What’s in a flag?

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Let me preface this by saying that I am not a racist, white supremacist zealot who believes the confederate flag should be widely flown over state capitals in the south. I am a woman who grew up in the 60’s, a woman with vivid memories of what segregation was and the suffering of those who struggled to end that tragic era in American history. I cry when I watch the movie The Help. I celebrate when I “Remember the Titans”. I have a painful memory of my dad, in his ignorance, telling Mother that he was reluctant for me to ride to school with “those boys” in the 1950s in Indiana (a state so much more progressive than his home in the south). I didn’t understand that he was talking about the color of their skin.

But, a flag is just a piece of cloth, a part of this country’s history. It has no power to think, to plot, to obtain a weapon, or to pull a trigger. Destroying every confederate flag, every likeness of one, will do nothing to end the violence that marks our culture The confederacy existed. The Civil War happened. Changing school mascots and fight songs (Fort Smith’s the Rebels and “Dixie”) will not heal the wounds caused by bombs and bullets and words.  Changing the name of a street named “Confederate Boulevard” will not cause one extremist, one terrorist, one mentally deranged, one hate-filled and evil individual to forget their desire to injure innocent people. Destroying all reminders of that tragic chapter in America’s history puts us at risk of forgetting the reality–that American blood was shed on this soil because of man’s desire to control and use others for monetary gain, because of political forces desiring more power for the states and less for the federal government, and because of the ill-conceived and non-Biblical notion that all men are NOT created equal and that the color of one’s skin or the home of one’s ancestors is a formula to measure that individual’s worth.

Maybe we do need to see this flag occasionally, to remind us of just how bad things were. To remind us of the horrors of an America disunited. To inspire us to be more tolerant, more loving, more kind, and more prayerful. History exists so that we can learn from our mistakes. Have we really learned the lessons of the Civil War? The flag is not the problem. People are the problem. Evil exists in this world. Sin exists. Human nature is not perfect. We need more than just our humanity to keep us in line. We need God.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Our land needs to be healed. Not just to be healed of those who cause mass murders and terrorist attacks, although, of course,  we all desire that those events should cease to exist. But to be healed of thinking that we can handle it all by ourselves. Our American tendency to a belief that independent individualism is the answer to all things is inherently flawed. This country was founded by men of faith. Our money reads “In God We Trust”. I’m afraid that we are trying to blame these tragic events on flags and guns and other inanimate objects that have no power to think or act on their own. It is human nature, which is by definition sinful nature and subject to evil influence, that attacks our land and the peoples of this world. Let us remember in whom we trust and remember his promise as quoted above. Let us each search our hearts for any errant ways and ask God to heal this land, beginning with “me”.

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“Freely Given”, a year later. . . .

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It came to my attention (courtesy of Facebook) that one year ago yesterday, July 13, 2014, to be exact, a photo was posted on that social media site. It was a quickly snapped photo of me, while at work on my “real job” as a nurse practitioner, holding the final proof copy of Freely Given, my first novel, self-published with the help of Create Space. It is not my favorite photo of myself–a bad hair day–but it does record a momentous occasion. Because I became, with that event, officially a published author.

Unfortunately, I am more of a writer than a publicist or promoter, and I cannot describe stellar sales for the book. However, I am gratified by the number of people who have shared their unsolicited opinions, verbally or written, that they enjoyed the book and that it was thought provoking.

I do now understand the issue with “platform” as being critical to success as an author. Understanding does not lead to mastery. Understanding does not sell books. And, understanding does not get me off the hook. I have to keep working at it. What will free me from anonymity? Any constructive advice is welcome!

However, those who have read Freely Given are often asking me about the next book in the series, which is titled Colorado’s Choice. The character Colorado is one of my favorites from the first novel, perhaps because he reminds me of my dear husband, who has strong “cowboy” roots. As a teen Donnie “broke” horses to ride in order to earn spending money.  He did a bit of bull riding in local rodeos. In one phase of his life he trained bird dogs professionally, and he once owned and showed a National Champion in the National Bird Hunters Association field trial system. The dog was a pointer named Persimmon Ridge Jake. Donnie has an extraordinary mind, understanding the intricacies of plumbing and electrical construction work, and has been licensed with both Master Plumber and Master Electrician licenses. He designed and built our home after researching “concrete form construction”  in order to protect us from the tornadoes that so frequently strike in Arkansas. He also researched and constructed the ultimate “safe room” in our home. He is a strong, kind, opinionated, loving, and gentle man who will do whatever it takes to help someone in need, who has numerous male friends who often seek his advice, and  who is my best friend.

Many of you have asked about the next story. Just let me say that there is a new woman in town, a woman with a past, a woman in need. A dark side to Four Corners comes to light (no pun intended). Colorado has a secret. Charlotte is struggling to find her way as the single sister of the happily married Preacher Chad. She, too, has a secret, and has developed a propensity to get herself in tight situations. And then, there is the ongoing challenge of opening a domestic abuse shelter right in the middle of Four Corners, where everybody knows everybody else.

How will it all end? We shall see. . . . . . . . . .

                                                                                                                    Kathy Parish headshots 2014 (3 of 6)

I, too, can have a secret!

Medicare and me. . . .

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My middle son reminded me last week that I’ve not posted on this site since April. Thanks, son. I was aware of that fact. (And I don’t recall you taking very kindly to my reminders of what you should do–but, that’s another subject for another day.) I’ve had a bit of writer’s block, I guess. I’m trying to blame that on a milestone I reached in May. That’s right. I am now legally a “senior” with Medicare rights and benefits. Somehow turning 65 does something to one. I don’t recall many other birthdays impressing me too much. Well, there was year 30–that was a big one–I was no longer a “twenty-something” with all the youthful connotations that inspires. That one depressed me for all of about 3 days. But I was really too busy to worry about birthdays 40, or even 50. Finishing my master’s degree in nursing. Career demands and changes. Family issues. Single parenthood and then grandparenthood.

But, now, ten years happily into my second marriage, I am no longer the lone adult in the family. Yes, my kids have reached chronological adulthood, but do mothers ever really stop worrying about them and their choices? Even two of my grandchildren have reached legal adulthood. I am very proud of both of them. My handsome 14 year old grandson is rapidly becoming an adult, growing physically and spiritually. And I have a great-granddaughter to brag about. I did not dread the turning 65 milestone and do not resent the Medicare business. I actually bragged about it a bit–it gives me a little leverage since I’m older than most of the medical staff I work with! So, what have I been in such a slump about? I’m trying to figure it out.

TEN REASONS I’M NOT BLOGGING ENOUGH:

1. My time away from my paying job seems more priceless every week. I count the days till I’m off and treasure every moment away from the job. And, face it, sometimes writing is just plain work.

2. The view from my front porch, where a breeze is almost always blowing, is irresistible.

3. There is always one more new recipe to try, many of my own imagination. What about a little citrus/dill/butter sauce for that salmon?

4. I am hooked on The Whispers, The Astronaut Wives Club, and Blue Bloods and can hardly wait for Downton Abbey and Cedar Cove to begin their new seasons.

5. I have three unread books on my nightstand.

6. I have twelve (yes, 12!) unread books on my Kindle.

7. I have one-click shopping on Amazon (therefore, #5 and #6 above).

8. Pedicures and visits to the hairdresser have become necessities, not luxuries. Have to camouflage that gray hair and reaching my toenails with a steady hand is a lot harder than it used to be!

9. I love my aging mother and want her to be cared for and happy.

10. My husband is my best friend and just sitting and holding hands with him makes me VERY happy.

So, what do I do with all this information? Beats me! I keep reminding myself that, yes, I do want to be a success as a writer. And, yes, I understand that in this day and time it’s all about “platform” and visibility and followers and presence.  But somehow I found that I need something more to keep me going.

And now I have found that “something”. Almost everyday someone in my world of acquaintances compliments the first book or asks how the second one is coming. Thank you to all who inspire me and remind me to keep plodding along in this venture. And, yes, thank you, son, for noticing my blog absence. I am flattered that you follow my blog presence!

I always come back Jeremiah 29:11, which reads:

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Writing has been a part of my whole life–life as a student, life as a healthcare professional, life as a teacher, life as a manager and administrator in a healthcare system. I grew up writing letters–yes, communicating via postal service! I have a trunk full of prayer journals. Perhaps God knew that I needed 65 years of life experience and numerous faith challenges in order to fulfill his purpose for me at this time in my life. Perhaps my time is coming. Or, perhaps, my time is now.

Please, Lord, show me the path to take, give me the words to write, and strengthen my focus, discipline, and desire. And may it all serve your purpose and plan.

My rope …………

photo             I am obviously NOT an artist. However, the crude little drawing depicts in a very deliberate sense how I’ve been feeling. A good friend of mine often quotes a phrase that describes the survival skill illustrated by the drawing. When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.—Franklin D. Roosevelt I really didn’t know the quote could be attributed to anyone famous until I read a motivational piece in a nursing journal recently. It spoke of resilience and flexibility and focus and adaptation as techniques to conquer burnout. Recently those qualities have been lacking in my life. My friend also says that stress is the daily reminder we have that we are still alive. Alive I surely must be. However, I was beginning to doubt my ability to survive. This week I have been reminded of some truths. They have touched my heart and enlightened my mind and strengthened my will to persevere.They have inspired me to not only hang on to that rope, but maybe to start climbing up it to higher ground. Because the ground of giving up the fight and giving in to despair is quicksand that will only suck me down further into a dark prison of defeat. What are the truths?

  • There is more to life than just the struggle here on earth. I have a Savior, Jesus Christ, and a perfect, joyful, eternal home awaits me when this life is over. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1)
  • God has a plan for my life, and He says in Jeremiah 29:11 that it is a “plan to prosper me and not to harm me”, a plan to “give me a hope and a future.” Furthermore, He says in Romans 8:28 that “all things work to the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Yes, I may not enjoy the storms of this life, but I can know that, as long as I “keep the faith”, they are growing me into a better person.
  • Even more encouraging is the truth that, even when I am too distraught, confused, or weak to articulate my hurts and needs, God hears my plea. Romans 8:26 reminds that, when I do not even know what to pray for or what the answer is, “the Spirit himself intercedes for me with groans that words cannot express.” And even Jesus himself prayed for me as recorded in John 17:20 when He says, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their (the disciples’ and early church’s) message.”
  • I can do this! Not in my own strength, but in His strength. “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) Not in my own strength, but through the blessing of loving friends and family who are constantly lifting us up in prayer as we face the challenges of these days.

My challenge now is to keep these truths fresh in my heart and to never forget the immeasurable goodness of God’s grace, love and mercy. I pray for each of you the same assurance.

If you’re happy, and you know it . . . .

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap);

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap);

If you’re happy and you know it, then your smile will surely show it;

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap).

I have, as many children of my generation, sung many renditions of the above verse. Things about stomping one’s feet or shouting Amenall to demonstrate one’s inward joy. But what happens when that inward joy, any outward sign of happiness, the basic desire to live are subtracted from a life? I have experienced it, not personally (although sometimes I think I may get there!), but as an observer, a caregiver, a mother. And, just to make things really clear for you–IT’S NOT PRETTY.

Our journey through this struggle has encompassed eleven years of our lives. Of course, I know it really began prior to that, but I was in the state of blissful ignorance/denial that parents sometimes love to embrace. The doubts sometimes haunt me. If I had recognized it sooner, would things be different? Would my child’s body be unscarred, her mind clear, her moods stable? Would the fear of losing her be relegated only to things like motor vehicle accidents and terrible physical illnesses and terrorist attacks and vicious murderers? Would I no longer take a deep breath before going to wake her in the morning, my heart seized with the fear that this time she would not awaken to my touch?

I suffer with her, you know. A recent relapse resulted in the most vacant expression I could ever imagine would cross one’s visage. Her eyes were deep wells of emptiness, and I knew we were, once again, in trouble. I knew that because she couldn’t hide it, and, believe me, she is the ultimate master at putting on the good front. Carefully dressing, accessorizing, making up her face, and always smiling sweetly in the presence of others. She is a loving, sensitive, tormented soul dedicated to suffering in silence so no one will be worried. Little does she realize that I see through it all.

ECT is the course of treatment at present, with its frightening and debilitating memory loss. However, she not only now smiles sweetly and silently, but also sleeps and eats and graces us with an occasional laugh that lights her face with forgotten joy. And, I will gladly and gratefully take that in trade–to replace the fear that she will finally, in desperation, tired of the torment, convince herself that life is, indeed, not worth the struggle.

Dear Reader, I know we all have our ups and downs, heartbreaks, disappointments, and generally bad days. I pray none of you or your loved ones have the burden of true, life-threatening, intractable depression. I wrote this for me–a catharsis of sorts–but also for you. If you are one of those suffering, hang in there, get help, don’t give up. If you are one of the fortunate ones who are “happy and you know it”, don’t just clap your hands. Get down on your knees and thank God, for that is one of the greatest blessings you will ever know.

All things Downton. . .

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I confess to being a latecomer to Downton fandom. It was toward the end of the third season before, tired of hearing conversations about people and places I just didn’t know, I took the leap and became totally addicted. My daughter and I then, in a viewing frenzy, attempted to quench our thirst for all details of Downton’s past by viewing seasons one, two, and the totality of season three on DVD. Ah, the satisfaction! Season four was savored in real time as we DVR’d each episode and saved it for a time we could view together–sometime that the male members of our household were otherwise occupied. And now we are likewise engrossed in a week by week feast of the people and plots of Downton. And now I see, as I “shop PBS” that the Season 5 DVD (U.K.Edition) is “available, in stock, and leaves warehouse in 1-2 full business days”, along with a FREE Downton Abbey Sampler Pack of 6 Teas!! Who would have thought you could see Season 5 in one marathon viewing session before the rest of its devotees have seen episode four?

I’ve been attempting to decipher the elements of our attraction to the Downton Abbey saga. This is a very complex issue. I do love the fashions. The costuming is veritable eye candy, even when worn by Dowager Lady Grantham. Of interest are the different fashion tastes that have been apparent as one compares Lady Mary’s attire with that of her sisters Lady Edith and, the now deceased Lady Sybil. And then there’s cousin Rose to consider, with her youthful, rebellious, yet charming ways.

Then there’s the more intellectual enticement of the morsels of historical facts that are strewn throughout the plot. The reign of King George the V of Great Britain is the backdrop for this tale of aristocracy and those who serve them. The sinking of the Titanic claimed the lives of Lord Grantham’s cousins, James and Patrick, and we all remember his distress that a mere third cousin once removed thus became his heir. The horror of the Great War (WW I) did not leave the household unscathed. Topics of socialism, racism, sexuality, and women’s rights pervade the story. There’s more here than just romance.

But, romance there is. Sometimes my Bible-belt morality is, indeed, a bit taken aback by the turns and twists of relationships, but, through it all, one finds oneself developing a fondness for the all-too-human characters and their frailties.

But, at this moment, on this day, I think the thing that enchants me most is the freedom that the aristocracy has to pursue various interests. After all, they don’t clean. They don’t shop for food. They don’t cook. They don’t do laundry, nor do they mend clothing or polish shoes. They don’t drive or dress themselves. They have all the time in the world to do whatever appeals to their fancy.

That sounds rather, well, tacky of me, doesn’t it? You have to understand my life at the moment. I try to be an excellent healthcare provider, which occupies a major portion of my time. At my house there is cleaning and laundry and shopping and cooking to be done, and, trust me, I seem to do a lot of it. There are demands on my time that I prioritize highly–teaching a Sunday School class, singing with the church choir as we lead worship, daily devotion, regular worship, acts of service. I do not begrudge these things–they bring me joy. Yet, there is the “other thing”. I long to be a productive writer. This is the thing that gets placed on the back burner, shoved to the back of the line, listed last on “things to do today”. And, somehow, someway, I must find the discipline to make the time, focus the mind, and, as Nike puts it, just do it. Because I am convinced I am meant to do it. I am convinced I have things to say.

Perhaps they are not great things in the literary sense–I’m rather sure they’re not. But words that inspire, entertain, and tell a story–the act of drafting, editing, and sharing words like that is, perhaps, another calling for my life, just as nursing has been.

So, dear reader, send a prayer my way that I will find my way, please?

A cup of tea. . .

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Lord,

I long for a little time.

Time to sit with a cup of tea,

Just you and me.

Time to be still

And listen for your voice.

My prayers have become

Lists of things for you to fix.

And I’ve lost the gift

Of just enjoying

Your Presence.

Help me, Lord,

Find some time,

Some place,

Some way

To shut out the craziness

Of the day.

And be still,

With a cup of tea,

Just you and me

Together

In the silence

Of your peace.