scissors and needles, not to mention I became an expert at thread ripping and starting over.

The day came when the teacher, a short, gray-haired lady who handed out compliments sparingly, announced the end-of-the-unit project: we were each to make a dress. And, horror of horrors, we would have to model it before the class. To my ears, it sounded like I’d just been sentenced to eat lizards for the rest of my natural life.

But, Mom to the rescue! She took me shopping to buy fabric and other supplies. She encouraged me, saying she knew I could do it, and that she’d be with me every step of the way.

Fast forward to the day I finished the dress and modeled it for my family. I’ll conveniently pass over what my two brothers had to say. They were…well, they were brothers. You get my drift. My little sister, who was about eleven at the time, watched me glide into the living room with something close to awe lighting her face.

Mom and Dad said I looked like a princess. I was in heaven. I’d accomplished something. Something important in 1968. It was a rite of passage…making a dress for myself that made me look like a princess instead of an awkward, klutzy teen of fourteen who hadn’t had a boyfriend yet.

The next day in class, we all took turns changing into our creations and taking our seats. The teacher called us up one by one. I watched, nerves jangling, as my classmates were called forward to be critiqued. As each one stood in front of the class, the nausea in my gut rose to tidal wave proportions.

Their dresses were fancy, some with ribbons and sashes, some with tulle and lace. A few girls had even purchased shoes to match. The teacher was effusive with her praise, smiling and fingering their creations as if they stood on a New York or Paris runway, and she was the owner of a modeling agency.

Then it was my turn.

My dress was a simple A-line, and fell just to the tops of my kneecaps. Sleeveless, no lace, ribbons, or fancy stitching. The material wasn’t expensive, a swirling blue and white pattern that did nothing to enhance my short, blocky figure.

Crimson-faced, I walked up the aisle and turned to face the class, peeking at the teacher’s face out of the corner of my eye. Her lips formed a thin, straight line, and her eyes raked me up and down. She reached and tugged at the waistline, ran a finger over a lumpy shoulder seam.

Then she smiled, waved a bony-fingered hand at me, and said, “Class, let’s talk about how not to make a dress.”

I prayed the floor would open up under my feet. I don’t recall anything else she said, but I do remember the barely-suppressed giggles eddying around the room. My red face over the blue and white of the dress must have made me look like a Roman candle about to blow.

After she finished her verbal “F” in front of the class, I slunk to my desk in the back of the room and nursed the trauma, vowing never to sew again.

Words hurt. I bet you already knew that. The fact that I still remember almost every detail of that one class on that one day reveals how much those words hurt.

I’d like to be able to say I learned a lesson that day, that I never, ever spoke hurtful words to anyone, but that’d be a lie. I have. To my siblings and children, to friends, to co-workers. Who knows what trauma I’ve caused with my own words? Perhaps someday there’ll be a reckoning.

Here’s what I think: The words we speak to each other, particularly to those we love and who love us, color our lives with either love and joy, or heartache and regret. And those same words have the potential to make, or break, another precious soul.

Looking back more than five decades to that day in sewing class, I’m glad the hurt is gone, but the lesson remains.

Special Interview With Joanie Brown

A Master’s Inn Character Interview

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay

Hi friends! It’s time again for another interview with one of the characters in my debut novel, The Master’s Inn, due to be released next year. We already interviewed Tom Masters, the owner of the inn situated in northeastern Washington State. I actually wanted to interview Barb this time—she’s Tom’s wife—but I couldn’t pin her down on a time. Maybe next time. I think you’ll like her…she’s down-to-earth, warm and welcoming, and I hear she’s a good cook. Just the way the owner of a B&B should be. And she doesn’t seem to have the baggage we uncovered in Tom’s interview. At least…not that I know of.

So, who do we have today, you’re asking…and the answer is…Joanie Brown!

I was finally able to corner her for an interview—with a little help from her mom. She’s fourteen, so she’s a busy gal. If you’ve ever had a fourteen-year-old girl, or were one, you know what I’m talking about. She has quite the social life, more than I ever had at her age. Let’s get started…

ME: Joanie, so glad you could take a break from your busy schedule to speak with me. As I told you and your mom on the phone the other day, the purpose is to let my readers get to know you a little bit. And they are waiting in the wings, anticipating this little chat.

JOANIE: Yeah, whatever. Why would they want to—oh, can you hang on a minute? I have to take this call…

ME: But…wait…sorry, readers. Guess we’ll just have to hang on for a minute…hope not for very—

JOANIE: Sorry about that. But I’m trying to get my mom to let me stay with my cousin, Ginny, while they’re in Las Vegas for their little trip. Mom wants me to stay with this old lady, Mrs. Brewster, who used to babysit me…can you believe it? All she ever does is watch reruns of some geeky show called Bonanza and do crossword puzzles. And she smells funny. Dad doesn’t care if I stay with Ginny, but Mom’s being a jerk as usual. Since they won’t take me with them, the least she can do is let me stay where I want.

ME: Oh, sorry you’re having difficulties…could you let my readers know where you live? And your parents’ names are—?

JOANIE: We live in Sandpoint, Idaho…Bill and Susan…and you don’t have to be sorry. That phone call was from Ginny’s mom, my Aunt Aimee, and she said it would be okay for me to stay there. I thought I should ask her first before I start working on Mom again. You’ll see, I usually get my way, especially with Dad.

ME: Well, good luck with that…I guess. Now, I just have a few questions for you. My readers want to know the usual stuff, like what’s your favorite subject in school, do you have a boyfriend…

JOANIE: Oh, hang on again, now it’s Ginny calling me.

ME: Sorry everyone, she’s gone again. Oy! Maybe I should reschedule this…

JOANIE: I’m back. Sounds like Ginny’s got some plans for us this weekend—a party at one of her friend’s houses. Mom better let me go. Oh yeah, what did you want to ask me?

ME: Do you have a favorite subject in school?

JOANIE: Nah. School’s boring. I wanna be like Dad. He never went to college or anything, but still, he makes really good money. All he does is go to meetings, play golf with his clients, and take cool trips. He bought me a silver bracelet when he was in China last year. And the latest iPad this year…he’s the best dad ever.

ME: But, don’t you think college is a good idea? To kind of help you know what you want to do with your life?

JOANIE: Not for me. I’m just gonna get a good job and be rich or marry someone rich. I’m not gonna be a dweeb, like Mom. She thinks I should go to college—but what did that do for her? She went to college while Dad was off fighting some war or other. Then when he came back, she just stayed home…so all that money was wasted. Not smart in my book.

ME: Well, there is something to be said for trade schools or on-the-job-training these days. You could be right about that. So, let me see, do you play a sport?

JOANIE: Not unless chasing boys is a sport…no, I’m kidding. That’s Ginny and Aunt Aimee. Mom can’t stand it when I go over to visit them for a weekend. She thinks they’re gonna corrupt me or something. Aunt Aimee does have lots of men friends and she goes out a lot, but mostly Ginny and I just laugh at her. Ginny does like to party, though, and it gets her in trouble sometimes.

ME: Oh yeah, I did hear a story about you two…something about having to be picked up at a police station last year, and your mom and dad couldn’t find Aimee, so they had to come and get both of you?

JOANIE: Are you kidding me? You’re gonna put that in the book? Oh, never mind. It doesn’t matter. As usual, Mom went ballistic—all over the police precinct—and Dad was cool and told her to stop being a drama queen. And that crap about us being drunk…it was all a lie. He paid the fine and brought Ginny home with us since Aunt Aimee decided to go out on the town and didn’t come home for two days. It wasn’t a big deal.

ME: Not a big deal…well, okay, I guess it was a whole year ago. Now, you mentioned you wanted to “be like your dad”. What did you mean and what does he do when he’s actually working?

JOANIE: I meant I wanna make a lot of money. He works for a software company. A salesman—he’s their top guy. Sells software to hospitals, I think. Not exactly sure. Oh, just a minute, getting a text from Ginny…

ME: Sorry, readers—

JOANIE: I’m back. Everything’s set for the party. Now, I just gotta get Mom on board…but of course, won’t tell her about the party. I really have to go now…were you done with me?

ME: Well, not really, but I can see you’ve got lots on your plate right now. Oh, is that your mom yelling for you?

JOANIE: Yeah, just a sec… Geez, Mom, I’m on the phone for this stupid…I mean, interview! Can’t it wait?

ME: I’d better let you go, Joanie. I hope you and your family have a good time this weekend, and the weather won’t be a problem while you travel. I heard it might be nasty…

JOANIE: It won’t be. Dad bought a brand-new four-wheel-drive Lexus last year. It’ll plow through anything. He even let me drive it once. Right, Mom! I’m getting off now…keep your shirt on! Okay—gotta go!

ME: ’Bye!

Okay, my dear readers, I think I saw her eyes rolling through my phone! Did you?

What a lively teenager…but I feel kind of sorry for her mom. I do wonder how this is all going to turn out. And did you hear her say her parents are going to Las Vegas?

I wonder how they all end up at The Master’s Inn…hmm…must be quite a story. Guess you’ll just have to read the book.

Stay tuned for installment three of the Master’s Inn Character Interviews.

The Mercy Thorn

Image by Simon Mettler from Pixabay

“What is this, Eve?” Adam pointed at his feet where a strange plant grew. He was sure he’d never seen it before. It had spiny branches, small purple flowers, and thorns longer than Adam’s little finger.

“I don’t know, Husband.” She knelt at his feet and touched the stiff spines. “But I like the purple flower.”

He leaned over and touched her shoulder. “Be careful, Eve. So many things are different now.”

“But it may be that it’s food for us. Since Father sent us through the flaming portal, we have learned to cook and eat many different foods. Perhaps this is some new kind of vegetable…”

Eve reached for the strange plant again. “I’m going to try to pluck it. Do you have your flint?”

“No, don’t touch it! You might…get hurt…”

Eve looked puzzled. “Hurt?”

Adam pulled her to her feet and gently grasped her shoulders, turning her to face him.

“Remember what Father said in the before time? He said, ‘The ground will be cursed and thorns will grow.’ Perhaps this is a thorn.”

Adam looked down at the sharp, needle-like leaves on the small green plant. “I’m sure of it, and I don’t think thorns are a good thing, Eve.”

“Perhaps, Husband. But the flower is so pretty, don’t you think?”

Her words transported him back, back to the before time, the day he saw Eve for the first time, after he’d awakened from a deep sleep. He recalled the excitement on Father’s face as He took Adam’s arm and drew him forward to gaze at her, mere moments after He’d fashioned her. Father’s life-breath still hung in the air over her face as she yawned and stretched. That was the day Adam had first learned the meaning of the word pretty.

Adam studied her downturned face. She was still pretty, even with the shadows and lines around her eyes. Her face had changed that disastrous day, as the juice of the forbidden fruit dribbled over her chin and splashed on her arm, the day they’d both listened to the song of the serpent.

He stayed her hand as she reached for the thorny plant. “No, Eve, I don’t think you should touch it.”

She argued with him, something they found themselves doing more and more. “But…”

Eve broke off and stumbled backward a step, her dark eyes wide and the skin around them stretched thin. She stared at something over his left shoulder, then collapsed, moaning, at his feet, her face hidden behind her hands.

Adam whirled, crouching in a fighting stance. He thought he’d see one of the big cats, also changed since that day when the sun dimmed. The cats no longer spoke to them, nor allowed them to pet their tawny coats, rumbling a deep purr when he and Eve scratched their bellies. Companionship disappeared that day, replaced by fear between human and cats.

Adam relaxed when he saw no cat behind him, but what he did see dropped him to his knees beside his trembling wife.

A shimmering Presence stood there. Adam could just barely remember what his Creator looked like when they’d shared life with Him in the Garden, but it hadn’t been like this…the light so brilliant it hurt his head to gaze at it, the scent of some unknown spice filling his nostrils, and the birdsong overhead trilling a soft melody never before heard.

As he stared, slack-jawed in awe, the Presence resolved itself into a man, tall and strong, laughter wrinkling His eyes and playing around His mouth. Adam now recognized Him. He wanted to jump up and run into his Creator’s arms, but the wonder of the sight kept his knees pinned to the ground.

Father stepped forward, His expression now grave, but somehow reassuring Adam that all would be well.

“Adam, my son, and Eve, my daughter. Do not be afraid of the thorn. Yes, it is sharp and it might pierce your hand as you touch it, but it has a great purpose in this dark world.”

“Lord God, You are here? In this place where we are banished?” Adam’s voice almost failed him, his question dwindling to a whisper.

“My son, I AM.”

Adam felt the delicious warmth and breathed in the sweet scent of His breath, like honey, his Creator’s presence wrapping around him as he knelt there.

He looked up and a frown wrinkled his forehead.

“You have a question, Adam?”

“What…what is the thorn’s purpose? Is it food for us?”

The Lord God stepped closer to his children and drew them to their feet, one massive hand on each shoulder.

“No, my children, it is not food for you.”

He reached down and plucked the spiny plant out of the ground. Turning it over in His hand, He said, “One day, many times ahead, I will wear them as a crown on My head…as I hang between heaven and earth for your redemption. Just as I clothed you with the skins you now wear, I will then clothe you with My presence and My perfection, that you will never be apart from Me again. But first I must wear the thorns.”

The Creator tenderly laid the thorn in Adam’s hand.

Adam saw a smear of blood on Father’s fingers. Looking into His face, he saw there a tender expression that nearly drove him to the ground again.

“Yes, My son. I too bleed, just as you. That is the purpose of the thorn. When I cursed the ground with thorns because of your rebellion, I also made a way for the thorn to become a blessing for you and the generations of My people to come. From now on, every time you bleed because of the thorn, you will remember its purpose.”

And suddenly, just as Father had appeared to them, he was gone, leaving them staring in wonder at the thorn in Adam’s hand. The spicy scent lingered, and the birdsong overhead turned mournful at His leaving.

Adam gazed where the Lord God had stood. His footprints remained, large and deep. The first man knelt and traced Father’s footprints with his index finger, then looked up at Eve.

She whispered, “The Mercy Thorn. That’s what I’ll always call it, Husband.”

He stood and took her hand, cradling it against his chest. “Yes, and we will teach its name to our children.”

A tear slid down her cheek. “Do you think we will see Him again?”

Adam lowered his gaze to the thorn. “Oh yes, Wife. We will see Him again. But, I think, not as before… and not as today.”

***

(Adapted from the first chapter of my book, Leaving Your Lover.)

Deb Gorman

God’s Glasses

(This post is revised from a past release.)

Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

Ever wonder what it’d be like to see your life through God’s eyes? To see the end from the beginning? To move ahead, frame by frame, laying your journey out in front of you, so your first step is visible to you at the same time as the last step you just took? But it doesn’t happen that way, does it? Instead, as soon as we take the next step, our last footfall fades away into the mist of memory, to be recalled only with great effort.

Then we ask ourselves, “How did I get to this place? Which step removed me from the path I walked before? Where was that fork in the road, the one where I chose to go a different route than I should have taken?”

Image by kirkandmimi from Pixabay

If we could but see the entire picture, all at the same time, it would be easy to spot that fork, that place of decision where we deviated from the best and chose instead only the good, or possibly the worst. If we could perch God’s glasses on our noses and see what He sees, would life be easier? Would we make better choices?

But God doesn’t give us that ability, does He? He only gives us one frame at a time and that frame is called today. We can’t go back to yesterday and attempt a do-over. There’s no delete key, nor a “find and replace” function in this thing we call life on earth. And we can’t fast forward to tomorrow. We can only begin tomorrow after we’ve lived today. Tomorrow doesn’t exist yet, except in the mind of God, who can see every step of our lives from conception to death all in a blink.

What do you think God sees when He looks at your life? Are there some potholes you stepped into? Some crooked places? Does he see the bunny trail you followed, taking you away from His presence? Or did you, like Alice in the Land of Wonder, tumble headlong down the rabbit hole, surfacing in an unfamiliar place where you were not supposed to be?

I’ve been down that rabbit hole. It’s dark and twisty, and when my head popped out the other end and I gazed around at the alien landscape, I thought of nothing but getting back, back to where I started with my Lover.

Do you long to find your way back to the Lover of your soul? To right wrongs, to make amends, to re-forge broken relationships?

Here’s the secret: your next step must be taken from a lower altitude. God waits with open arms for you to journey back to His presence, but you must make that journey on your knees. It’ll be a shorter trip that way, less complicated.

Image by ThuyHaBich from Pixabay

Don’t delay. Today will be gone in a blink, and it’s really all we have.

Special Interview With Tom Masters

Tom Masters

Today we have a special treat in store for us. Tom Masters has consented to a rare interview. When I called him last week to find out if he’d do it, he was in the midst of preparing for some special guests to arrive at The Master’s Inn, the B&B he and his wife, Barb, own and run together. He mentioned how busy he was, but finally gave in when I mentioned I love to fly fish and target shoot. He promised if I came to stay at the Inn, he’d show me the best fly fishing around…secret places his grandfather—from whom he inherited the property—had shown him when he was a teenager.

Tom graciously took a break from his work to answer a few questions about himself over the phone, although a bit reluctantly. You’ll see why.

ME: Tom, I’m so glad we could spend a few minutes together. I promise not to keep you too long, but just long enough to give my readers a glimpse of who you are.

TOM: Glad to do it, Deb. Well, not really glad, but you’ve been so persistent. I heard you even tried to enlist my wife to pressure me. Not a smart move, I must say. I don’t respond well to pressure.

ME: Sorry about that. You’ll be glad to know she told me the same thing—that I must deal with you directly.

So, what can you tell us about yourself? How did you get into the B&B business? It’s particularly curious to me, knowing you’re retired from the Marine Corps, with three tours in Vietnam under your boots. I would’ve thought you’d be a security guard, or a cop, or some other job which necessitates carrying a gun. What’s up with that? I’m sure my readers would like to know.

TOM: Well, that just proves you know nothing about me, now doesn’t it? I don’t want to be rude, but just because I’m proficient with a weapon doesn’t mean I want a job where I have to carry one all the time. It’s a tool, nothing more, a tool to be used sparingly and only in certain situations. So let’s move on, shall we?

ME: Okay, sorry about that. I can see you’re uncomfortable talking about your experiences in Vietnam.

TOM: Not uncomfortable. It was over a long time ago, and it’s not part of me anymore. I don’t dwell on it…no point.

ME: Hmm. Okay. Just give me a minute to cross out some of my notes. There. Those are off the table. Tell us something about your family.

TOM: There’s just Barb and me, and my nephew, Bob, and his family. Bob and Gwen and their two teenage boys are the guests we’re preparing to host this weekend.

ME: That’s all the family you have, Tom?

TOM: Didn’t I just say that?

ME: Well, yes, you did. But—give me a minute—oh, here it is. I understood that you and Barb have a daughter. Care to tell us about her? Where she lives, and…

TOM: No.

ME: But…

TOM: Moving on…

ME: Okay, but—I just ran out of questions for you.

TOM: Too bad.

ME: Wait a minute. Maybe you could tell us what activities you’ve planned for your nephew and his family this weekend. I’m a little desperate to give my readers a better picture of who you and Barb are as people. You know, flesh you out a bit.

TOM: Activities? It’s a B&B in the mountains of northeastern Washington State. We’ll be hiking and sledding and doing mountain things. That enough for you? We really don’t make plans for our guests…it’s their vacation, not ours. I will say, though, that it’s been five years since we’ve seen them, and Barb and I hope to help them with some problems they have.

ME: What kind of problems?

TOM: Bob was also in the Marine Corps, deployed to Afghanistan.

ME: Ah…so, he has PTSD? Or…

TOM: …and that’s all I’ll say about that.

ME: Oh, okay…

TOM: Look, we done here? Barb’s yelling at me from upstairs to get back to work. Bob’s family is supposed to arrive late this afternoon, and I’m behind in what she wants me to do. She’s pretty picky, so I’d best get on with things.

ME: Maybe we could get Barb on the line and get to know her a bit. You know, let you off the hook. What do you say?

TOM: Good luck with that, Deb. She’s a driven woman right now, and I’m not going to bother her. If you want, you can call back and ask for her, but I really don’t advise it.

ME: Of course, Tom. Maybe some other time. I think I have enough here. We hope you have a great visit with your family, don’t we, readers? And I certainly hope the weather doesn’t close in on you and mess up your plans. I’ve heard the reports and they’re not good. Storms up in northeastern Washington can be pretty fierce, right?

TOM: It’ll be fine…storms don’t bother me. Lived here a long time and I’ve never met a storm, a bear, or a big cat that scared me. I’ll have to hang up now. Thank you for calling. Goodbye.

ME: Goodbye…

Huh! He’s gone already. Busy guy. I wanted to ask him about the bears and big cats…do you suppose he really sees them near their home? No, thank you!

Well, there you have it, readers—you just met one of the main characters in my novel, The Master’s Inn, next to be published. I’m sorry the interview was so short, and we really didn’t get a feel for what kind of man he is…well, maybe we did. A take charge—even of my interview(!)—no-nonsense kinda guy.

Perhaps I can line up some interviews with one or two of the other characters, the more chatty ones. Maybe Barb, or Sally, or even Joanie. Well, probably not Joanie…I’ve heard she’s the queen bee of smart-mouthed teenagers. But at least she’d be entertaining.

Here’s the thing. You, my dear readers, will experience first-hand what happens when families harbor tragic secrets, lie to each other to keep those secrets, then are thrown together with total strangers in the most extreme of circumstances. Talk about ripped hearts and flaring tempers and…oops—no spoilers intended! You’ll have to read it for yourself…a tall tale of confrontation, brokenness, and redemption in the majestic mountains of Washington State.

Gotta get this interview off to be posted. Have a great day, and stay tuned for the next installment of The Master’s Inn Character Interviews.

Broken Glass

“You are the light of the world…” (Matthew 5:14)

Image by Marcela Bolívar from Pixabay

My husband and I are planting a new lawn on our five acres. He has worked for weeks preparing the soil, where once nothing but weeds have grown for the last three decades we’ve lived here, and for decades before that. It’s a sizeable chunk of dirt, 100′ x 75′. When finished, there will be enough lawn to erect a volleyball net, or even play a game of midget soccer.

We’ve found some interesting shards of the past in and under that dirt. Coiled and rusted fragments of bed springs, parts of foundation supports, pieces of old tools, roots of long-dead trees now faded into oblivion, along with some items we can’t identify. We’ve filled multiple buckets with the history of our piece of land.

And rocks…lots of rocks. We’ve thrown those rocks atop a nearby depression in the ground, the final resting place of three dogs we’ve owned.

The most interesting to me are the hundreds of pieces of broken glass we’ve scavenged out of the dirt. Most are tiny and jagged, barely noticeable. Some are larger, and we’ve surmised from the shapes that they could be parts of cups, plates, or even windows. We’ve guessed that perhaps the property owners from bygone days used the area as a personal landfill. Every time my husband drags the harrow around the dirt with his tractor, more glass emerges.

The easiest way to see the glass is to stand on the edge of the plot of dirt when the sun is bright overhead. Light glints from almost every square inch. Winking in the sunlight, the area looks like a small city at twilight, the downtown lights shining to light the way for folks going out on the town for the evening. It’s a magical sight.

Jesus calls His followers to be “the light of the world”. Thinking about that, standing on the edge of our patch of dirt, it occurred to me that if I could somehow reconstruct the hundreds of glass shards into their original forms…cups, plates, bowls, windows…and see them as they were, the reflected light wouldn’t look the same, nor would it be as effective. The unbroken glass would be useless to shine the light into every inch and corner of the space.

The glass must be broken and scattered in order to shed light on the entire tract of dirt.

As lights for Jesus in this dark and dirty world, we must be broken and scattered. Only then can we be effective. Only then can every square inch of our world be exposed to the Light.

Don’t be afraid to let Him break you. Only then can new life spring from the dirt.

Image by Christine Engelhardt from Pixabay

Breaking News!

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Sorry about the shameless blog title…I’ve wanted to use it ever since, oh, about the end of January 2020.

I do have exciting news, though! Let me give you a little background first.

Nine people have been staying with me since 2012. Nine. Three families-six adults and three children. I know, right? That’s a lot of house guests the last eight years. And they aren’t exactly polite visitors, either, let me tell you. At times they’ve been downright rude!

I’ve been sound asleep and I hear this banging around in the kitchen, or even in my office; I investigate, and end up awake the rest of the night. They prowl around the yard when I’m out watering my plants. They jump in the car with me, uninvited, when I go to the grocery store. They tag along when we go to church and sometimes make it impossible for me to listen to the pastor, or even sing for crying out loud. And don’t even get me started on what happens when I’m trying to read. Oy!

One of the children is most annoying. She’s fourteen and has made whining and complaining and slamming doors an art form. Two of the men are retired marines with issues. I kind of feel sorry for them, though, because they still have flashbacks on occasion. It’s rather frightening to watch. And their wives don’t always know what to do. One of the marines is the father of the annoying teenager…which probably doesn’t help with his PTSD.

My life hasn’t been the same since they came to stay with us. Can you hear the self-pity in my voice?

But…the breaking news. They’re moving out soon! Finally, I’ll be able to have a thought in my head that I don’t have to share with them. Finally, I can fix a meal without using every dish in the house. And maybe a good night’s sleep?

And, best of all, you get to meet them!

Yeah, I’ve been pulling your leg. You guessed it. My nine house guests have all been occupying the house in my head. Before any of you Google one of those doctors to recommend to me, they’re all characters in my next release, The Master’s Inn. I can’t wait for you to meet them. (And they can’t wait to meet you.)

The Master’s Inn is a novel about three families, strangers to each other, stranded in a freak snowstorm…a story of secrets and lies, tragic loss, wounded families, and the God who will go to any lengths to rescue a human soul. He might even use a bear to grab their attention…

Stay tuned for a release date.

Image by Zine Mo from Pixabay

Enduring Truth

“For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”

(Psalm 100:5, NKJV)

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Have you ever questioned God’s goodness, or His ability to help you? If you haven’t, you are among a minuscule segment of humanity. I daresay every human born on the earth, both in the past and in the future, doubts God’s good intentions at times.

And when do those times occur?

For me, it’s when I make demands.

Help me, give me good things, make that person stop hurting me, don’t let me suffer. The problem with those demands is that they spring from an over-emphasis on one person: ME. Those demands have one goal: Make ME more comfortable.

I must come to the place in my life where I acknowledge that whatever circumstances come my way, they come by way of God’s hands first. They are filtered through His fingertips.

When I am hurt by someone or I experience suffering, my first question should be, “What do I need to learn about You from this hurt, Lord?” And the second should be, “How can I best learn it?”

The demands I listed may not be the same as yours, but most of us demand things from God that will make our lives easier. In God’s economy, a rough life is not the worst thing to be feared. A rough end to life is the thing most to be feared. Coming to the end of your life without having bent the knee to Jesus Christ brings a far worse life in the here and now, and it will culminate in a far worse place than we could ever imagine.

Jesus knows. The Bible says He went there for us so we would never have to.

As the verse above states, God’s truth will endure to the last generation of humans born on this earth. That gives me such peace and encouragement, because I have generations of my family coming after me who need to know and follow the Savior. After I’m gone from the earth, His truth will still be told and re-told in their lives. “But You, O Lord, shall endure forever, and the remembrance of Your name to all generations.” (Psalm 102:18, NKJV)

But I must do the best job I can to live out that truth while I’m alive, while my feet still touch the dusty ground. The eternal destinies of the generations who follow—my children, grandchildren, and their children—may indeed depend on the truth I allow to shine from my life.

Whatever hard circumstances God allows, handled His way, can become a beacon directing them back to Him. “This will be written for the generation to come, that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord.” (Psalm 102:18, NKJV)

Or, handled with anger, pride, and a why me attitude, those same circumstances can become a door slammed in their faces, cutting them off from the stupendous mercy and grace of the God who fiercely loves them and relentlessly pursues them.

What harsh life situations do you face? Have you determined to view them through the lens of eternity, and allow God to work on your behalf? “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children.” (Psalm 103:17, NKJV)

May God give us grace as we diligently seek to live life His way, not ours.

Just Show Up

Image by Grae Dickason from Pixabay

(This post is revised from a past release.)

When I was five and my sister was two, she slipped on the ice in our driveway and hit her head. Dad carried her into the house and laid her on the couch, my older brother and I looking on. We thought she was dead. But it wasn’t long before my parents roused her, and my brother and I went back outside to throw snowballs at each other.

Fast forward thirty years.

The hotel restaurant is busy. Men in business suits talked in whispers, eyeing each other like so many sharks and prey. Women laughed gaily and sipped wine, shopping bags spread around them. Wait staff glided anonymously between tables, coffee pots and trays perched precariously. Hushed voices spilled family secrets and the latest work gossip.

The tables are stylishly set in this upscale Bellevue, WA eatery. White tablecloths, gleaming silver and glassware, soft green napkins. A small spray of red and yellow dried flowers in the center of each table lent an air of elegance to the room. It’s a place where successful people pause to talk about their success—in business, or shopping for the perfect dress for the upcoming company dinner.

I see her there now. Her name is Holly. Long fingers, longer than mine, wrapped around the white coffee cup, a cloud of steam rising. Chestnut hair pulled back from her forehead by a colorful headband, then flowing over her shoulders like a cascading waterfall. Intense hazel eyes stared out the window at cars coming and going—looking for one in particular—then back down to her hands, tight around the cup.

She doesn’t quite fit in with her surroundings—something is off. But her clothes are as impeccable as ever. Black turtleneck sweater under brown leather jacket, slim jeans, ankle boots. Thin gold bracelet and matching necklace and earrings. She always knew how to dress.

She shifts in her seat to look at the entrance, presided over by a black-tied concierge. Glances quickly around the room at each occupied table. She waves an approaching waitress away. Then gazes out the window again. Looks at her watch. I see the delicate hands from where I stand just over her right shoulder—she arrived at noon—and it’s now 3:30PM.

She looks up when the front door opens again. Her eyes shine in anticipation. When the elderly couple shuffles in and is greeted by the concierge, she sags back in her chair, the light fading from her eyes.

I move closer to her. I have to see her face more clearly. I step to the table next to her—unoccupied—and sit, the heavy linen tablecloth brushing my knees as I sit facing her. She doesn’t see me, but now I’m close enough to see the unshed tears in her eyes. I reach out as if to touch her cheek, to comfort her, but I’m too far away from her. I hold my hand out, suspended for a moment, then let it drop back to my lap.

Because I’m not sitting in that restaurant at the table next to her. We had agreed to meet that day, Holly and I—my only sister—but I forgot. Forgot about the arrangements we’d made to have coffee after my work conference was over, before I drove back home to Yakima. She lived in Monroe, WA with her husband and two young boys. We hadn’t seen each other for several months, since Christmas, and she’d asked if we could meet when she found out I’d be in Bellevue that February, in 1989.

I’m not sitting near her in that restaurant because I forgot.

The phone rang at dinnertime after I arrived home. She said, “Where were you? I waited for hours.”

I was aghast at myself for not remembering our date. I apologized profusely. She said it was okay, she understood. She always understood. We talked a few minutes more. I asked her if there was something in particular she’d wanted to talk to me about. She said, “No, nothing special. Just family stuff, just to catch up.”

The conversation ended when I said, “Well, gotta get dinner. We’ll talk soon.” We said goodbye.

That goodbye was the longest ever. A month later, my beautiful little sister—my only one—took her own life. She was thirty-two.

When I was five, I thought she was dead. Now, at thirty-five, I couldn’t believe she was. That I’d never see her face again or the graceful way she moved. Hear her infectious laughter. I couldn’t believe that my lame apology was almost the last thing she’d heard me say.

The days after are a blur to me. People came and went like actors on a stage, saying how beautiful she was, a great mother, an amazing person. They came and went through the hole in my heart.

And now another thirty-one years have gone by since that day, the 25th, in March 1989. And each year I come to this month asking myself what if?

What if I’d shown up? Maybe she would be here, watching her grandchildren grow up—and mine.

If I’d shown up, would I have been able to make a difference? Perhaps. I don’t really think I’m so important or wise that I could have made a difference. But don’t you see? I’ll never know.

I felt like—still feel like—an accomplice in her death. I manage to talk myself out of those feelings most of the time, but they still have the power to squeeze the breath out of me.

I write this because I’m still learning to just show up.

We never know when we’re having the last conversation with someone we love.

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