It’s important, though, to remember the former elements of “normal” are still with us, if we will only take a minute to notice.
Take fireflies for instance. What a wonder a single firefly still is to me!
There’s a quote that’s traveled with me for a long time. It’ on my fridge:
Normal Day, Do not let me pass you by in search of some Rare and Perfect Tomorrow.
Mary Jean Iron
This power-packed memento has been a mainstay through all of life’s seasons. With every move, every new fridge, this little saying has traveled with me as a reminder of the splendor in little moments.
The little ordinary moments are ever-present while we sigh and long for: Brighter tomorrows, better sleep, happier children, perfectly manicured lawns, stronger connections, brighter lighting, exotic destinations, more flawless skin, shinier memories…
Here’s the thing. When we are off chasing after a happier reality, the one we’re IN is quietly passing us by.
I’m not asking you to embrace The Summer of Covid, but I am suggesting you uncover the good stuff inside this interval.
Your “normal” will look different than mine.
Here’s mine. The texture of my kiddo’s voice on the phone; it doesn’t matter what we’re talking about – the sound of her voice is life-affirming.
The smell of towels that have been line-dried in fresh air and sunshine.
Summer kids riding by my window on their bikes and skateboards.
Dandelions gone to seed.
Waking to sunlight,
That first sip of coffee,
the hypnotic hum of a lawnmower,
Old Glory rippling in the breeze.
a real letter in the mail,
my music jam,
fireflies in the whisper of dusk.
Not everything is a joy-bringer; some things are a slog through scary passages. But still – not everything is skewed into some narrow margin of “the New Normal”. We can still count on the ordinary, normal things. And those will sustain us.
Kathy Joy writes for The Daily Jab, for Books for Bonding Hearts, and for her own blog, Coffee with Kathy. You can transition directly from ordinary to extraordinary with her Breath of Joy seasonal coffee table books. Find out more! Sign uphere for inspiring posts from this author!
Voices push through paper or cloth and emerge muffled. Smiles are imagined, not seen.
Playgrounds are eerily quiet. There should be dust and laughter; airborne shrieks and the proper “thunk” of a glove-caught baseball.
In our town, the 4th of July was an oddly packaged holiday of caution – an empty parade with echoes of marching bands past. The hollow day was punctuated later with endless fireworks, a continuous loop of virtually EVERY summer night in our town. So, with Labor Day? Who can tell?
Malls have fiber-boards for windows, and parking lots are nearly empty.
Stores that are open are not letting us zig-zag willy-nilly through the aisles; we have to watch for arrows and other masked shoppers, stepping up to the cashier only when we are told.
Shopping is exhausting. Many are opting for curbside pickup or Instacart.
Everything is muted.
While walking and longing for something cheerful to cut through life’s masks, I heard the sound of a baby’s laughter.
What is it about a child’s laugher? It’s a wonderful mystery, that unhindered joy that jiggles up from the belly and fills the air with ripples of watery music.
That baby in her new swing.
The baby stretched her bare feet into the sky and giggled clear up to the full moon.
Her experience of flying for the very first time sent trills of laughter into the evening air.
I looked around at the grownups and I swear we all looked a good deal younger. A trick of twilight softened our features and made us all wood nymphs for one moment.
Pine trees hovered over us, benevolent silhouettes bending into our joy. Fireflies came out to light up the party.
This, I thought… this moment, this child, these loved ones gathered – will cut through our masked passages and give us wings for the journey ahead.
Kathy Joy writes for her company’s Lunchtime Jabs, and for Coffee With Kathy, her personal blog, and for Books for Bonding Hearts. She is the author of the greeting card coffee table series, Breath of Joy: Simply Summer, Ah, Autumn, Winter Whispers and Singing Spring (All available on Amazon).\
Unclean. The opposite of being clean. In our current times, people are doing everything they can to avoid this descriptor. We wash our hands. When we leave our homes, we wear gloves and masks and try to keep at least six feet between ourselves and others.
There are those for whom the word is an unavoidable description of their current condition. They are sequestered in their homes or other isolated places to wait out the virus, their bodies fighting their invisible attackers as best they can. The sickness has spread through their body, out of their control…they are unclean.
Mankind is no stranger to disease and sickness.
Thousands of years ago those with life-altering illnesses and disease had even less hope for healing. Medical knowledge was extremely limited in comparison to what it is now. Those who found themselves with incurable diseases were often sequestered in isolated places with others suffering the same fate. One of these terrible diseases was leprosy. Not only were there terrible physical ramifications from the disease, but it was also believed that those infected with leprosy earned the condition through their sin.
Imagine the heaviness of this diagnosis: the shame, fear, and loneliness that the inflicted person would feel.
“Don’t infect us, scum!”
Shim’on pushed into the crowd trying to see the subject of the disruption.
People backed up and parted to reveal a man swathed head to toe in dirty white linens. The only uncovered parts of his body were his fingertips and a gap in the head covering where his eyes peered out.
Looking at his hands, Shim’on flinched. Instead of healthy pink skin, he saw white deformed stubs. The man had leprosy. Instinctively, Shim’on, Andreas, and the other two disciples stepped back.
Instead of moving away from the leper, however, Shim’on watched the rabbi walk toward him! What was the man doing? Leprosy was extremely contagious. Lepers were not permitted in populated towns; but only in leper colonies outside the village.
The disease attacked the nerve functioning of those it infected and caused sores to develop all over the body. If ever a leper were to come in proximity to a ‘clean’ person, one not tainted by the disease, he was required to shout “unclean!” to warn others of his condition. The life of a leper was lonely and filled with shame.
This rabbi was taking a gamble by approaching the leper, and Shim’on couldn’t decide if he were completely crazy or extremely brave.
Jesus continued walking toward the man until he stood directly in front of him, only a foot or so away. The crowd, which had grown increasingly large, quieted, holding their breath to see what the rabbi was going to do.
Suddenly Jesus reached out his hand and set it on the man’s shoulder. Gasps and whispers crossed over the crowd.
“Be healed,” Jesus spoke quietly, looking into the man’s eyes.
The man began to cry, tears wetting the dirty cloths wrapped around his face. He reached up a hand, and it was then that Shim’on saw that what had been decaying tissue was now healthy skin. The man continued staring at his fingers and then began unwrapping the cloth, revealing a hand, then an arm. The flesh was perfectly healthy; the leprosy completely gone!
Murmurs spread, growing in volume, through the crowd. Everyone was amazed.
“Who is this man?”
“He healed the leper with a word!”
Jesus spoke to the man quietly.
Tears poured down the man’s face and he knelt before Jesus. “Thank you, Rabbi!”
He stood in amazement and Jesus clapped him on the shoulder, grinning. The man laughed in gulps of wonder and then, he departed.*
The Zealots, author G.K. Johnson. publishing September 2020, by Capture Books.
Our Lord touches even those whom the authorities in this world say are untouchable, unclean.
Our God enters into the dirtiest, most shame-filled places of our lives and speaks life!
And it brings Him joy to do it.
The book of Mark, chapter 2, records a dinner where Jesus attends to a tax collector’s needs at the tax collector’s home. The Hebrews despised tax collectors.
These tax collectors were Hebrews who had turned on their people and accepted Roman jobs because of the financial benefits. They extorted their own people and helped to support the Roman occupation at the same time. So when Jesus invites a tax collector to follow him, imagine the outrage many of the Hebrews would feel. Can’t Jesus identify the scum in our community? Is Jesus intentionally circumventing our social bias and the rules we use to keep this kind of traitor down? The disciple, Mark, reflects that some religious Pharisees grumbled to the disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
Jesus replies, “Healthy people don’t need a
doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are
righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Isn’t this beautiful? It’s the very core of the gospel. I am unclean. You are unclean. We are all physically, socially, and spiritually sick with sin. And it’s only when we can acknowledge that truth to Jesus, the Great Physician, in a seed of faith for His help, that He can administer His miracles of life and spiritual birth. Sometimes it’s physical. Other times it’s a healing of our hearts.
Let’s be careful and wash our hands and follow other medical wisdom to not spread sickness. Yes, let’s also be mindful of the unclean around us…the obviously sick and those who may not show physical symptoms.
But, let’s also ask, How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? Perhaps it’s letting His word soak into our own hearts while resting so that we have some good news to spread in a fresh way. Perhaps, it is sending a card or letter, singing hope to our neighbors from our backyard, offering to help with shopping or giving out medical gloves for commercial transactions, or maybe simply making a phone call.
Most of all, remember, dear unclean one…Jesus came to help you.
References: Matthew 8 (New Living Translation of the Bible)
To pre-order your copy of The Zealots, contact us today.
A Conversation with Tonya Jewel Blessing and Laura Bartnick
Tonya Jewel Blessing: I recently learned in two quick minutes how a blurb on the back of a book cover can sell books or dissuade potential readers from choosing a book.
We all know how important spelling and punctuation are in a book. But, I don’t think I realized that English basics are just the beginning of what matters in a book blurb until two media professionals picked up my novels. Each of my books have a professionally written, third-person description on the back cover. I realize this is paramount to converting book browsers to buyers.
At a recent media convention, a man connected with a film production company selected my first historic Appalachian novel, The Whispering of the Willows based on the book blurb on the back cover. The verbiage ‘similar to modern sex trafficking issues’ also sparked a conversation about the plot of the book. He promised to buy it for consideration.
Another reader-influencer looking for compelling stories at this media convention passed over my second novel The Melody of the Mulberries based on its book blurb. The reactions of both people, who visited the author booth, initially surprised me. Then, as I perused the other author stations, I found myself doing the same – picking up a book, reading the back cover, and making a purchase decision based on a couple of paragraphs about the story.
Laura Bartnick: Capture Books began to market The Whispering of the Willows in earnest to the Amish/Mennonite sector and to the West Virginia readership when the publisher could show that:
a) women’s issues were creatively handled, and
b) significant community involvement absolutely changes the course of a girl’s life after she is a victim of rape.
c) timing matters. Reverberating southerners became passionate readers of The Whispering of the Willows after National Public Radio broke the news about the West Virginia opioid crises. After the report featuring the opioid documentary by filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, produced in part by the Center for Investigative Reporting, where a female judge, a church social worker, and a policewoman joined forces to creatively alleviate the crisis in the hardest-hit county, Capture Books decided to offer BLESSING’s novel to this community.
d) the women in the novel did not wear pants.
While BLESSING’s exquisitely clever sequel, released in the fall of 2019, is marketable to a lover of Americana and to a Christian romance-loving readership, the acquisitions gentleman seeking a modern hook with a correlation to a “cause” failed to find that kind of subject matter on the sequel’s cover.
The lesson learned is that listing a cause as a keyword or subject-matter can reach potential cross-over markets.
Book blurbs are also written for librarians, advertisements, flyers, and online bookstore platforms. Each of these has a variety of required words, suggested keywords and phrases, and are written specifically to hook certain types of readers.
I spoke with a very frustrated author last week who reported that she wasn’t earning royalties from her publisher on her book and wanted my opinion. I looked up her title and discovered there was not a single word of book description, and her book was only listed in one category. It simply wasn’t selling because there were no keywords alerting people to the existence of her book. Even if potential readers looked up the exact title, there was no book description to explain what it was about.
Tonya Jewel Blessing: My first novel was picked up by Tantor Audio Books because of its record sales in late 2018 after we marketed directly to the opioid epidemic on Amazon. Subsequently, my sequel has been steadily picking up new readers and finding its own voice with historical romance and Americana lovers. Since I didn’t know I could write a sequel in the beginning, my publisher did not market to sequel readers. Consequently, many who read the first book think it is a stand-alone novel.
I agree with E.A. Bucchianerif in that, “There is much to discover that’s not on the back cover!” YET, if the book cover doesn’t spark interest, the book won’t be read. Listed below are some tips for writing a book blurb.
Laura Bartnick: Yes, and here are some more clues to what works and what doesn’t on the back cover:
“I wrote this because…” or “My character is based on…” is better placed inside the book as a prologue or author’s note.
Larger fonts with less copy will catch a reader’s attention.
Aim for a description of keywords written to the interests of a reading group.
Getting an editorial endorsement printed on the cover will garner immediate interest and give the author borrowed authority.
You may also want to put the name of the publisher, the logo, the subject matter or genre, and the price of the book onto the back cover.