Thursday, August 29, 2013

Introducing the inspirational imprint EBENEZER PRESS

For a couple of years now, I have been releasing some of my books and short stories on my own, though I've also continued working with a couple of independent publishers (plus my role in the publishing arm of Western Fictioneers, though most of that work is done by Livia Washburn.)

After much discussion, my wife Robin and I have decided to branch out. Whereas I have previously released my own work under the moniker WOLF PASS BOOKS, we are changing that title to CANE HOLLOW PRESS; we plan for the overall title to eventually include imprints to represent several genres.

The first of these is EBENEZER PRESS, which will publish a select number of inspirational books and short pieces. Not all of them will necessarily reflect my own spiritual/religious ideology , which is not easily encapsulated; there will be a variety of approaches and viewpoints.

If you are like most people, you know "Ebenezer" only as the first name of mean old Mr. Scrooge, a geezer named Ebenezer. It has a much deeper meaning, though.

My very favorite hymn- my favorite song, period, in fact -is "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." There is a line in the hymn: "Here I raise mine Ebenezer; Hither by thy help I've come."

Ebenezer is a Hebrew word meaning "Stone of Help." It appears in the Bible in 1 Samuel 7: 12 ...   

       Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

Thus far the Lord has helped us. As I said, the books that appear under this imprint will represent different perspectives, but they will all have that central theme.

We have a couple of very good possibilities lined up in the months ahead, and have released our very first: LifeLessons: Book One by Pamela Walton. Walton, a journalist and evangelical minister, has collected several of her practical spiritual essays. She has a very engaging voice, a keen sense of humor, and the ability to shift gears into the profound and affecting.

Her book is available in paper and ebook form at Amazon, and at Smashwords for multiple platforms.

I am attaching below one of her essays. It is on a very difficult subject, and one most of us would shy away from -but sometimes we don't have the luxury of avoiding the bad things, and it is important to examine the lessons we can learn even from the worst of circumstances. I don't know anyone who has read this that hasn't been deeply moved by it.


Living in the Moment

It began like all the others. I was feeling the soft waist-length tresses of my seven-year-old daughter’s beautiful auburn hair. I ran my hands up and down her arms, feeling the familiar velvety texture of her skin. I gazed into her eyes and questioned, “Anna, do you miss me? I miss you so bad.” Then I sobbed uncontrollably until I woke up.
Parents don’t expect to outlive their children. We know it happens, but we cringe at the very thought, pained by the idea of such a profound loss. I remembered how I had felt years before, as I stood before the casket of a nine year-old-girl. I live in a small town, so news of her death had traveled fast. I felt compelled to go to the funeral home despite the fact that I did not know her or her family members. She had been struck down while waiting for her school bus; a driver had fallen asleep at the wheel. I felt such deep compassion for her mother. It was unthinkable. How could one recover from such a loss?
Years later, I would be the mother standing before her young daughter’s casket, agonized with grief. As was the case of the other little girl, she died as a result of an automobile accident. My mind filled with memories, some almost too difficult to bear.
 Shortly before her death, I was lying on the couch, physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. I remember wondering if I was anemic. For several months, all I could do was fulfill my obligations at work, but other than that, it seemed I had nothing left to give.
Anna ran into the living room, begging me to come out and “see something.” Looking up at her pleading eyes, I asked her to tell me what it was. She said it was a surprise--which I had to see. I said no. I was tired and grumpy. The last thing I wanted to do was leave my position on the couch. After she kept insisting, and after stern warning from me that it had better be worth it, I grudgingly acquiesced. Following slothfully behind her exuberant pace, we landed on the breezeway, where she pointed to an elaborately fashioned spider web. The spectacle was a wonder in a little girl’s heart. Her eyes opened wide shone as she demanded, “Look mom!”
All I could think about was me. Not the wonder of my daughter’s amazement at nature and the glory she beheld. Not the earnestness with which she assured me it would be worth my attention. No, all I thought about was that I had traveled from the couch where I was resting comfortably, through the house and outside to see something I had seen hundreds of times before.
I said, “You mean you made me get up and come out here to see a spider web?” I watched her little spirit deflate before my eyes. She was so sure I would be as excited as she had been, that I would agree that it was a marvel well worth seeing.
That was one of the memories floating around in my mind as I stood before her casket. The remembrance sparking regret and with it, the realization that our moments are ones we can never do over. I had learned an extremely painful, yet valuable lesson. To be fully present in the here and now is all important, no matter how mundane those moments seem to be at the time.
I don’t live in guilt over my response that day, but I do use it as a reminder that I need to approach life with great caution. I don’t know what I will be facing each day, but I do know that whatever I say or do will have its consequences. My choices, my decisions, may end up becoming weightier matters than I realize.
I think of Anna every time I see a frustrated parent dealing with a rebellious or crying child; I long to tell them my story. I want to urge them to embrace their little one and extend more patience. I want to say that what they are experiencing is nothing compared to what I have lived through--better a crying child than no child at all--but I don’t.
I do let it have an effect on my response to both children and adults. I try to take time to listen when they talk to me, not to be in such a hurry to move on with my agenda. I let life interrupt more and run with its direction. I realize I can’t control the world or even my life.
Studies have shown that one of the good things about marriage and family relationships is the comfortable ability to take one another for granted. I recall with fondness the many times I have seen a friend’s certain smile coupled with an exaggerated shrug in response to their spouses’ typical annoying behavior, the rhetorical question asked, “What can you do?”
After years of living with each other, they have come to terms with the reality that they cannot change their spouse. They are just enjoying the pleasure of not having to live on pins and needles or walk on eggshells around them. Yet, how often have we regretted taking those very loved ones for granted, aggrieved by the fact that it is now too late to show appreciation withheld?
My life and actions were not the only ones changed the day my little girl died. I was told that the tow-truck driver who worked the accident went home, lifted his children onto his lap, hugged them close and with salty tears spilling down his cheeks, told them how much he loved them. Other parents throughout the region reacted in a similar manner. Through my tragedy, their eyes and hearts were opened; the realization of their own vulnerability struck a hard blow in the recesses of their beings.
I try to keep before me this pervasive reality: that whatever my choices, the present is just that. It will never return. I won’t be able to retrieve words spoken in anger. I may not have time to tell that special someone how much they have meant to me.
For two years, my dreams of Anna played out exactly the same way. I had them monthly, as my mind and emotions grappled with the brutal truth. I would never see her in this life again. Still, I was thankful. My dreams of her were so vivid. I was able to spend time with her, feel her soft skin and run my fingers through her hair.
This time, however, my dream had changed. Once again, I posed the question which she had never answered, and for what would prove to be the last time. “Anna, do you miss me? I miss you so bad!” I sensed she didn’t want to tell me, certain that her answer would be painful for me. I gazed into her eyes, and pleading with her, insisted: “Tell me the truth! I have to know the truth!” Looking at me somberly, she answered softly, “No, for there is no remembrance of the former things.” Finally, my long-term question satisfied, the dreams ended.
There are reasons why there are so many quotes about the concept of “seizing the day.” We are only promised this moment. Life is fleeting and likened to grass or a flower that withers away.
I am committed to living my life to the full, although the definition of “full” may change from day to day. I am resolved to do better with my daily choices in life and to keep in mind that what matters most are relationships with our family, with our friends, and with our fellow man.
I keep these truths in mind as I live out however many days I have left on this earth. I am letting my experience influence how I respond to the “little things in life,” which I have learned are really the big things in life.
“There is no remembrance of former things.” Ecclesiastes 1:11

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Patsy Giddings, author of Sandy's Miracle

Today I am focusing on a nonfiction piece from the recent Foxleaf Anthology (available HERE) ... an excerpt from Patsy Giddings' memoir about surviving child abuse, Sandy's Miracle. Here is how Patsy introduces herself:

Patsy married Mark Giddings on May 28, 2005. They have five children and fifteen grandchildren, and now reside in Cookeville, TN. Because of Patsy and Mark’s love for children and due to the severe child abuse Patsy suffered as a child, they soon became foster parents, doing this for two years, before becoming volunteer court appointed special advocates (CASA). Their passion runs deep and personal in a determination to help abused children. It is the reason that she and Mark became CASA Volunteers. It is also the reason she went on to become a voice of advocacy, giving public lectures to bring awareness of the desperate need existing in modern day America, to protect our children. But in her lectures, Patsy explains how her dependence on God was lifesaving, as she struggled to live through one nightmare after another and the important lessons it holds about the meaning and purpose of our lives. She is committed to increasing awareness of God’s presence, love and grace and tells how God brought her to where she is today –saved, rescued, and at peace.

Here is an excerpt:

I remember waking up one night, and daddy sitting on the side of my bed. Startled at the sound I heard, I sat straight up in the bed, and said “What’s wrong daddy? Are you okay?” “I’m okay Sandy,” he said to me,“Lie down and go back to sleep.” So I laid my head back down on the mattress, but again, I heard that same startling sound, and saw daddy vomiting on the floor. This frightened me so much, that I began to cry. “Sandy, why are you crying?” daddy asks. As I stretched out my arms in hopes that daddy would pick me up, I cried out to him, “I am scared, daddy!” He then turned around, lifted me up and ever so gently cradled me in his arms. He said, “Don’t cry baby girl, daddy will be okay.” Then he very softly began to rock and sing to me. “Hush baby girl, your daddy’s here”. Up to this day, I can still feel the gentleness of daddy’s arms, holding me snug to his chest. Hear the soothing sound of his voice in my ears as he sang to me. At that very moment, daddy was my hero! For just a little while, time stood still for me to embrace my daddy’s love. Sadly though, that one precious moment in time would be my last to see my daddy for years to come... 

Poetry by Sasha Mabe

I have another excerpt from the Foxleaf Anthology, available HERE , this one by poet Sasha Mabe.

Here's how she introduces herself:

Sasha Mabe was born in Detroit, Michigan, and became a Cookeville transplant after her hubby retired. She has written thousands of poems over the span of thirty years. She says, “My writing is spontaneous –and I never know when it will hijack me. I am also an artist, pastry chef, seamstress, and I played the drums in a heavy metal band in the 90's. This is my first published book and I am pulling together three more. Stay tuned...”


Three of Sasha's poems appear in the anthology. This is one of them.

Billions upon billions of autumns, leaves
Over the ages laying down their lives,
Giving birth to soil, rich, black, and fertile
The dust of ages calling out to me in a whisper,
 begging, pleading for me to push tiny seeds
Beneath the sun warmed surface to grow
Earth, tending the garden of life
Pregnant with the seeds that would feed and nourish
Those who are hungry, and growing
Aching for my fragile fingers to caress and move it
Remove weeds that had taken up residency,
 Drench it with fresh cool rain water, from the heavens above
The earth will someday swallow me up
When I have finished all my tasks, and given up my life
Earth, the dust from which I came
Calling me home to rest