Book Blurbs, book excerpt, breath of joy, Bridges, Kathy Joy, literary, op-ed, Pennsylvania author, poetic, simply summer

The Ordinary Normal Is Still Here

Everyone’s talking about the “New Normal”.

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!

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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.

A page from Breath of Joy: Simply Summer

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,
  • curbside pickup,
    • the hypnotic hum of a lawnmower,
    • Old Glory rippling in the breeze.
    • a real letter in the mail,
      • silence,
      • 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, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books

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 up here for inspiring posts from this author!

Learn about Kathy Joy’s inspirational gift books on this site.


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analysis, book excerpt, Bridges, inspirational, op-ed, Welcome to the Shivoo

Rooted in the True Story

Excerpt from the book, Welcome to the Shivoo!

“Weeding a bed of iris rhizomes in late summer taught me something about the Creator’s winnowing tactics.

“I had left the irises all spring and summer. Their roots became infiltrated with grass roots.  It seemed daunting trying to pull out the grass that year. Every time I yanked at a few long pieces in irritation, the bed hollered, “I need your focused attention, please!”

So, in the fall, I decided to pull out all those evil pencil grasses choking my bed of prized spring flowers. 

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“It was difficult work digging up the entire bed and chopping apart or wrestling out the clumps of rhizomes.

“Hidden within each clump were grass roots that clung to the rhizomes as if they were the same thing, mimicking the iris rhizomes. The grass roots, though they looked succulent and almost identical to the hairs of the root, were not part of the root at all. They didn’t belong, they were fakers. They would never produce blossoms for me.

Even healthy, good grass is just “weedy” when woven into beds of blooming irises.

“When I tugged at each hair of the rhizome, they clung to the root because they belonged. When I tugged at a grass root, it would slide out of the other hairs, because it was not connected by anything other than dirt. This hard work made me think about the work the Lord does in pulling out the wild grasses in my life. He has to do this work even in the lives of very mature and colorful groups of people.

“Learning to thank the Gardener of our souls early on for the means in which He manhandles our lives helps us to recognize what keeps us healthy and blooming. Hardship means to bring us maturity and glory.

“Living a creative life is the closest sort of metaphor to living a life of faith that I can think of. Music infuses grace as a spirit-transforming wonder like a blessing. There are so many risks taken being creative and also living by faith. Yet there is hope! Inspiration. And, many self-adjustments.  So many prayers. So much involvement and intervention of God. So much personal growth.

“Being creative in a godly sense means turning out something of positive purpose from very little.”

Pages 54-55, Chapter 3, Welcome to the Shivoo! (Bartnick)

  • Q: What is creativity in writing?
  • A: You give someone a disaster, and they find a human spirit pulling a wagon with a child in it.
  • Q: What is creativity in writing?
  • A: You give someone a maniac, and they put a history onto her like a sack of stones so that you find the salt of sympathetic tears, empathy weeping, dashed upon her oily hair. You learn God’s mercy, and maybe redemption. Learning to experience mercy can be an artistic leap for anybody. Page 56, Welcome to the Shivoo! (Bartnick)

How are you working to winnow out a good result from a bad situation? Below the ground, we all find good roots and tangly, weedy roots. Telling the full story in a memoir is surprisingly more compelling than just telling the flowery stuff.

Find out more!
Book One, Reviewed by
Christian News Journal, June 10, 2020 here.

Book Two is reviewed by Midwest Reviews as “Exceptionally well written” on August 20, 2020, in the General Fiction section here and “is unreservedly recommended for both highschool and community library collections.”
https://www.amazon.com/Simply-Summer-Breath-Joy-Kathy/dp/0997897686/
Learn more about singing the Psalms!

Dust and Sparkles in this children’s Trilogy of faith
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Advice, featured, How To, inspirational, op-ed, Tonya Jewel Blessing

The Woman Writer

Tonya Jewel Blessing

Most often when the day draws to a close and bedtime is near, my thoughts turn toward the story I am currently reading, and my heart swells with anticipation for when I climb between the sheets, gather two pillows on which to rest my head, switch on the lamp next to my side of the bed, and open a book to the dog eared page where I left off the night before.

Reading in Bed

I read myself to sleep most nights. Sometimes the book is so engaging that I read myself awake until the wee hours of the morning.

As a small girl, I fell deeply in love with books, and my admiration has not waned.

Along with my love of reading as a child, I dreamed of being a writer. I thought all writers were famous and lived loftily in houses in lovely places. They were also people of means who traveled the world looking for the next setting for their grand-scale story.

I have written three books (two novels and a leadership tool for women in ministry) and have a third novel in mind. BUT, somehow, the exotic places in my dreams and the resources to explore and experience adventures around the world based on book sales have not happened.

Writing and publishing are time-consuming and costly. In fact, it took me several years in the business to begin seeing a small profit. For the first two years, virtually nothing much sold. Sometimes, that can be the entire life of a book. But something hit a nerve somewhere in the third year of marketing of my first West Virginia book, and it made such a turn around that I wrote my sequel.

Writing and publishing a novel is a long, complicated, collaborative affair…

Jim Fergus

Last year, an audiobook organization located in Atlanta, Georgia approached me about recording my novels: The Whispering of the Willows and The Melody of the Mulberries (Book 1 and Book 2 in the Big Creek Series). I was paid a nice advance, and the contract included receiving a small sum of money from each recording sold after the number of books represented by the advance had been sold. I paid my publisher, Capture Books, for negotiating the arrangement out of the advance. I am proud to say that last month, I received my first royalty check from the audiobook distributor for $34.

This morning, I opened my email to find a nice review from Midwest Book Review, the official book reviewing agency of Amazon. This is what it said,

“An exceptionally well written and entertaining work of historical romance for young adult readers that is unreservedly recommended for both high school and community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that ‘The Melody of the Mulberries’ is also readily available in a paperback edition.”

A young writer recently asked me about the probability of her making a living writing. My initial thoughts were about the costs involved and the time spent in meetings and working on marketing, but instead, I told her to read every book placed in her hands, to write long into the night, and to wake-up dreaming about traveling the world either in her thoughts or in heels walking on faraway soil.

I don’t drink alcoholic beverages but have been known to toast with a ice-filled glass of water, a swirl of diet soda, or even cranberry juice – so here’s to the writers young and old, those starting out in publishing or the seasoned author – read, write, and dream!

Tonya Jewel Blessing is a founding author and partner of the Capture Books boutique publishing group. Her vision and contributions to the group have been a cornerstone to the ministry and success of several authors and readers to date.

If you would like to view the original post and join Tonya Jewel Blessing’s personal email list, find it here. https://mailchi.mp/1cc476cfbead/author-updates-the-woman-writer?e=babc5eea8a

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Recent Review of Whispering of the Willows

“I am thoroughly impressed! I specifically enjoyed your characters. When I finish a book and continue thinking of the characters as people I care about and want to hear more about, I gage that a success!!! They are flawed individuals who are trying to live out a genuine Christian life, and that is refreshing!

“I also enjoyed the real tragedy these characters experienced…So often Christian fiction is hesitant to portray realistic tragedy. Thank you for facing some of the ‘ugliness’ of life and showing how Christ can carry us through it!
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breath of joy, captive audiences, featured, Inbound and Outbound Marketing, ingenuity, Kathy Joy, op-ed

Rolling Forward

By wordsmith Kathy Joy

A page from Simply Summer, a Breath of Joy

 

A quote is hanging in the office of a colleague at my place of work: a building that, due to circumstances, is currently inhabited by a small percentage of our workforce.

This common quote is something a wise driving coach or a life coach might say.

“Even though there are days I wish I could change some things that happened in the past, there’s a reason the rear view mirror is so small and the windshield is so big. Where you’re headed is much more important than what you’ve left behind.”

Anonymous

The majority of my workmates are putting in their time remotely, sometimes passing through the building briefly to touch base, retrieve something, or peer curiously back into a world we evacuated in 2020. The rearview mirror seems so small, but the effects of yesterday have changed our courses.

How prophetic, then, as we drive forward into an uncertain future, to think of the windshield as our point of reference: Where we are headed is far more important than what we’ve left behind. Even this gradual return to “normal” will not look like the “old normal” we once knew.

The band, Pearljam, made their song, Rearview Mirror, popular by not delicately expressing the problems with seeing something vividly once and then having a hard time letting it go in order to move ahead.

That rearview mirror? It’s a handy reference tool, and we can check to see who’s following us into the unknown.

  • Good company or bad, we can keep an eye on them.
  • Look through that big windshield for the great things that await.
  • We’re getting some new dreams and goals to replace the old.
  • Let’s hang on and enjoy the ride.

Finally, whatever regrets or chaos you’ve found in the rearview mirror holding your attention, or slowing you down … let that stuff go. Keep driving forward into the next Great Adventure.

A page from Simply Summer, a Breath of Joy
Kathy Joy, Author of the Breath of Joy calendarial gift books

Kathy Joy writes daily for her local county government, is an experienced and popular radio DJ, and is also a guest blogger for Books For Bonding Hearts See more on her personal blog, Coffee with Kathy. She is available for speaking engagements and holiday events. Book Kathy Joy!

adaption, boys and men, featured, G.K. Johnson, GK Johnson, Israel, op-ed, simply summer, Summertime, The Zealots

Magdala By the Sea

By Historic Novelist, GK Johnson

A hiking trip through Israel was one of the inspirations for my debut novel, The Zealots, appearing on shelves in January of 2021.

I first saw this incredible painting when my husband and I visited the ancient town of Magdala located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The painting, named ‘The Encounter’, by Daniel Cariola, takes up an entire wall in the Duc in Altum spiritual center.

As I sat on the rough-hewn stone bench across from the larger-than-life depiction of a woman’s hand snaked through a maze of dusty, sandaled feet, (view link to The Encounter) I was transported to a time over two thousand years ago.

***

When the bleeding first began she didn’t worry. Like all women, her menses arrived regularly. As required by law she gathered up her mat, some clothes, water, and food and bade farewell to her husband and children.

Wedding Scene from The Zealots by G.K. Johnson

She walked outside the gates of Capernaum and joined the other women gathered in tents on the outskirts of the city. They shared this in common: they were all considered unclean so long as their menses continued. Once the bleeding stopped they would complete the ritual purification rites and rejoin their families in town. The women were far from bemoaning their temporary exile, however. In fact, they thanked Adonai for the respite from their daily responsibilities, enjoying the time of community, and the rest with the other women.

She anticipated returning to town after seven days, the normal duration of her cycle, the required time by law. When the bleeding did not cease after seven days she refused to worry. A woman’s body was an unpredictable thing. She would enjoy the extra day of rest and return home soon. After ten days she began to worry. Her young daughter brought more food and asked when she would return home. She tried to reassure her, “soon.” Surely the bleeding would stop tomorrow.

Another week passed and then another.

It became a singular torture to see the other women come and go back to their husbands, their children, their bodies dependable and self-healing. Her body, broken.

She cried out to Adonai to stop the flow of blood. Her husband and sons sent messages to her. They often stood at a distance from the tents, their conversation disjointed and awkward. She tried not to cry when her daughter visited. Was this curse to pass down to the little one? Each time her daughter visited, she seemed a little older for carrying the duties belonging to her mother at home, a little more resigned to the fact that her mother now lived outside the gates. Magdala not only experienced the physical cramping, but also the cramp of guilt, resignation, loss, humiliation.

Many nights the woman cried herself to sleep, craving her husband’s arms around her, longing to touch her sons’ faces.

Months passed, then years.

The woman’s daughter soon joined the women who came to the tent every few weeks, but empty years had untangled their ties as mother and daughter. The girl seemed guarded and withdrawn. Other women treated her like a leper. They worried the issue was a contagion. Shamed and confused, Magdala grieved her years. The bleeding was a thief! Every morning and evening she removed and replaced the bloody cloths that evidenced her required isolation.

Watching her numbness to the physical pain and a growing bitterness to the emotional pain that tore at his wife’s heart, her husband had commissioned many doctors to try to find a cure over the years. None had been successful.

Where was Adonai?

What had she done that she was being punished–as people insinuated?

One day a friend arrived in the tent bearing news of a traveling rabbi. The man spoke like no other teacher and healed the sick and lame. The woman begged those who came to the tent for news of the great rabbi. She sat enraptured, listening to the accounts. At night she dreamed that the rabbi came to the tent and healed her, but when she awoke she knew it was impossible. Those in the tent were unclean. No man would ever enter the tent.

It had been twelve years since the bleeding began.

Magdala had missed the marriages of her children.

She hadn’t been home to share in daily intimate conversations with her husband, or touch the softened wrinkles that time had worn in his face. She was in the tent when her daughter gave birth to her first child, and had listened, tears streaming down her face, as her daughters-in-law described her grandchildren. She had missed so much.

In that moment she wished the bleeding would consume her.

When she heard that the rabbi was in Capernaum that day, the woman made a decision.

It was unlawful for her, an unclean woman, to leave the tent. If she were discovered she would be publicly humiliated, punished, forced outside the city, and her actions would bring dishonor on her family. But she was desperate. Hadn’t all of these things already happened to her and to them? From what she had been told, large crowds followed the rabbi everywhere he went. If she could simply touch the hem of his garment, perhaps then her prayers would be noticed as the physical reality they were.

She crept from the tent and covered her head with her cloak. She kept her face to the ground and joined those entering the city, glancing up furtively every so often. Maybe she would be seen as a foreigner. No-one had seen her up close in years. She hurried to the hope of a savior.

It wasn’t difficult to find the rabbi as the streams of people surrounding her carried her to where he stood, surrounded by his disciples. She listened. He spoke with authority just as they said. But how was she to get close enough to touch him?

Years of pain and desperation had worn away her pride. She began pressing through the crowd, one hand grasping her shawl over her face, so that only her eyes were visible. If anyone discovered who she was she would be removed from the crowd, this she knew.

Perfumed people stood with sweaty. Thickly, their robes overwhelmed her. They complained and elbowed her as she pressed past them, hunched over against the pain. Soon she stood just the space of another person from the rabbi, but here the people jostled one another, each wanting to be as close to the man as possible.

She sank to her knees and crawled around the leather-thonged feet. A curse rang out above her. She was kicked and stepped on, but still, she reached forward, her eyes fixed on the white linen tunic only a couple of steps from her. Finally, she was close enough. She stretched desperately to touch the hem of his tunic.

A jolt of pain wrenched through her then left entirely.

She sank back on her heels and was knocked over by someone. She didn’t care about that. Delighted in the complete absence of cramps, she also realized that the helpless river was stopped. She was healed. She could feel it.

Tentatively she stood to her feet. Drops of sweat and dust rolled down her forehead and neck.

Her back hunched, a body instinctively trained from years of pain. Yet now she felt nothing, no spasms or pangs. She drew her shoulders back, forcing herself to stand tall. Still no pain. A sigh of relief slipped from behind lips still covered by her cloak. She had forgotten how it felt to be well.

As the wonder enveloped the town of Magdala, the Rabbi in the white tunic turned and looked straight at her.

“Who touched me?” He questioned, looking into her eyes.

One of his disciples gestured to the masses surrounding them, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”

“Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out of me.” The Rabbi replied. His eyes continued to hold hers, and the woman began to tremble. She fell to her knees. Those surrounding her drew back, hundreds of eyes now looking at her and the Rabbi. Voices quieted.

“I…I’m sorry, Rabbi.” The woman pulled back the shawl covering her head and face and heard some around her voice their recognition.

“I have been bleeding…for years now. None were able to heal me. I have been separated from my family…” Salty tears ran down her cheeks; she could taste them. She glanced up and saw her husband’s astounded face in the crowd.

“I heard about you…about the miracles you do. I had to see if you could heal me. I touched your garment and immediately I felt the bleeding stop.”

Tears flowed down her husband’s face. The woman wanted to stand and throw herself into his arms, but she restrained herself. What was the Rabbi going to do now that he had singled her out of the healthy crowd?

She hadn’t sent him messages about healing her before touching his robe. She, an unclean woman, had touched a holy man against the law, and had she made him unclean? Would he withdraw the healing and demand punishment? Would he make her pay for her disobedience to the law?

Trembling, she waited. She looked up into the Rabbi’s face.

Rather than condemnation, she saw his kindness.

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

The crowds around her surged back to life, surrounding her. She shakily made her stance and wiped the hair from her eyes. Though people studied her, curiously, no one laid hands on her. She was free to go.

She flinched when a hand landed firmly on her shoulder and turned. Her husband stood before her. Without waiting a moment longer she fell into his arms. The tears they shared were tears of wonder, victory in love, and peace.

The town recognized that this rabbi had singled her out and pronounced her healed. Yet surely he was more than an ordinary rabbi making pronouncements.

“Where is he? Please thank him!” She turned to locate the Rabbi again among the people, but he was already blocked from her view. Still no pain.

Ref: Luke 8:43-48 NLT

G.K. Johnson is the debut author of The Zealots, a story of Barabbas and Simon the Zealot, a story for boys and men. Johnson is a regular contributor to the Books For Bonding Hearts blog.

If you would like to read a pre-release copy of The Zealots, please subscribe today.

 

The Zealots, coming soon. For men and boys. Illustration and cover design by James Dawson.
About The Zealots by G.K. Johnson
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