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If you’ve never sung in a choir, you may not know what a cantata is.  A cantata combines readings and song and the ones we perform last about 20 minutes.

Our choir director generally gives us a rehearsal disk about 2 months before the performance.  Listen to the disk, sing along, learn your part.

Sounds easy?  And it really isn’t dreadful.  First you learn you part, then you rehearse with your section, then you rehearse with the full choir.

Then, and only then, do we take it into the sanctuary.

Our first run through in the sanctuary is always frighteningly bad.  No, really.  You’d think we’d never heard the music let alone practiced it.

Fortunately, Ellen, our choir director is an angel of hope.  “That was a little rough but you’ve been practicing.  You’ll have it in no time.”  And? She was right.  No matter that we missed almost every cue, forgot our parts, sang the wrong words and what was that?

In the light, you don’t need hope but it in the dark it pulls you forward, back toward the light.



I belong to an accountability group.  We are a mixed group of writers – essayists, novelists, and children’s writers.  Our goal?  To keep each other going when things get tough.

Last year, one of my goals was to rough out a novel.  That should be do-able.  Right?  After all, I can write several nonfiction books for teens every year.

Let’s just say that this goal was unrealistic.  And as soon as I realized this, I got less and less done.  I just wasn’t motivated.

What I really needed to do was break things down into bite sized pieces.  As my friend Kathryn says, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.”

Small steps taken by one person add up.  So do small tasks accomplished by many.  Each accomplishment may seem tiny and inconsequential but as a whole it is another story.

Trip by trip, the bees fill the hive with  nectar.  One bee, one trip, couldn’t do it.  But many bees working together? Crops are pollinated.  The hive is filled with nectar.  The bees survive the winter and the bee keeper even has a sweet treat.

What could we accomplish step by step if we worked together?






What do you hear?

The thermostat outside my office just came on.  Seconds later, the heating element in the furnace power up.  The blower just powered up.

I’m a big fan of quiet. The cat and I do quiet time on the sofa.  I generally have a book.

Yesterday my sister found my standing in her kitchen at the far corner, out of sight of the dining room.  She didn’t ask.  She was coming up from the basement where she was changing out the laundry.  My brother-in-law’s family sat around the dining room table shouting at each other about conservatives, progressivism, and a cow with gigantism.

One of the teens sat at the table on her tablet, playing a game.  The other two both had their phones out.  Soon the shouting conversation progressed to millennials.  Granted, only one of them is a millennial but the obnoxious part was that the two older kids, the ones with phones, had tried to participate.  Now they were texting friends, developing their own social networks and going where they could be heard.

Silence.  It can be a powerful thing.


We are all complex combinations of dark and light.  Not that I’m bragging about my darkness but I do believe I need to own it.

I am short tempered.  Judgemental.  And precise.  How is that last one a bad thing?  Tick me off and then bug me to tell you why.  You’ll get it in great and painful detail.  Seriously.

There are also the traits that can go either way. I have a very strong sense of justice.  My friend’s autistic son loves that about me because it makes us just alike.  What can I say?  We understand each other.

I own these facts about myself but I try not to let them control me.  When something starts to get on my last nerve, I look for a way to remove myself from the situation.  Does that make me a saint?  Nope.  I’m just a sinner who knows when and where to beware.

Humans are flawed but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.


Follow your talent to the dark places where it leads.  Does this mean that using your talent will always be grim and scarey?  No.

But developing your talent can be tough.  Dancers face hours, days and years of practice to hone their skill.  All of this can be brought to a halt by a serious injury.  Pretty scary stuff.

Any college degree that is science based is hard to earn.  I’m saying that after listening to three teens discuss calculus over Christmas break.  How many of them passed?  None.  And these three are all honors students.  Heading back into their respective classrooms after Christmas, they each attend a different school, is going to be tough.  It is going to take guts.

Learning to use our talents effectively is often a long, difficult process.  This doesn’t mean that God wants us to take an easier path.  But it may mean a series of hurdles and dark passages before we can undertake the tasks that he will ultimately place before us.

Have courage!  After all, he is with you.



Some kids need to be encouraged to think for themselves.  My mom said that was never my problem.

When I was little, as in a preschooler, my grand-dad would take me walking with him.  He was a mining engineer and he constantly checked out rocks.  He’d roll them with his boot and maybe crack one with a hammer.  Choice bits would go in his pocket.

I had pockets too.  Mom didn’t appreciate either the number of rocks or the dirt in my pockets.  So grand-dad gave me a geologist’s bag.

Problem solved.  I filled that up and then dropped the extras down my bib overalls.  What can I say?  Some of those rocks were too good to pass up. I had learned not to put dirty things in my pockets but I was still thinking for myself.  Now I get to use that love of science in the writing I do for kids.

God created each of us with a purpose and a mission.  To find that mission, you will have to be yourself – the unique person that God created.





Today the choir director at Florissant Presbyterian Church, where I go, tried to recruit me for a drumming class.  She signed up for Japanese drumming classes.

The truth:  I LOVE Japanese drumming.  Love.  It.  Seriously.

Her:  It will be so fun.  We can go together. It’s eight weeks.

Me:  Do you have to do that thing where you do one rhythm with one hand and another with the other hand?

Her:  Probably not for a couple of weeks.

Me:  Have you noticed how excited I get when I keep track of one rhythm for an entire song?

My husband:  It’s easy.  When you do three with one hand and four with the other than (some bunch of something I can’t even begin to repeat).

Soon she and my darling husband where going on and on and the pastor and I looked confused.  Really confused.

For those of you who don’t know, my husband drums.  He can do two different rhythms with his left hand, a third with his right, and two different baselines with his feet.

On a good day, I don’t spill my drink on myself or drop food.  On a really good day, I don’t bounce off a wall or careen off a piece of furniture.  I can, maybe, keep track of one rhythm at a time.  Apparently, I am not a savant.

The beauty of it is, we each have our own gifts.  Our pastor’s is ministry. He’s also highly intellectual.  Me?  I’ve got a thing for visual pattern and nonfiction story telling.  Other cultures and history and paleontology are like candy to me.

But I’m lucky.  My parents always encouraged me to study and learn about what fascinated me.  Other people?  Not so lucky.  Our choir director got a business degree although she had been offered a full music scholarship.  She was told she had to be practical.  She had to make her way back to music as a profession.

In 2019, celebrate the unique gifts God gave you.  How?  Be the best you that you can be.



What is written on your heart?  Is it a tale about faith in God or a tale of worry?

My community has a Facebook group.  When I joined, I read every single post.  People post questions when they are looking for a plumber or when a neighbor needs a wheelchair ramp.  “Can we get together as a community and do this for them?  Provide the supplies.”  I love those kinds of posts.

But ultimately the group is exhausting.  There are thousands of members and everyone wants a say.  This week the new prosecuting attorney let some staff go.  He also announced that they will no longer prosecute deadbeat dads.  Apparently, this charge is often used to revoke men’s parole.  He is also limiting prosecution on dealing pot.  No longer will it be an automatic charge based on amount.  There must be — get this — evidence.

To say that many people are unhappy with him is an understatement.  The funny thing?  None of them read the interview.

Day by day, we get to decide.  What story is written on our hearts?  Me?  I’m chosing faith in God and a quest for social justice.  And I’ll admit, step 1 is not reading much on Facebook.


What do you wish you had done differently?  If you are anything like me, you can look back over a day, a week, a month, or a year and wish that you had made different choices somewhere.  Some of them will be big choices.  Some of them will be small.  And some of them will, if we let them, weigh us down.

Personally, this is where it can really benefit you to realize that people simply are not perfect.  Perfection?  It belongs to God.

Us? We aren’t going to pull it off.  It doesn’t matter how well we plan or how hard we try.  Human beings are not perfect.

For some people, that thought can act like a weight.  No matter how hard they try, they will be imperfect.

Not me.  For me it is one of those messages of hope.  I should try to do my best, but things will go wrong.  The universe is a flawed place and I am a part of that universe.

I do carry a spark of God’s light and with it I can light my weaving, stony, imperfect path.  And the best part?  He will walk it beside me.


Back when my sister was a kid, she loved choose your own adventure books.  Exploration, travel, daring do!  These books but the reader in the driver’s seat.  Every few pages you’d have a decision to make. Do you do choose the door on the left of the door on the right?  Each choice would lead to a completely different adventure.

In reality, life is a lot like those books but I have to admit that this is a reality I sometimes forget.  If I do the same thing, I can’t expect a new result.

What opportunities is God sending your way in 2019?  The reality is that you can only spot them if you are open to something new, something different, something miraculous.  What story are you supposed to write in 2019?  Spend some time in prayer and listen for the answer.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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