Andrew Peterson, better together, boys and men, Bridges, captive audiences, dreams, featured, G.K. Chesterton, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, journey to twilight, The Rabbit Room

Come to The Rabbit Room

by Andrew Peterson

Two years ago I walked the streets of Oxford with my wife. We were in London for a few days during the final throes of Spring and took the train to the famously literary town to visit, among other things, the former home of C.S. Lewis.

It’s a two-story brick house called the Kilns, in what used to be the outskirts of Oxford and is now buffeted by subdivisions. Fifty or sixty years ago Lewis sat upstairs at the Kilns and wrote, or he strolled around the pond behind the house smoking his pipe; now college students live in the house and the pond is littered with old tires and oil bottles.

Not far from his house is a picturesque Anglican church building made of hewn stone and tucked in a quiet hollow of Oxford. We walked through the old empty building where Lewis and his brother used to sit through the homily until five minutes before the end of the service, at which time they would sneak out the back door to beat the lunch rush at the pub down the street.

Behind the church is the cemetery where Lewis is buried. My wife and I stood at his grave feeling the peace of the place: the long-haired cows tearing grass from the hill visible through leafy bowers, the sun pushing through gray English skies as soft and easy as a yawn, the green of new grass well-kept. As hokey as it sounds, I felt like we were in the Shire, and I suppose that in a way that’s exactly where we were.

The tour ended at the Eagle and Child, the pub where the Inklings often met for beer, friendship, and the sharing of their latest writings. I dragged my wife inside and promptly ordered fish and chips at the table where Tolkien, Lewis, his brother Warren, Charles Williams, and others once enjoyed one another’s company. I felt bashful and self-conscious about going so far out of my way (with my patient wife in tow) to visit these places. What did I expect to find there? I’m not sure what’s so fascinating to me about these men and their works, their approach to creativity and their understanding of the source of it all. Their brilliance was remarkable; they were Christians, intellectuals, and yet childlike enough to love stories and seek fellowship in their making.

London itself was a wellspring of inspiration for me. We strolled through Kensington Gardens where Peter Pan was born, ate still more fish and chips in pubs that had welcomed travelers for four hundred years, I thought about Robin Hood, George MacDonald, Harry Potter, King Arthur, and Shakespeare. And of course, I thought about the gospel. History breathes in London, seeps through the cobbles and like mist it rises from the Thames. It’s easy to see why so many beloved stories have sprung from England’s imagination.

History swept me up when I walked beneath the portcullis of the Tower of London, when I took communion in Westminster Abbey among the tombs of long-dead kings. The blood and body of Christ, shed for you, peasants and kings, pagans and priests. The feast at the table is good and gives life, and is your only hope for meaning and peace and rest from the baying of the hounds at your heels, because Death and Sin and Hatred pursue you and would swallow you up if not for the strong voice of Jesus saying “Peace. Be still.” And at his word the dogs snap back into the darkness with a yelp as if reaching the limit of their chains. History belittles us. Its story is one of conquest and murder and vast darkness, and the noblest of men ends up as dead as the thief. I realized as I walked through the hall of kings in the Abbey that my time here is brief and my earthly crowns are worthless as chaff; the words of my epitaph will ring hollow lest they point to the fullness of Christ.

Which brings me back to Oxford. Ron, our tour guide, told us that he once asked a hundred people on the streets of Oxford who C.S. Lewis was and none could tell him. None. A few wrinkled their eyebrows and asked if he was “that Alice in Wonderland” guy. He told us that when he started giving the tours of Lewis’s time at Oxford, his tomb was overgrown and covered with mildew, its words barely legible. But for a relative handful of people (most of them Americans) who know about Aslan and the Deep Magic and the High Countries, the world knows little about Lewis and lauds him not. But the marks this man’s stories left on my soul–the gospel in his stories–are deep and lasting and I believe I’ll one day show them to him.

I believe strongly in the value of the artists in this world. I believe that when someone who was made to strive to create beauty in the world is, as Brennan Manning said, “ambushed by Jesus,” the art that results bears a God-given power that draws men to Christ. I have encountered that power in the sub-creations of Christ-followers countless times. (I’ve also encountered it in the works of those who haven’t yet succumbed to the source of their gifting.) Those works of art have helped me to better understand the Bible and its author, they have given me the tools with which to worship, to serve, to revel in the greatness of the Maker.

Those works of art are the fruit of obedience to the artist’s calling. The burden God places on each of us is to become who we are meant to be. We are most fully ourselves when Christ most fully lives in us and through us; the mother shines brightest with her child in her arms, the father when he forgives his wandering son, and the artist when he or she is drawing attention to grace by showing the pinprick of light overcoming the darkness in the painting or the story or the song.

The world knows darkness. Christ came into the world to show us light. I have seen it, have been blinded by it, invaded by it, and I will tell its story. I cannot help but see that story everywhere I look. I see it when I am full of joy and weightless as a cloud, and I see it when grief and self-loathing root me to the cold earth; it is remembering the story, Christ whispering it in my ear, that kills the despair, sets me gently on the donkey, and takes me to an inn to recover from the wounds. How can I keep myself from singing?

The Rabbit Room is a place for stories. For artists who believe in the power of old tales, tales as old as the earth itself, who find hope in them and beauty in the shadows and in the light and in the source of the light.

After my fish and chips in the back room of the Eagle and Child, I noticed a paper sign attached to the gable. On it was written the name of the little room where the Inklings met: the Rabbit Room. I don’t know why it was called that. There was no explanation to be found. But the name struck me, stuck with me, and grew into this website. Here you’ll find writings and reviews by artists and appreciators of art, conversations about creation, storytelling, songwriting, and the long journey of becoming who we’re meant to be.

I also wanted to provide a place where you could support some of these artists and writers by purchasing from the Rabbit Room store (as opposed to some gargantuan bookseller). Sure, you may find the book or CD cheaper elsewhere, but here you’ll help sustain the ministry of some of these artists and writers, and you’ll be supporting this place where I hope you’ll come for support and sustenance of your own. The books and CDs for sale in the store each tell the old, old story in their way, and I believe that they have the potential to be a balm for you in your long journey.

So pull up a chair and join us. The fish and chips are fattening, but so, so good. You can find the Rabbit Room community blog on Facebook here. Join us if you are of like mind and heart.

The Proprietor

The Warren, Nashville

Andrew Peterson is a singer-songwriter and author. Andrew has released more than ten records over the past twenty years, earning him a reputation for songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. As an author, Andrew’s books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga, released in collectible hardcover editions through Random House in 2020, and his creative memoir, Adorning the Dark, released in 2019 through B&H Publishing.

Welcome to the Rabbit Room

Bridges, captive audiences, Expectations, featured, journal, Nativity; what the nativity means; how the nativity reached me, O holy child of Bethlehem, poetic, thema, Wonders of the Christmas Season, Words for this Christmas Season

How The Nativity Reached Me

By Diane Andrews

“She will bring forth a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 12:21

Hope to the world began in Bethlehem in a small cave that served as a stable. The Cave is under the oldest church in the world, the Church of the Nativity. Many come to see the cave and the star which marks the birthplace.

A few years ago I was given the opportunity to visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. As I descended in the dark narrow stairs which led us into the small stable, I felt a glorious hope from God! As I knelt to touch the star I became overwhelmed with the emotions because the birth of Jesus was the divine will of God to save his people from their sins! To save me from my sins! That first Christmas night, Jesus became personal in Bethlehem! “The word became flesh, and and dwelt among us” ( John 1:14). In Jesus’ birth, God declares the hope of His presence. His presence became flesh, with us. What a divine moment.

The last verse of O Little Town of Bethlehem reads, “O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray! Cast out our sins and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels, the great tidings tell; O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!”

May that holy night of our dear Savior’s birth call you into a personal relationship with him, in living a Holy life before God, seeking quietness and silent nights, intimate moments, and may your soul feel His worth.

Hope is here!

What a wonderful and glorious hope we have because God offers us the gift of living hope to all who seek it!

This advent season has ended now. So, I ask, is Christ real to you?
Has He taken residence in your life?

Let Him be born in your heart today.

ISBN-13: 978-0997162578 hc ASIN: B077C61MB9
Use 365 Steps into Intimacy with God as a Journal for a surprising attitude change. “Where was God in my life?” will become the question that introduces you to Him personally. Learn More.

Diane Andrews

Diane Andrews lives in northern Montana near the Canadian border in a reservation town called Wolf Point. She was saved and discipled by mentors in Young Life, a ministry to high school students across America.  She became a pastor’s wife and is a down-to-earth speaker on the topics of the women of the Bible and how to find Jesus in your real life.  Diane is the founder and director of R&R Retreats. Though Diane is severely dyslexic, she is the author of My Step Journal published by Captured Books.

My Step Journal

What is Your Next Must-Read?

Innkeeper Nativity
better together, Bridges, children's literature, Currency Exchange, featured, improvisation, ingenuity, Kathy Joy

Intricate Bridges of Strength and Beauty

It seems, in this murky year of unknowns, that we have all become bridge builders. By this, I mean we are learning to construct organic passageways between problems and solutions; we are building new platforms to help each other succeed.

A co-worker said it this way: “We are discovering new ways to do old things.”

She’s not wrong. If the word “innovative” carries any weight on a resume, then we need to add that to our portfolios.

Influencers are bridges between ideas and implementation. Let the intangible beget the tangible.

  • Friends are bridges between opportunity and reality.
  • Co-workers are bridges between dull days and brighter ones.
  • Connections are bridges between prayers and answers.
Old man walks away with his heavy stories from “Will You Hold My Story” by Kathy Joy

Recently, I was a recipient of one of these bridges between opportunity and reality and between prayers and answers. My publisher announced a connection to make my children’s book sing. “Will You Hold My Story?” is the recipient of some 32 illustrations of Brianna Osaseri, an winning artist who has agreed to produce poignant and imaginative works for the 32- page picture book.

I happened to be going through a particularly difficult time, and I can’t tell you how seeing these fascinating images elevated my sense of wonder about the story and added even more purpose.

When there’s a problem, there is a wonderful collaboration available to each of us with just an earnest request. Unseen reinforcements rush in like healthy blood to a wound. Bridges are built for walking into the future.

Virtual meetings, emails, phone calls, whatever it takes – the work is getting done and readers, or our customers, or clients are being helped.

More than a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done attitude, it’s a large-scale scaffolding that materializes right under our feet, wherever we need reinforcements. Some people call this scaffolding “answers to prayer.”  Others call it “favor,” “blessing,” “feeling the love.”  No matter what you call it, we each know when we are in desperate need of it. And, we each know when we receive it.

  • It’s a coming-together of talent, experience, and care.
  • It’s the filling of a cup.
  • It’s the measures taken to keep us safe.

These are the bridges to each other’s stories, and to hope.

I, for one, am looking more closely at life for any random blessings that can provide walkways to better days for me and maybe for you:

  • an encouraging message on your voice mail, “Don’t think that for one moment, you are forgotten, Deary!”
  • that cup of coffee on a cold morning, and reading the review someone left on your last book.
  • a holiday card, whether it’s full of giggles or full of pathos,
  • help from a co-worker on a difficult issue
  • passing along someone’s story explaining a surprising twist of events when their own need was answered, miraculously
  • savoring the unique texture of a loved-one’s voice;

all of these, and more, are carrying us and moving us forward.

One of my favorite ways to help someone else along is to congratulate them with words or cards for an accomplishment.

It would be so easy for me to ignore their big win and to think, “Why isn’t it my day to reach the summit?”

My guess is, we will emerge from this wilderness seasoned hikers.

Do you recall doing something like this? As a child, I’d grin showing an adult my palms up, the inside of my cathedral made of my interwoven fingers, and I’d sing, “Here is the church, here is the steeple, open it up and here’s all the people!” Then, hiding all my fingers, I’d ask the patient adult, “Where are all the people?”

We adults still need other patient adults to make us some two-way bridges, don’t we? I need to show up for you on the bridge.  You need to show up for yourself and also for someone else on your bridge. Let’s look for one new way to receive a good step forward.  Let’s offer a bridge to someone else today in kindness or compassion.

At the summit, we will look down to see we have built networks, catwalks and swinging bridges we’d never before imagined. Intricate networks.

When you’ve built a bridge, you’ve constructed a cathedral of strength and beauty.

Even if it is intangible.

Kathy Joy, authorKathy Joy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Messiah College (Grantham, Pennsylvania) having majored in Journalism and Communication. Her career focused on radio journalism and later on government social work for family members with children in the Pennsylvania system of health and welfare. She is the author of four previous books, the series called Breath of Joy.
Her personal philosophy is that “by telling our stories, we give others permission to unload their own weights and worries.”

Most recently, Kathy Joy’s children’s book is scheduled to be published early in 2021, entitled, “Will You Hold My Story?” It features a stray little pooch and a stray, tired Meggi Beth (depicted by artist, Brianna Osaseri).

Kathy is an enthusiastic supporter of therapy dogs and dogs-in-general – they are loyal friends and excellent listeners.
As the author of four seasonal books, a social media influencer and inspirational speaker, Kathy Joy has found her voice in the world of children’s literature.
Kathy holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communication and says her favorite semester at Messiah College included the study of children’s books.

What is Your Next Must-Read?

Listen to a Creative podcast for creatives: https://pencilsandlipstick.libsyn.com/seeking-a-truce

 

ISBN 13: 9780999635339
adult content, Bridges, darkness inside, featured, Marriage Issues, protecting our children, redemption, rethink

The Elephant in the Room

Contemporary fiction

Tammy

A quick glance in the mirror said the two cups of coffee had done nothing to remove the dark circles that swelled below my eyes.  “It’s hopeless,” I thought, now staring at my blonde hair hanging in frazzled clumps around sallow skin, an outcropping of my weary soul.

Dragging myself into the bedroom of my six-year-old son, I was startled, as always, at seeing row upon row of breasts peeking out of sequined halter tops on the calendar hanging beside Henry’s bed.  Long legs extending from tight shorts became a line of slithering snakes, injecting poisonous venom into my withering self-confidence.

Anger pounded against my temples the way it had on the day my husband, Jack, gave our son the calendar of these famous cheerleaders.

At six, Henry still thought girls were gross.  No matter how much Jack insisted this calendar was for Henry, it wasn’t.  That’s what made it worse.  How could I argue with a gift from a father to his son and interfere with their “male-bonding”?

“It certainly is interfering with our marital bonding,” I said, yanking at Henry’s crumpled bed sheets the same way I wanted to yank the shimmering, blonde hair from the head of the cheerleader in the front row.  My face grew hot and flushed, a stark contrast to my marriage bed that had remained cool and distant for some time now.  I smiled.  Jack could have his calendar, but he couldn’t have me with it.

“Why don’t you want it anymore?”  I could hear Jack’s ongoing question that never got answered as I folded a load of laundry or while we shopped together, even on a date night, I could hear Jack’s accusation.

I thought about last night when I lay on my side of the bed, facing the wall, wishing he would just leave me alone.  The kids were finally asleep, and I was exhausted as usual.  I just wanted to meld with the bed.  Jack kept kissing my neck, so I finally turned over and looked at him in the dark.  All I could see was the silhouette of his tousled hair outlined against the moonlight streaming in through the bedroom window.  His face, a shadow and, for a moment, I tried to pretend he was someone I didn’t know.  Maybe then I would want him.  His hand reached out and slid across my hip, moving upwards under my breast.

I grabbed his hand before it reached its destination and told him I didn’t feel like it.

Jack couldn’t understand what had changed from when we first got married when I wanted sex all the time.

“Me,” I said, collapsing against the pillow.  “I’m different.”  That’s when Jack rolled over and said with disgust, “That’s for sure.”

I was too tired to care that he was angry.  Besides, I was angry most of the time, so why should I care?

The ice storm that had begun in bed the night before fell in full force this morning.  Even my youngest child noticed the invisible glacier that stood between Mommy and Daddy.

“Mommy, is Daddy mad?” Molly asked, rubbing the sleep from her big, brown eyes as she dragged her blanket across the kitchen floor.

“No baby.  Daddy’s not mad.”  Jack dropped his briefcase and scooped her up into his arms.  “But he is hungry.  You look like a tasty treat.”

Molly giggled as Jack pretended to nibble on her ear and then her tummy.

The smile that eased its way across my face while watching Daddy and his little girl faded as soon as he looked at me.

“I’ll be home late tonight Tam.  I’m going to stop and have a drink with Rick.”

I knew what he was doing.  This was my punishment for being the ice-maiden in bed.

“That’s fine,” I said, trying to sound like I didn’t care.  “I’m taking the kids over to Sandy’s house after dinner so I can shop for a new dress for your company Christmas Party.”

Jack was already headed for the door before I finished my sentence.  “See ya,” he called without looking back.

“Just go to hell,” I muttered under my breath and then yelled, “Tell Rick I said hi,” before he slammed the door.

Jack

Rubbing my eyes, I looked at the clock on my desk and couldn’t believe it was already ten to six.  I was supposed to meet Rick in ten minutes.  I didn’t really feel like going for a drink.  What I really wanted was to go home and lay down.  I’d been processing loans all day, eating lunch at my desk, and could hardly see straight.  I stared at Tammy’s smiling face in the family photo on my desk and felt angry once again at the thought of her rejection the night before.

How could she treat me this way?  I was a great provider.  We had a beautiful home and nice cars.  I coached my son’s soccer team and went to all of Molly’s ballet recitals.  It wasn’t like I was a dead-beat dad or a husband that was never there.  What was so hard about saying “yes” once-in-a-while, about giving me what I wanted for a change?  She was lucky I didn’t have an affair.  Half the guys in this office already had.  Tammy didn’t know how lucky she was.

I looked at the clock again.  Five minutes to six.  Grabbing my coat and briefcase, I rushed out the door to meet Rick.  Maybe Tammy would appreciate me more if I wasn’t around so much.

Rick was already sitting at the bar when I walked through the door of the local pub ten minutes late.  I hadn’t seen him in over a year.  Ever since he’d gotten a job with another mortgage company, we’d lost touch.

Surprised when he called me last Friday, we chatted hellos, and then he invited me for a beer after work.  I had turned him down because Tammy already had plans for us to go Christmas shopping.  So, today I was glad Rick was willing to meet when I called him on my way to work.  I needed an excuse to stay away from home, especially after telling Tammy I would be home late, I needed to find a quick solution to the empty hours that awaited.  She needed to learn a lesson.

Rick waved from where he sat at the bar and motioned me over to join him.  Shaking his hand, I was shocked to see how much he had aged in a year.  There were large swathes of gray in his hair, and above his eyes carried a deep furrow I didn’t remember.  Rick was my age, thirty-two, but he looked like he was pushing mid-forties.

“So how’ ya been buddy?” Rick asked as I took a swig of beer and handed the bartender a tip.

“Oh, you know, I can’t complain.  Work is crazy right now, but it keeps the bills paid so what can I say?” I shrugged.  “How’s your job at Loan Builder?”

“Same ol’, same ol’ except the pay is better than what I was getting at Myrons.  There’s a new secretary; short skirts, tight sweaters.  She keeps work interesting.”

“Still making the rounds huh?” I said, smiling and touching Rick’s glass with my own.  “Here’s to the ladies man.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Rick said, grabbing a peanut out of the bowl on the bar.  “I can snag them but I can’t seem to keep them.”

“You and Carla are doing okay, aren’t you?”

“Carla left six months ago,” Rick said looking off into the distance.  “She took the kids and they’re all living with her parents right now.  She served me with divorce papers last week.”

“What? Er, wow! I had no idea.”  I gulped down half my beer, wishing I could drown the words that had opened this can of worms.  “I’m sorry to bring it up, man.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it, buddy,” Rick said, forcing a smile.  “No big deal.  Things were going sour long before she left.  We were fighting all the time and things were ice cold in the bedroom if you know what I mean.”

I know exactly what you mean, I thought, nodding at Rick.

“I don’t understand women.  They’re red hot for you in the beginning and then one day you’re their worst enemy.”

“I know.  Before Tammy and I got married, some of the guys at work warned me that women change.  I never believed them about her, but it turns out they were right.”

“Carla told me she was tired of feeling second best.  She said I made her feel like she was never enough by the way I treated other women.  Now, okay, I’ve done my share of flirting and I’ve had my subscription to Playboy, but I never fooled around on her, honest!  I always made sure we had a nice lifestyle.  So, what the   ̶  I just don’t think she knew what she wanted.”

Tammy’s cold eyes flew to my mind’s eye as if bringing home Henry’s calendar was yesterday.  Tammy had been furious, and when I told her she was being ridiculous, her furry popped a cork.  It wasn’t like I gave our six-year-old a calendar of naked women, for crying out loud.

“I miss my kids,” Rick said, bringing back to focus. He took another gulp of his beer. “That’s the hardest part.  I guess I miss Carla too, but it’s too late now.  She’s made up her mind and I can’t reason with her.  So, I’m a wild and free bachelor again,” Rick said, smiling and raising his glass.  The smile didn’t reach Rick’s sad, lonely eyes.

What is Your Next Must-Read?

Tammy

I stared at my reflection in the dressing room mirror.  Turning from side to side, I pushed up on my breasts to see if a pushup bra would make the top of the dress fit better.  Dresses lay in piles around my ankles.

“Arghh!” I cried, pulling at the zipper in the back and wiggling out of the little black number as if it were a straight jacket.  “This is impossible!”

“Is everything all right in there?”  It was the sales lady who had given me a key to the room.  I looked down at the floor covered in satin and sequenced fabric and knew I was way over the six-item limit.

“I’m fine; just trying to decide what to get.”

“If you need any help, let me know,” she soothed.

“I’m beyond help, lady,” I muttered hearing the clicking of the lady’s high heels as she walked away from the fitting rooms.  Wiggling into my jeans and sweater, I opened the door, looked both ways, and then practically ran toward the front door of the store.

“Forget the party,” I cried, jamming the car key into the ignition.  “It’s just the same crap year after year.  I have to act friendly with Jack’s co-workers and pretend I don’t notice the exotic, bimbo receptionist in her high strappy shoes and slinky dress. Last year, the slit up the slide of her outfit nearly collided with every eye in the office, man or woman!  I sit and wonder whether Jack is having an affair with her, but I can’t act jealous or Jack will say I’m being ridiculous.  That’s it.  I’m not going.”  The decision made, I was relieved to re-center my head and see the parking lot was mostly empty.  Thankfully, no one saw me ranting and raving inside my otherwise empty car.

I backed out and headed towards the babysitters’, then the kids and I limped home.

Shocked to see Jack’s car already parked as I pulled the minivan into the garage, the older kids ran ahead.

“Daddy! Daddy!” Molly cried from the back seat.  “Daddy’s home!” Everyone else was already inside by the time I reached the door with Molly in my arms.

“Hi Tam,” Jack said, taking Molly as she wrapped her arms around his neck.

“You’re home early,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant.  “I thought you’d be late. Weren’t you meeting Rick?”

“I decided to cut it short,” Jack said, setting Molly on the floor and watching her as she ran to join her brother in front of the T.V.  Was he avoiding my eyes? “It’s been a long day and I’m tired.  I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

Was he really tired or just trying to make me feel guilty?  I decided to ignore the comment.  “Are you hungry?”  I asked, hoping he would say no.  I was bone-tired too.

“No, I’m fine,” he said, jamming his hands into his pockets.  It was strange how awkward it felt to be with him sometimes, even after ten years of marriage.

“I saved us some mon-”

“I’m sorry about this morning, Tam.”

I frowned, wondering what was going on.  Jack never apologized.  “I’m sorry too,” I said, glancing down at my watch, so I wouldn’t have to look at him.  I could handle the angry husband that left the house this morning.  That was easy.  How could I be the angry, bitter wife when he was apologizing?

“I’ve got to get the kids to bed,” I mumbled, walking towards the living room where the kids sat glued to the T.V. “They had chicken strips on the way home.”

Jack tucked Molly in while I put Henry to bed.  As I folded the covers down over his chest, I noticed something different.

“What happened to your calendar, Henry?”  The heaving bosoms and microscopic shorts were gone.

He shrugged.  “I don’t know.  I didn’t do anything with it.”  For a moment I had the strange sensation that I was in the wrong house with the wrong family.

Jack was already in bed, staring up at the ceiling when I walked into the bedroom.

“Are you all right?”  I had never seen him act so strange.

“Yeah, I’m fine.  Why?”

“Well, you’re acting weird.”

“I’m just thinking.”

“About what?”  I was almost afraid to ask.  Was this the calm before the storm, before some earth-shattering news was delivered?

“About my life and the way I’ve been insulting to you. I realized this as Rick was telling me about how he and Carla got a divorce.”

“You’re kidding?!” I said, sitting on the bed beside him.

“I know.  I was shocked too.  I guess she got tired of the way Rick was sexually about other females, and she up and left him.  He hardly ever gets to see his kids.”

“That’s awful.”

“It made me start thinking about us.  Are we okay, Tammy?  I mean, are you glad you married me?”

I lay back on the bed beside him and stared up at the ceiling.  “Did you take the calendar down in Henry’s room?”

Jack looked over at me.  “I don’t think Henry needs a calendar like that.”

I smiled, feeling some invisible burden suddenly lift from my shoulders.  “Yeah, I’m glad I married you,” I said.

“Wow!  That was easy.”

“I’m not cheap but I am easy,” I said, laughing.

“Easy on the eyes,” Jack said, pulling me against him as he kissed the top of my head.

“Thank you, Jack,” I whispered, trying not to sound like I was about to cry.

“For what?”

“For doing that.  For understanding.” And, then I couldn’t keep back the tears.

“I want you to know you’re number one, Tam.  I don’t want you to ever feel like you’re second best.”

I closed my tired eyes and, for the first time in a long time, rested in my husband’s arms.

“I went shopping for a party dress tonight,” I murmured against his chest. “I felt so awful in everything I tried on that I was going to tell you earlier how I’d saved us some money for Christmas by not buying a thing, and I wasn’t going to go to your party this year. You aren’t having an affair with that voluptuous receptionist, are you?”

“Heck, no!”

“I’ll save you some more money then.  Taking down that cheerleader calendar was the best Christmas gift you could give me.”

Jack kissed me and I didn’t turn away this time. The calendar that had made our marriage bed so cold now ignited a flame. This day of snow and ice was transformed and we surrendered to the fire.

Charmayne Hafen
Charmayne Hafen is a Capture Books author concerned with marital health and the welfare of children. She facilitates art workshops for groups and grief therapy through art and photography. She holds a B.A. in journalism from John Brown University and an M.A. in counseling from Denver Seminary. Her youth books and children’s books are clean reads, full of adventures, compassion, and mystery.

ISBN 13: 9780999635339Princess Wren feels like a lost bird wandering a huge castle where her mother has disappeared and now even her father, King Belodawn, has abandoned her.
But, things are about to change as the princess matures.With the aid of the cook and the cook’s son, Wren discovers her unknown dexterity and honing it, believes it will open up new paths for her.

Little does the young woman know that a step to the right or to the left will plunge her into a life of horror.

What is Your Next Must-Read?

analysis, breath of joy, Bridges, Kathy Joy, op-ed

The Lowly Compliment

Kathy Joy

A compliment is usually a short phrase or sentence.

A compliment isn’t usually an essay or character development based on your uncle Henry. It doesn’t take a PhD or a master’s degree to offer one up.

The art of giving and receiving compliments is often pushed to the margins as an afterthought in life and business – but today let’s take a moment to applaud the power of the warmly-delivered affirmation.

Recently my daughter told me, “Mom, I’m in a bubble of sadness”. That was enough to make me want to get in my car and drive the two hours so I could burst her bubble.

Instead, I reminded her of her own talent for making others laugh.
She laughed, and I like to think she emerged from her little bubble in that moment onto a steadier footing.

A well-placed compliment, even a lowly one, can carry the day – and several days after that.

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
– Mark Twain

>Gratitude grows and fills the gaps where doubt once flourished. 
>Giving a compliment is a meaningful way of being fully present.
>Giving a compliment breathes hope into a difficult situation.
>Saying something positive is a booster shot of confidence.
>An honest and sincere compliment validates who we are.

While googling the difference between “complements” and “compliments”, I stumbled on an unconventional list compiled by a blogger named Mary. She is all about affirmations and “seeing ourselves more gently”. Here’s a sampling from Mary’s list, with a few of my own thrown into the mix:

15 Unique Compliments to Give Someone

1. You are as vibrant as a Lisa Frank angel kitty deluxe pen set.
2. I bet you were voted “Most Likely to Stay Fabulous” in high school.
3. Looking into your eyes is like looking into a kaleidoscope.
4. Your sense of childlike wonder brings others joy.
5. The world is so lucky that you exist right now.
6. You’re more fun than the corn pit at Port Farms.
7. Your ability to overcome adverse situations is inspiring.
8. If I had to choose between unicorns being real or keeping you in my life, I’d keep you.
9. You are cooler than The Fonz.
10. Your level of general awesomeness is getting a little out of control.
11. I’m consistently impressed by the dedication you give to your passions.
12. Your perspective is refreshing.
13. I’d rather do something boring with you than pop an unlimited supply of bubble wrap.
14. You’re so un-basic your pH level is almost zero.
15. Anyone’s coolness level increases by six percent just by being in the same room.

It is also a compliment to invite your best friends to your kid’s wedding when there isn’t a stay at home order in place. To give a nod to your favorite author in your next book is a valued compliment; to ask someone you highly respect to read and endorse your novel is a compliment you may have to pay for; It is a compliment to ask a good cook to bring whatever they’d like to cook to your family reunion because you trust their opinion and you’ve never tasted a bad thing from their table. My supervisor gave me a compliment when she said that she had sent my daily jabs for our company on to the division head over us.

Being a best friend, doing life with someone, is a compliment to each of you.

The Art of Receiving

Equally important as delivering a compliment, is receiving one.
Many of us tend to deny or deflect compliments others give us.
This is nonsense. Honor the giver by lovingly receiving what is shared. Simply say “thank you.”

And move on.

Allow the expression of gratitude to propel you into even better workflows, improved habits, more genuine depths of living.

Taking a compliment is one form of extending grace. It may have taken a bit of courage for your colleague to say something meaningful to you; take it the way you would a donut or a funny meme – with absolute pure delight!

Wear your compliment like a badge of honor. A badge of honor is a complement to you.


When nothing seems to be going right, dig deep into your emotional pocket and pull out a past compliment that has helped define who you are today. I have a folded up piece of paper I carry around in my wallet with three words written on it: warm, professional, funny. When my confidence is fragile, I unfold that paper and read the words my program director wrote in an evaluation, a long time ago. It’s a treasured note that carries me through the doubtful times.

Compliments give hope. Don’t be stingy with them.

Compliments are not “empty praises” … they are life-givers.

Compliments are not casual statements; they are launching pads to creativity and intention.

Kathy Joy The Daily Jab

©2020 Capture Books and its authors are happily represented by the publicity of Books for Bonding Hearts where you will find novels, memoirs, gift books, and several children’s books of high literary quality.

 

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