Thursday, June 4, 2020

A Trio of Poetry

The Tree

Photo by Corbin Bell on Unsplash


She drove a nail into his heart and buried it deep.
Though the pain was crippling, he didn't cry out.
He embraced it. Grew in spite of it.
Determined to survive, become his tallest, stretch his furthest.
To age and have someone admire his strength
And die one day on his own terms, greater than he'd ever been.


~~

The Pledge

I will surround myself
with beautiful things,
paint every moment pastel.

I will choose to see the sunlight,
to rest in the shadows,
and always lean into the wind.

I will hold hands with hope and laughter.
I will dance in the rain,
believing tomorrow is greater than today.




~~

My Place: An Ode To The Healthy Introvert

I find my happiness in the mundane, in the same-old, same-old. I see my life as a straight line, devoid of dips and valleys, but also heights or mountain tops. I don't want to fall or fly. I define boring.

I'm organization, keep-to-the-schedule. Never early. Never late. I am dependable, faithful. The gears that keep progress turning. While some soar or climb, taking a circuitous, scenic route. I am the highway that enables them to get there. Usually misunderstood but satisfied with my existence in the box I have made my home.

I like these walls. Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t have regret. Don’t shake your head and say, “If only she got out more.” Don’t worry over me or have any deep concerns. I am not unhappy in this space. Nor unsettled. Nor unsatisfied. I’m not gazing out the windows, longing for something that hasn’t been. For someplace I cannot go.

I have found my place.

 


I don’t need to dress up to enter or have to act a certain way while I’m inside. This is me. I lack only your understanding. That while you swim and hike, bike and boat, while you sail over foreign lands and seas, while you glory in other cities, cultures, and landscapes, during these events that you have chosen, you know that for all you’ve seen, for every mile you’ve walked, every food you’ve sampled from some famed table, there are people like me, fulfilled by schedule, by an afternoon’s sunshine, a summer’s light breeze.

My life is not a weight I need anyone to carry. Oh, it has good and bad moments like anyone else, but they are not because I’m unhappy where I am. Instead, I know who I am, and I accept it. I may search for a job, for entertainment … yes, even in my square of life, I need that, too … but my searching doesn’t lead me to become like you.

I won’t wake up and wish to change my life one iota. Perhaps, in that is strength. That I can rejoice with you for every gathering you attend, every concert, every crowd you navigate. That you will rejoice with me when I simply turn another page. Same house, same room, same chair. And love me anyway.

Just like I am.

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Suzanne D. Williams, Author
www.feelgoodromance.com

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

One Man Against The World

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions (Hebrews 11:32-33)

The future of Christianity came down to the faith of one man. It wasn’t the first time. The book he sought to translate was replete with stories of a similar nature—one man or woman facing armies, nations, kings with only the passion in their heart and a belief in God to defend them.


William Tyndale, Protestant reformer and Bible translator. Portrait from Foxe's Book of Martyrs.


William Tyndale released the first Bible in the English language in 1526. A learned scholar in Greek, having trained at Oxford and, probably, Cambridge, he was eminently qualified. But what he set out to do was strictly forbidden.

The church was corrupt. Forgiveness was bought and sold (something called “indulgences”) and sin rife amongst the priests. Reading the Bible in anything other than Latin or Greek was illegal. No one who was anyone in power wanted the Bible written in English. English printers were threatened if they attempted the project, and eventually, Tyndale, fearing for his life, fled to Germany, where it took two tries (and a betrayal) to accomplish it.

To put this in perspective, Martin Luther died in 1546. William Shakespeare was born in 1564. The King James Bible wasn’t completed until 1611, almost one hundred years later.

Today, the familiar phrases read in churches all over the world are credited to Tyndale. The phrasing and rhythm of its words are Tyndale’s. One man, who with faith in God, faced incredible odds and did something that looked impossible.

… if God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow, shall know more of the scripture than thou dost. – William Tyndale to the English clergy, 1502

The beginning of the Gospel of John, from Tyndale's 1525 translation of the New Testament.


 He was right. No man could extinguish the light that burned in men’s hearts once they’d laid hold of the printed page. Faith in the gospel spread like wildfire, anointing men for the next few thousands of years.

Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. (Heb 12:1 CEV)

The list of “faith giants” in the previous chapter, referred in Hebrews 12, wasn’t written to make me feel smaller, but to show what great company I’m in. Because the Good News of Christ is made for everyone – Jew and Greek, Gentile, African, Nicaraguan, Irish. (Gal 3:28)

I am meant to accomplish great things, to change the lives of those around me, even if it’s just the man or woman next door. You never know the impact of your faith-filled words. Of the pattern of your life. We set an example in everything we do – at the grocery store, at the post office, at our employment, or our children’s school.

We set an example at home, and perhaps, sometimes, that is the hardest part of all. To walk by faith in the midst of people who’ve seen us at our worst. One person holding hands with the Father, the Word of God on our lips, to accomplish our day. To, maybe, raise a faith-giant, a William Tyndale, in our children.

Think of it. (Heb 12:3)

*Photos From Wikipedia


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Suzanne D. Williams, Author
www.feelgoodromance.com
https://sdwauthor.blogspot.com/
  

www.yaybooks.com

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

What Could Be: A Short Story

Photo by Joe Yates on Unsplash

I unlocked the door, trying not to drop everything in the process. But the day’s mail clenched in one hand, a bag of groceries and my purse in the other, it all threatened to fall anyway.
“Whoa. Let me help.”
The unfamiliar voice approached from behind, and a man reached for the grocery bag. My gaze met his, and the years fell away. I was no longer fifty-two but seventeen, and I’d snuck out of class to make out with Philip Terrington behind the school building. The warm bricks rasped my back through my cream-colored blouse. His lips met mine, fervid. He tasted like school pizza.
“Beth?” Surprise sat in his voice. He straightened and glanced at the door.
The image of him and me doing the tongue tango faded. That was so long ago.
“Thanks,” I said, turning the key. I let us in, and the general disorder smacked me in the chest. I’d left in a hurry, late for work. My cereal bowl sat at my place at the table, dried flakes on its rim. My empty orange juice glass had a film on it. I’d kicked my slippers onto the living room rug, one lying sideways beside the other. On the coffee table, a sea of papers, mostly real estate ads, spread this way and that. As if I could afford to move out. I couldn’t.
“Here, let me …” I dropped my purse with the mail in the only armchair and reached for the groceries.
He relinquished them but didn’t go away. I guess I couldn’t really expect that. Desperation to be alone clawed at me. I tried not to show it. “You want to come in?”
He nodded, seeming unsure, and stepped in further, shutting the door.
He’d aged well, still slim and athletic like he’d been in high school. His hair was streaked with gray and a bit thinner in the back, but he had those amazing stormy gray eyes and a wide mouth I could still taste.
“Thirty-five years,” I said.
“Long time,” he replied. He rocked back on the heels of a pair of black loafers. They’d seen use, the toes scuffed, the heels worn.
“So where’ve you been?” we asked at once. And laughed together.
I opened the grocery bag and lifted my few items out:  bread, plain yogurt, a can of tomato soup, and a bag of chocolate candies I’d included on a whim. My budget was tight, but if you didn’t indulge, once in a while, you’d go crazy.
“You first,” he said. “I heard you went to Oklahoma State.”
I nodded and stuck the yogurt in the fridge. “Got a degree in business, then after graduation worked for my dad. He had a heart attack and died, three years later. The company folded.”
Compassion etched onto Phillip’s face. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
I shrugged. “It was long ago.” And my dad wasn’t the best boss. I kept that to myself. No need to defame the dead. Dad had loved me in his way, but that was just it … in his way.
“I went to nursing school after that. I hated business really. Got a job at the local hospital and was there for twenty years. So, it all worked out.”
“What brought you here?” He waved one hand wide.
I was disinclined to answer. I grasped my breakfast dishes and carried them to the sink. I dug out the percolator. “Coffee?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Can’t stand the stuff.”
That seemed weird, but then, I hated grapes. I shivered thinking about it and sought to cover the emotion, searching for the coffee grounds. I was a couple minutes setting the thing up. The pot rumbling, I took a seat at the table.
“Please,” I said, and I kicked out a chair.
He accepted, sitting off center, and I got a good whiff of his cologne. I don’t know what it is about a man’s cologne. It either repels you entirely or drops you in his lap. I was more “in his lap” at that moment. But it’d been many years since I’d been close to a man.
Not close physically, you understand? I was near to men all the time walking the sidewalks or riding the elevator. But close, as in with any intent between us.
“No one claims your time?” he asked.
I stared at him. Was he asking just to know?
“Not anymore. Married and divorced. You?”
He smiled. “Old stubborn bachelor.”
That surprised me. I mean, he was attractive. We’d been in my apartment for all of fifteen minutes, and already, I was thinking that. Surely, other women weren’t blind.
He leaned back in his seat, his head tilted. “I had a few opportunities, but they never did ‘light my fire.’” He leaned forward, propping one elbow on the table. “I guess I was hung up on someone else.”
He didn’t mean me.
He couldn’t mean me.
Nervous, I stood again. “I have cola or lemon-lime soda.”
“Lemon-lime sounds good.”
I dug out a glass and filled it partially with ice then poured the soda over it. I carried it to him and placed it in his reach. Letting go of the glass, though, he took my hand and held it. His palm warm, the heels of his fingers callused.
“Beth. This feels like fate.”
I trembled, unable to hide it.
“I’ve thought about you so much. I’ve regretted how I let things end.”
They didn’t really end. He just didn’t do anything to hang onto us. We kissed, went out a few times, and eventually, I knew that was as far as it’d go.
 I withdrew my hand and settled it in my lap. “I’ve had a good life,” I said. “I don’t know anything about yours.”
Not a darn thing, and he hadn’t opened up to me now either.
“Oh, I’ve done all right for myself.”
What did that mean? I didn’t ask.
“You live here?” I asked instead.
He didn’t answer. Feeling peeved, I stood again and fetched myself a coffee mug. I set it by the stove and faced away from him. I decided to answer his question from earlier. “I had some health issues and moved here for medical care. It took all my savings to cover what my insurance wouldn’t pay.”
“Health issues?” Concern filled his voice.
When I didn’t answer, his chair scraped back, and he approached. He curved one hand over my arm and turned me toward him. Ask me how a fifty-two-year-old woman could feel like she was seventeen again, and I can’t tell you. But there we were, inches apart, and I wanted to kiss him worse than ever.
I didn’t. I wasn’t seventeen.
“Breast cancer. I’m over it.” But not in the same shape. I’d had a breast removed. That’d kept me from ever dating. My ex had divorced me over it. Piece of work, that man. He’d hung on long enough to see I’d live then dumped me and remarried. “I’m fine,” I insisted.
Phillip’s grip relaxed, but he didn’t move.
“You have a job?” he asked.
I nodded. A job at the corner drugstore. I liked it actually. In a strange way, it reminded me of nursing. I saw a variety of people, got to chitchat and make them feel good.
“The rent’s not too high?”
In the building. The switch of topic threw me, so I didn’t respond. Why would he ask that anyway?
“I’m an investor,” he said.
When I held silent, he continued.
“I put my money into ventures to help fund things.”
He had money?
“Someone approached me, said they had a real estate deal that I should look at. Frankly, I wasn’t interested at all. I don’t typically buy real estate, and this one was on the rundown side. But it had good tenants, so I decided to take a risk. Call it a gut feeling.”
“I don’t know what that has to do with me,” I said.
The percolator was done, and I wanted coffee pretty badly. But he hadn’t let go.
“That I bought it basically sight unseen and came today to look around. I want to remodel, improve the look and put in a gym, maybe a pool.”
It hit me then where he was talking about, and a lump grew in my throat tall as Mt. Everest. He owned the building? And he’d found me, standing in the hall. Had to be a coincidence, though.
Silence enfolded us, not weird or awkward, but like we were thinking the same thing. Then he reached for his wallet, pulling it out of his back pocket. He opened it and flipped through some wrinkled photo pages. There between what must be his dog, a handsome golden retriever, and another shot of, had to be, his mom, was a picture of us. Seventeen, holding hands.
“You remember that?” he asked.
I stared at it. The state fair, and we’d ridden the Ferris wheel. I was scared out of my mind. Until he kissed me. That’d been the first time. My heart beating, my hands damp, the height entirely forgotten because I was hot and bothered.
It was just a kiss. Like all the others.
“I remember.”
“I was terrible at talking back then,” Phillip said. “Just terrible. I should have told you how I felt. When you went off to college, I knew I’d made a mistake, but I figured your life was better without me messing it up. So, as usual, I did nothing.”
He glanced toward my only window, a tiny square view of the neighboring building where someone else could look back at me.
“I don’t live here,” he said.
In this town, he meant.
“But I was thinking about relocating because …” He paused.
Does time stand still? Felt like it did, right then. I’m not a big believer in soulmates or true love. As I said, I’d had a good life. But I’d be stupid to think I’d forgotten him. I hadn’t.
“Coach Wallace is who told me about the place.”
My legs folded. Phillip caught me before I could hit the floor. He tucked me to him, and for the first time in ten years, I was in the right place. We fit together like two banged up puzzle pieces.
“Coach Wallace?” I got choked again.
Phillip nodded, and I craned my head back and looked at him. He lowered his mouth toward mine. Was it right or wrong to kiss after 35 years? I didn’t care. I’d beaten cancer and survived. I’d managed to get a job and scrape enough to live here. That was success, too. Why not kiss him and put the cherry on top?
His breath blew on my cheeks. I drank it in, thirsty, but not for drink.
“Coach passed away six years ago,” I said in a whisper.
Phillip leaned in further. “I waited six years to do it.”
That capped everything off for me. Six years ago, I was taking chemo. I didn’t live here. If he’d bought it then, we wouldn’t have met. But the fact was, he did, and I did, and he’d carried that photo of me around with him.
“No one bought it for six years?”
Phillip wagged his head. “It was waiting for me to find you.”
A little devil in my brain said this was foolish. I couldn’t fall for the boy from high school all over again. I didn’t really know if I was falling, for that matter, or how things would work out. I was sensible about it. But I deserved this kiss. I deserved it for what had been, for what should have been, for what could be.
He raised a hand to my cheek and stroked it with his thumb. I bent toward him eager, my thoughts not on us at seventeen, but on this moment, right now. I stood on my tiptoes the slightest bit, and he brought his mouth to mine. I was the bow being drawn across the strings, the music that was us sounded older and wiser, purposeful, but, in a way, also with that lively beat of youth.
Phillip pulled back, smiling. “We are out of practice. I think we’ll have to work on that.”
I matched his smile with one of my own. “You, sir, are letting my coffee get cold.”

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Suzanne D. Williams, Author
www.feelgoodromance.com
https://sdwauthor.blogspot.com/
 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I Write Romance


I am the last person who should be writing romance novels. I suppose I’m sentimental, and that lends itself to the genre. But honestly, when I sat down to write fiction, I never gave a thought to there being any romance in it.

As a teen, I read long historical fiction books, enthralled by the details of kings and battles. As a twenty-something and on into adulthood, my movie and TV choices were crime dramas, the more explosions the better. I didn’t (and don’t) watch romance movies, with the exception of Hallmark at Christmas (and I’m not sure why that is). Until I became a romance author, I didn’t read romance books.



 Needless to say, the disbelief by those that knew me was huge. “You’re writing what?” followed by either an incredulous look or hysterical laughter (okay, I may be exaggerating a tad, but I’m an introvert, so that’s where my brain took it). I spent (way) too much time trying to explain how it happened. As if I should make excuses.

I had no guide to go by except my imagination. No one taught me how to write. I didn’t go to college. I didn’t do a lot of writing in high school (though I did “some”). I was an avid reader who’d apparently somewhere in my years of books had soaked up enough knowledge to take a stab at it.

I sucked. I will tell you that up front. My early writings are awful, but gosh was I proud of them, romance and all. People’s opinions of little ol’ me and my new career didn’t stop me from trying, nor the rush of personal embarrassment when the new husband took his wife into their bedroom. I realized I had to go there and, once it had been written and published, that people would read it and know my brain had taken that turn.

Deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. And me red-faced by what was essentially a couple going in a door. Scene end.


Photo by Jared Sluyter on Unsplash

 I’ve had to go much further than that since, and I know, I know, there are still those who read my books and pooh-pooh. I no longer care. I write what God intended for me to write. I have found my voice, and as long as He approves, what others say doesn’t matter one whit.

You have read the Song of Solomon, right? All that about kisses and breasts and how amazingly manly he is? What about all those chapters in Genesis about Jacob and Leah and Rachel? Or how David killed a man to steal his wife, who he’d gotten pregnant? Fast-forward to the New Testament and the apostle Paul gives instructions for marriage, going so far as to say a husband and wife share rights to their bodies.

God created man and woman and instituted marriage in the first place. He created romance. He also created, with it, a list of rules Christians should go by where relationships are concerned. The church (and people in the church) continue to fight over the specifics, but my conscience is only answerable to God, and since He is sitting there with me, every step of the way, I’m not worried about what others think.

I write romance. That means kissing scenes, frequently the admiration of body parts, and (insert shriek) s-e-x. It means a man and a woman sometimes making wrong choices, but here’s the difference – turning to God at the end.

That’s what makes Christian romance different from anything else. Where there’s problems, the Word of God always has a solution, and my most important job as a Christian writer is to present those clearly. This doesn’t mean the story has to preach every time. I have books where the mention of God is minor, but I assure you, God was with me, writing, even then.



 I am a romance author. I accept the responsibility of that, the raised eyebrows, the cluck of people’s tongues. The low reviews because what I penned didn’t fit into someone’s church-minded mold. The sighs when someone else gets it.

Writing Christian romance is like constantly taking a dare. “I dare you to go there, Suzanne. I dare you to push things a little bit further, to depict the struggle.” And the victory. Challenge accepted.


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Suzanne D. Williams, Author

www.feelgoodromance.com

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

What I Wish Someone Told Me

I got it into my head to write fiction one afternoon, and I wish someone had sat me down and given me “the talk.” I’m not sure I would have listened. Anyone enthusiastic about a new project goes deaf, at first. You know how it is, you become an expert inside of twenty-four hours. But anyhow, looking back at that decision, there are several things I wish I would have known.




Every first-time writer is an idiot.

Honestly, if someone had told me how stupid I was, and I’d approached writing from said position of dumbness, I would have been better off. I wasted so much energy writing slop that, my fresh dedication to it set aside, needed to go in the dustbin. (It has since gone in the dustbin.)

There will always be a time of learning. No one goes from the bottom rung of the ladder to the top overnight (or halfway, whatever. I’m not being conceited). You need to write the slop to find your voice, your genre, and to learn how to write.

If only I’d gone slower and taken my time, I’d have this perfect shelf of books with my name on them. All organized and pretty, with less tattered pages and out-of-print, I-hope-no-one-sees-this editions.

What do you mean “plot?”

No one told me “plot” mattered. I had no instructions on how to plot. The word “outline” was never breathed in my direction. I didn’t know plot could stall, go awry, make rabbit trails, move at different speeds. I’d read lots of books, mind you, yet still, I knew beans about plot.

Or writing terms. I’d never herd of a protagonist. Or given any thought to writing styles. I didn’t know first person from third. I did have a good handle on punctuation. I was a proofreader for years but knowing commas will not help you write a book.

Books can be looooooong.

I should have known this. I used to love thick books. Now, if a book is only 20-30k, I’m ecstatic. But when I got started, I wrote a lot of stories around 15k and really thought I’d done something amazing. Someone should have mashed me back into my chair and, with a deep voice, warned me that was really only one-quarter of the total length of a novel, if that.

It’s taken me years to learn how to write 40k. I’ve worked hard at scene content, to know what to include. I skipped all over the place in the beginning. I see writers say they have to cut content, and that is like the best joke ever.

Don’t be a lazy writer.

Too many people say to break the rules. But in order to break them, you need to know them. To know them, you have to practice them. Good rule-breaking comes when the rules make sense.

Showing is better than telling. Avoid passive verbs. Don’t overuse “as” and “when.” These and many more serve a purpose, and frankly, the people telling you to break them are usually making an excuse for lazy writing.

Lazy writers rely on editors to fix their mistakes, instead of not making mistakes to start with. Lazy writers don’t think about their writing but put down whatever pops into their head. When most of writing is thinking, planning, squeezing out that one perfect sentence. On a great writing day, I’ve given myself a headache figuring a scene out.

Writing is more about bumps and bruises than it is accolades. Which brings me to my last point.

People can seriously suck.

If I’d known people sucked as much as they do, then I would have squared my shoulders for it a lot sooner. That story I adored, someone thought was “boring.” Another one, the reviewer actually said not to read my book, but instead, she recommended somebody else.

To be a writer, you must have a stiff spine and a good helmet because the darts are going to come. You must know who you are and what you believe and not care two rips what Granny McPherson says about your book. Maybe Granny ate too much garlic and read my book while fighting dyspepsia.

Not that I’m all that, you understand. Yes, writers must be willing to learn and correct their mistakes. On the other hand, so much of what readers say is caca. Knowing that would have saved me a lot of heartache.

In conclusion

Maybe you are that green-faced newbie I was, years ago. I applaud you for your new awesome book thing. At the same time, this is me grabbing you by the shoulders and shaking you so hard your brains rattle. “Are you nuts??”

You will spend hours, days, weeks, months with these fake people, and they won’t cooperate. They will do their own thing, no matter how hard you try to get them to behave. Characters don’t listen to writers. They don’t follow outlines (if you’re into those). They routinely make up their own minds.

When you think you’ve finally got them in line, you’ll release your private, perfect world to the public (or an agent-editor-publisher), and it’ll all go crazy. Before, it was just you and them. Now it’s you and them and other people’s opinions of them. It’s rejection and hair-pulling and defense mode and way too much time counting zeros. It’s talking about yourself in third person, because every writer loves doing that. It’s blurbs (gah!) and marketing and editing and graphic designers and web gurus.

But if you’ll hang in there on this rollercoaster we call writing, the target center of your back, your arms thrown wide, all come-and-get-me, the community of writers is great. And words are addicting. And book boyfriends really are better. And that one five-star review is the best high.

And seeing your name in print really is worth it, despite the mistakes, the I-should-haves. No, the writing won’t get easier, but being you, as a writer, will. I wish someone had told me that. To focus on the reward and less on the risk. Less on the potholes, the twisted ankles, the sprains. And more on who I would be, surrounded by stories I’d created.

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Suzanne D. Williams, Author

www.feelgoodromance.com

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

There Are No Words For That

What can I say that hasn’t been said? That the voices of thousands of fallen soldiers don't already speak from the grave. That I can’t describe with lines of flag-draped coffins, secured in the back of military aircraft. That I can’t read about on the headstones of Private First Class John Smith or Airman First Class Jane Doe. That I can’t count in the paced footsteps of guards, through rain and snow and summer heat in front of the Unknown Soldier’s tomb.




My words are but pale imitations of the real thing. Of a kid sent to Vietnam, age nineteen, trembling in his boots. Of a mom, finding out he won’t come home and clinging to an old baseball trophy. Of a dad, trying stoically not to cry, but be strong when his heart is breaking. Of a wife, with two kids, who look like their father, but won’t know or barely remember him twenty years from now.

The best thing I could say is, in fact, to say nothing at all. To, instead, show respect in my actions. To live each day with my priorities straight, knowing that nothing I can do will ever compare to that. To hold my chin up when the storms of life beat against me and survive. To always place my hand over my heart in Pledge of Allegiance to more than the flag of a nation, but to the soldiers who secured its stripes. Who founded each brick, each building, each political office, the football stadium, the corner drugstore, and a million houses in suburbia … all created from the blood of people far better than myself.




After all, I haven’t walked, knee-deep, in jungle morass, wondering where the enemy hides. I haven’t suffered desert heat, eating blowing sand, fearing that sweet-looking local woman actually plots my death. I didn’t feel the tear of a bullet or mortar round enter my flesh, thousands of miles from home. Nor shout for my mother in the darkness, which slowly steals my mind.

My life is a weak thread amongst a tapestry of much stronger ones, men and women of steel, who treated the cause as greater than their future. And wore the ultimate form of dedication, with their iron-clad sacrifices, securing the freedom of a woman, who’s written a handful of books some people liked and others, not so much.

There are no words for that. Not on Memorial Day or any other day of the year. Though, I suppose if I were to create them, I couldn’t speak them better than Ol’ Abe:

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” – Gettysburg Address, 1864

Never. Their deaths assured us of that.


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Suzanne

www.feelgoodromance.com
 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Christians and Books

The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. (2Co 5:14 PHILLIPS)

There are Christian books and also Christian authors. These two can function together – a Christian author can write a Christian book. Or separately – a book is written by a Christian author. Neither one is right or wrong. A Christian writer can market their book AS Christian. Or choose to NOT place their book under the Christian genre, without guilt, if it doesn’t go there.

Following this same thought, some Christians, who read books, prefer books targeted for Christians, whereas others have an interest in a wider scope of literature, not all specifically Christian. There are also non-Christian readers, who will read a Christian book if it’s presented in the right way. In any of these cases, as in the two groups of writers, no one is wrong.




Christians have a tendency to put people in a box. We create a set of rules and try to cram everyone inside. But God has made us all unique. As in normal, everyday items, what one person likes, someone else dislikes. Nothing is wrong with our differences as long as they do not fall outside of godly principles. (Certain principles of God’s Word are unalterable, and by “rules,” I don’t speak of those.)

Applying this to Christians and books (two separate things), there are stories my friends have written that I didn’t care for. And NOT because I felt they fell outside of the Christian faith. Sometimes it’s subgenre or style of writing that doesn’t work for me. Whatever the cause, IT ISN’T MY JOB TO CORRECT THEM. I must walk in the love of Christ and leave the reasoning behind it to the writer’s heart.

Yet, some readers, who profess to be Christian, rail against anything they don’t care for. What makes them uncomfortable becomes “wrong” and, therefore, anyone who writes or reads it has “fallen into sin.” Don’t get me wrong; sin can creep into writing. A Christian who writes can take things too far. BUT it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to bring conviction. Not mine. Not yours.

Ask yourself this:  who will reach people for Christ if everyone writes only books for those inside of our faith? How will my light shine on anyone if I keep the candle hidden? (Mk 4:21) Being practical, to reach someone who isn’t of like faith, I can’t write the same way I’d write for Christians. Breaking that down further, I can’t write the same for all Christians either because what one person enjoys, someone else won’t.

Some books are NOT written for Christians. They are written BY Christians. And that is perfectly okay. I can choose to pick their books up and read them or set them aside. Whatever I do, though, however I respond to them, I do it with meekness, humility, and patience. I pray for them to use their talent to reach those in their circle of influence. (And by “reach,” I mean something as small as improving their day. They were entertained and forgot their troubles for a while. Not every storyline has to end with fiery salvation.)

Maybe someone who wouldn’t read a book by a Christian writer changes their opinion of Christian books or Christian people, in general, because of something that person published. Something I COULDN’T WRITE, whether because of topic, genre, interest, or culture.

Bottom line:  the principles of love in the Bible work well as a guide to both writers and readers (and especially when writing reviews). (1Co 13:4-8) Sometimes, “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all,” is your best bet. Set the book down and move on with your day. Find something you like better and leave the results of that author’s work up to God. To answer negatively affects both you, the reader, and the writer, as well. Yes, there are times a writer needs to own up and admit their faults, but again, that circles back around to letting God work in them.

Because ultimately, God knows more about that author than we do and all the readers their words will reach. It could be we can learn from them the most by examining our attitude and becoming better, kinder, more loving people.

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Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Virtuous Man (Devotional)

Rejoice with the wife of thy youth. (Proverbs 5:18)

When did you go astray, her husband? When did your job, your car, your hobbies become more important? That fishing trip, that game night, your “working vacation.” When did your life together become, her life and your life on parallel paths and not your steps together?

This is the woman you pledged your life to. This is for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health. This is the hand that wears the never-ending promise of your commitment. The arms you embraced because you had to get closer, had to feel her there, smell her perfume, and touch her hair.




This is the lame joke you told that made her laugh, age sixteen. Your longing to capture the sound in your ears, with your eyes, with your mouth. To drink it in and savor it, to linger, because it’s hers. Because she made your heart beat faster, your arms stronger, your goals make sense.

She pushed you forward in college. She encouraged you to go for it, to try harder, to try again. She lived in that tiny apartment with you, bumping elbows between the stove and the fridge.

She’s an adornment, a jewel to your otherwise boring existence, the beauty in the room that takes your breath away. A friend, a confidante, a lover. She’s the best of the earth and the sky and the stars, in all seasons.

Rejoice in the wife of your youth. The woman who picks up your clothes, scrubs your dishes, sweeps your floors. Avoids your misplaced, dirty shoes.

Rejoice in her endurance. To give your children life. To stay awake in the wee hours, rocking Jenny and James. Rejoice in what she forfeited to feed, to nourish, and to play.




Rejoice in her efforts. To pay the bills, walk the dog, navigate the grocery store. Find time for the gym, and Jenny’s dance classes, and James’s football games. Your family’s parade of awkward holiday meals.

Rejoice in her failings. That she falls but gets up again, stumbles but walks straight afterward. Rejoice that she chose you to support her, build her up, and carry her through.

Rejoice in her tears, her aches and her scars. Rejoice when she’s hurting. When she cuts her hand or stubs her toe. When her hair thins, her waistline thickens, her back curves. Rejoice when she’s PMSing. When she’s grumpy and ill-tempered. When she’s going through menopause.

Rejoice, remembering she’s tried her hardest to look her greatest. She’s given her all to make your life better. She put her best foot forward. For you.

Husbands, you in turn must treat your wives with tenderness, viewing them as feminine partners who deserve to be honored, for they are co-heirs with you of the “divine grace of life,” so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1Pe 3:7 TPT)

Much is said of the virtuous woman and rightly so. But be the virtuous man. The man who thinks of her first. Puts himself last. Sets himself aside for her joy, denying what he wants. To eat, to watch on TV. To do at 7 a.m.

Rejoice and give her a reason to wake up and be herself again tomorrow. Because you’re in this together. Your future is hers. Your knee sprain, car accident, hearing loss is hers to bear. The job you quit affects her. The bonus you got, that’s hers, too. It’s not fifty-fifty, but all-or-nothing, 100%. For everything she does, you do the same in return.




Buy her the shoes.

Compliment her dress.

Let her have dessert without counting her calories.

Admire the curves that came with time and age. The gray hair. The wrinkles.

And when she’s not at her best, admire that, too. She’s perfect exactly how she is, and if she isn’t today, then pray for her. Lift her up. Raise her spirits. Build her ego. Give and give and when you think you can’t do it any longer, give some more.

Life is short, and time is precious, and finding someone who will endure your foibles is rare and beautiful. Holding her hands, when you can’t walk anymore because your legs aren’t strong, when you need help in and out of the shower, when you can’t remember what happened, long ago in your youth, those are God-given gifts.

Rejoice while you can and look back at the ups and downs that she traveled with you. Then, when she’s gone, rejoice in how lucky you were for fifty-odd years, or thirty, or twenty, or ten.

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Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

Thursday, June 14, 2018

I Planted A Seed (Devotional)

And he said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?  (31)  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:  (32)  But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it. (Mark 4:30-32) 

I plant seeds in my garden, expecting them to become so much more than they appear to be. Rolling them around in my palm, they don’t look like much, and, in fact, are easy to lose hold of. The wind or a sudden movement sometimes tosses one onto the ground amongst other tiny particles where it’s gone forever. But if I can just hang on long enough to place it where I want it to grow, I will, one day, reap abundant things.

My grandfather on his tractor.

There’s a process to planting. My grandfather was a farmer, and long before he dropped the seed in the ground, he prepared the soil to receive it. He had to take into account the land’s ability to retain moisture. In low spots, he’d make great hills and plant the seeds on top. He also had to consider the type of seed. Was he planting tomatoes or green beans or corn? Different seeds will have different requirements. You can plant beans close together, but corn needs space. Knowledge was involved.

He had to know how deep to plant the seed. Most of my flower seeds only need to be barely covered. I’ll dust them with soil and think to myself how flimsy it seems. Birds, rain, any number of things can disturb the seed before it has a chance to do anything. My front flowerbeds are partially beneath the eaves of my house and when it rains, water will pour off the roof and create ruts. I know not to plant seeds there because they will be washed away.

In the spring, when the sun starts to warm the earth in my part of Florida, we’ll find flowers sprouting in the lawn from last year’s plants. Black-eyed Susans pop up between Bahia grass and lawn weeds, oblivious to the fact they shouldn’t be there and might get mowed. Go out further and there are tiny orchids, a natural plant that sits hidden all year, only to appear in full force in April. Our footsteps, the scurry of other creatures, did nothing to keep them from sprouting.

My gladiolus garden

That’s the thing about seeds; they can’t NOT come up. Unless they are dead. I’ve purchased seed packets online and had none of them sprout before, despite the soil being right, the location being what that plant will need to grow and flourish. The seed itself was too old. That’s discouraging at first, but I never let it stop me from trying again. I plant again. I water. And I wait.

The biggest portion of growing things is in the waiting. On the surface, nothing looks different. I know I put the seed there. I know I’ve watered it, and the sun has done its job. But most of the “becoming” is up to the seed itself. Different plants take different amounts of time to sprout. Zinnias are pretty quick, but Black-eyed Susans will stay beneath the soil for a year sometimes, seeds cast from last year’s plants hiding during the colder months.

Faith says, “I planted the seed. I believe it will sprout.” Faith protects the seeds, fencing the area from foot traffic or pets. Sprouts, when they finally emerge are fragile, their tiny roots holding them upright in the barest amount of soil. They have potential to become something great, but to get there, I must keep tending the garden. Different plants need different types of fertilizer. A citrus tree has different requirements from cabbage plants. Different plants need more or less amounts of water and sunlight.

All of them need patience. Faith alone, my ability to plant the seed, to know what will make it grow to its best, isn’t enough. There’s that waiting again.

We do not want you to become lazy, but to be like those who believe and are patient, and so receive what God has promised. (Hebrews 6:12 GNT) 

I learned patience from my dog. I have two dogs, actually, but the young one tests my patience frequently. When I bought her, I thought I knew all there was to know about dogs, yet within a week’s time, I knew I was wrong. She’s difficult. She challenges me to slow down and wait. What has always worked for other puppies I’ve raised doesn’t work for her.

Isabelle

Seasons are like that. Some years, one thing grows better than another. I like the change. And the challenge of seeing what will do best this year. I like the success the most, late summer looking back and feeling accomplishment that my efforts at weeding, at caring for my small flower garden, brought me happiness. After all, that is the goal of whatever we face in life, that whatever the alternating challenges are, God brings it to success – if we’ll believe and stand in faith over the seeds in our hearts. If we’ll cultivate the garden, we’ll have a harvest when the time is right.

For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.  (29)  But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come. (Mark 4:28-29) 

There’s no instant growth. I can buy potted plants, already at a certain height. They still need time to put down roots and establish themselves. They will still require the right amount of water and fertilizer. Weeds will still sprout around them if I don’t take the time to pull them out. But if I do, if I simply obey God’s Word, then that flower I long to see will, one day, be in full bloom.

That’s the way it works. God is faithful to keep His promise, every time. As long as I choose to believe and act and take one more walk around the yard with the dog, patiently waiting, what I’ve planted will become great things, and someone will see the photos and say, “How did you do that?”

Well, let me tell you … I planted a seed.

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Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

A Trio of Poetry

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