Friday, April 3, 2009

Making Progress, S-L-O-W-L-Y but surely!

To recap for those of you that might be new to my blog, in February 2010 my very first novel, The Heart's Journey Home, is scheduled for release by Sheaf House Publishing. It a story of a young widow who returns to her small Ohio hometown with her spunky, seven-year-old daughter. It's really about how the Lord guides your path in life and often when you think He's going to lead you one way, He leads you in a completely different direction. And it's about all the healing a heart can do with the Lord's help along that journey. My completed rough manuscript is due to my publisher by May 1st.

I am down to 27 days before my deadline and I averaged about 200 words/day this week. That's not good. I'm not exactly sure how much I need to add to that word count to meet my deadline, but I need more than 200/day. The story is all right there. I just have to get it down and that's actually the hard thing right now. My fingers just won't type fast enough and here lately with everything we've been through with Olivia and teaching all day long my brain has moments of lapses where I can't get the words from there to my fingers or I can but my fingers are just too tired to move! *Sigh* So I'm gonna make this post super quick so I can get to writing tonight. Ali's already asleep, Livi isn't far behind, and Chris has to get up really early for work tomorrow morning so he'll be going to bed soon, too. Then it'll just be me, my dog, and my laptop. Ahhh. Now, let's see. About two more cups of coffee and I'll be all set for a l-o-n-g night.

So, do you want a snippet? I recently wrote another scene that I'm in love with and it's because it's another scene between Adam and Grandpa Clayton. (For you newbies, if you go back a few posts, you'll find the first scene between Adam and Grandpa Clayton where Adam is just beginning to wonder about Christianity.) In this scene, Adam is exploring further, and Grandpa Clayton (who is Kate's grandfather, not Adam's) reveals more of his faith journey. For this scene, I had to research the attack on Pearl Harbor and have become deeply moved by the events that day and the impact it had on what is truly the greatest generation of all time. It was a ridiculously high price to pay, but the events of that day made this great country even greater. More than anything, I love, love, love the stories our grandparents have to pass down from generation to generation. I'm reminded of the stories of my Grandma Dominick when she performed with her family band. She sang, danced, and played the saxophone. Once, I think, she danced in roller skates on a drum! I believe there's even a picture of it! My Granny and Grandpa Moltz have been married for . . . oh gosh, I'm gonna mess this up . . . about 61 years or so and they are still so in love. They have a wonderful legacy to pass down especially in this day and age. Chris's grandfather talks of the 1932 basketball team that he was a part of that went to state and won the championship. He is so proud of what they accomplished as a team. And I am so proud of my heritage and the heritage I married into.

As a teacher, I often I feel like I learn more from my students than they learn from me. As a writer, I feel the same way about my characters. Grandpa Clayton has taught me so much about our country's history, about life, love, and loss, and about the undeniable importance of having a real relationship with the Lord. I hope I told his story well enough for you to experience some of Grandpa Clayton's gentle wisdom. It's long. Probably the longest one I've posted thus far. I hope it's good enough to keep you reading. Please keep in mind that, even though it's long, this is just a snippet. There may be a line or two that you don't fully understand because it refers to something mentioned in a previous scene. (For example: Chloe is Adam's daughter and his ex-wife lives in Chicago and Madeline is Kate's daughter.) Also, this is an UNEDITED version. It may change slightly (or drastically) between now and publication. Also, feel free to make a comment. You're input makes me a better story teller. And Sha, I want to thank you for the comment you left me after my last snippet. There really wasn't a better compliment you could've given me and I so appreciate your support. Now, without further ado . . .

Adam pulled into Kate’s driveway, shut off the engine and grabbed his grandfather’s Bible from where he stashed it under the seat. He and Chloe climbed out of the truck and the very next second Chloe ran off to play with an eagerly awaiting Madeline. Adam, on the other hand, wasn’t in that big of a hurry. He spotted Grandpa Clayton sitting in a lawn chair under a sprawling oak and, though Kate was no where to be seen, he moseyed across the yard in that direction.

“Nice day, isn’t it?” Grandpa Clayton said when Adam drew near.

“Sure is.” Although the older man wore a light weight jacket, Adam was comfortable in his t-shirt and jeans.

“Katey’s in the house brewing a pot of coffee. She’ll be out in a little while.” Grandpa Clayton gestured at the empty lawn chair next to him. “Have a seat. Make yourself comfortable.”

Adam didn’t know if he could shake enough of his edginess to qualify as comfortable, but he took a seat anyway.

Grandpa Clayton patted the arm of the chair with the palm of his hand. “That was a good game last night.”

“Thanks.” Then astonishment hit him over the head. “You mean you were there?”

“Nah. I listened to it on my old transistor radio. I don’t make it to too many away games anymore, but Katey and Maddie went with Jane and her family.”

“The boys have been working hard. They really want to win a state championship.” Adam really wanted it, too, but he left that side note out.

“Think you’ll bring home the trophy this year?”

Adam was silent for a moment. He wished he could confidently say yes, but he just didn’t know. “We still have to clinch play offs.” Adam shrugged. “Our team is good, but there are a lot of good teams in our division this year.”

Grandpa Clayton nodded, his bottom lip protruding just a bit. “Well, Adam, I’m guessing you didn’t come over here to talk football.”

Adam leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees, and he rubbed his hands together. “You’re right. I didn’t.” He took a deep breath and decided to jump right in. “The last time I was here you said that faith is when a person makes the choice to believe even when it doesn’t make sense.”

“That’s it in a nutshell.”

“I need to know more about it.”

“Gotch your Bible?”

Adam held it up.

“Turn to Hebrews 11:1.” Grandpa Clayton gave the instructions and then waited.

Adam opened the front cover, skimmed the table of contents until he found Hebrews, and then flipped to the page number. Finally finding chapter eleven, he began to read. “It says, ‘Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’”

“In other words, faith is made up of what we hope for and believe in, but can’t see with our eyes.” Grandpa Clayton tapped on his chest. “Faith is kind of like seeing with your heart.”

“Simple as that.” Adam shook his head. Seeing with your heart? How is that even possible?

“I suppose for some it’s as simple as that.” Grandpa Clayton looked at Adam. “But everyone I know has had their struggles.”

“Including you?”

“Oh, sure. Surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor made me question a lot of things.”

Adam stared at Grandpa Clayton in awe and utter amazement. “You were involved in the raid on Pearl Harbor?”

“’Fraid so.”

Adam sat on the edge of his seat, not wanting to pry, but hoping Grandpa Clayton would share some of his experience.

After a few minutes, Grandpa Clayton cleared his throat. “I was a young man in 1941, not that long out of high school, full of myself and empty of the Lord, though I was raised in a church-going family, mind you. Well, I arrived in Pearl Harbor just after Labor Day and I was assigned to the USS Vestal, a little repair ship. Our job was to upkeep all of the other ships. Not a fancy job, but I was proud of the Vestal and the crew that I was a part of.” Grandpa Clayton wore a reminiscent grin. “They were a good group of fellas. Secretly, though, I couldn’t help being just a little bit disappointed that I wasn’t on the Arizona or one of the other battleships where all of the action was. You know the grass is always greener on the other side, right?”

Adam gave a little snort. “Yeah, right.”

“Well, by the time my buddies and I finally crawled out of bed that Sunday morning it was somewhere around a quarter ’til seven. I wasn’t feeling very well, no doubt a result from our late night ashore.” Grandpa Clayton elbowed the air near Adam and Adam chuckled. “So I skipped breakfast. As I made my way very slowly to the bathroom, I remember thinking that if I’d been here in Harvest Bay with my mother and father, with the time zone difference, we’d have already been to church and home by then, and I knew Mother would’ve been disappointed that I was headed to the bathroom to sober up instead of cleaning up for church.”

Adam nodded. He understood that all too well.

“About an hour later, just before eight o’clock, we heard the alarm sound from General Quarters, but we didn’t think much of it. We just thought, odd as it was, that someone was holding a drill . . . until I heard the planes flying unusually close. When I looked out my porthole and saw a big red ball on one of the planes’ wing, I knew it wasn’t just a drill.”

Adam sucked in his breath. “What did you do?”

“We’d all trained for this, but for a minute or two no one really knew what to do until our commander started shouting orders. ‘Man your stations! Man your stations!’ The station I was responsible for was the three inch gun. The other gunners and I got to our stations lickety split, trying to prepare ourselves for what was about to happen. We didn’t have long to process it. Right about the same time we began firing our weapons we felt the ship shudder and rise out of the water just a bit.”

“You were hit, weren’t you?”

“Yes, indeed. Twice. Once on the port side and once on the starboard side. History experts say that the bombs were meant for the USS Arizona moored inboard of us, but it didn’t really matter. We were taking on water fast, and I knew there were men hurt, maybe even dying, below the decks.” Grandpa Clayton let out a little sigh. “But I couldn’t think about that. I had my own problems. After three rounds of firing, our gun jammed. The commander barked at me to go get more ammo while the rest of the crew worked on clearing the jam. I followed the orders without question.” Grandpa Clayton shrugged. “That’s just what you do in the service. But I had a lot of questions after it was all said and done.”

Adam thought if he sat any closer to the edge of his seat, he’d fall out of it. “Why?”

“Well, as I already said, the USS Arizona was moored inboard of us. We were scheduled to service her from December sixth through the twelfth.” Grandpa Clayton gave a humph and shook his head. “As I was heading back to my station, a bomb hit Arizona in one of her magazines. That explosion ignited adjacent magazines and resulted in a blast so powerful that it blew our commander and my fellow gunners right off our ship!” Grandpa Clayton’s boney shoulders fell. “I saw the whole thing. Despite the intense heat, I ran to the side of the ship. Oil had leaked into the water and was burning. There was no way any of them could’ve survived. I had permanent hearing loss from the explosion, received some burns, and a few cuts and scrapes.” Grandpa Clayton’s gravelly voice wavered. “But that didn’t compare to the pain I felt for my shipmates.”

Emotion rose in Adam’s throat and he swallowed hard against it. “I’m so sorry.”

“I was, too, not just for my crew and me but for all of the men on Arizona and the other ships moored on Battleship Row. Over two thousand men died, eleven hundred on the Arizona alone.” Grandpa Clayton wiped a hand over his mouth and down his clean-shaven chin. “I was sure I got a glimpse of hell that day.”

“Is that when you turned to God?”

“Nope. No, I turned farther from Him. Under such horrifying circumstances, some people aren’t able to think clearly. For a while, I questioned whether God even existed because in a young man’s mind it didn’t make sense how a loving God could allow such devastation and destruction to happen.”

“I can understand that.”

Grandpa Clayton gave his signiture nod. “I thought you might.”

“So, what happened?”

“Oh, well, it was utter chaos on the Vestal. With the commander overboard and our ship going down, others began abandoning ship, saving themselves, but for some reason, I couldn’t. I guess I was in shock because I couldn’t do much of anything. I can’t say what would’ve happened to me standing out on the deck an easy target, but,” Grandpa Clayton slapped his palm on the arm of the lawn chair, “by the grace of God our commander climbed back onto the ship.”

“No way!”

“It’s true. It didn’t even look like him at first, he was so covered in oil. But when he started barking at those of us who were left to return to our stations and prepare to get underway, we knew it was him. So, we cut loose of Arizona. With barely enough steam pressure to turn over our engine, we puttered up to safety and beached the USS Vestal.”

“That is an amazing story.”

“It’s more than a story.” There was a sad look in Grandpa Clayton’s eyes and Adam was instantly sorry for his thoughtless remark.

After a brief moment of silence, Adam said softly, “Your faith seems so strong now. How did you get from there to here?”

Grandpa Clayton slid his gaze over to Adam. “The love of a good woman.”

Adam glanced at the house just as Kate emerged carrying a steaming mug and all of his senses involuntarily came alive.

“My Bonnie was a nurse at the hospital on the base. I finally went to get checked out when the ringing in my ears wouldn’t stop. She asked me if I minded if she prayed for me. The foolish boy that I was told that pretty young thing that she could do whatever she wanted, that it was still free country for the time being.” Grandpa Clayton chuckled as Kate approached and handed him his cup of coffee. “Thanks, Katey.” He took a cautions sip.

Adam hopped up. “Here, Kate. Take my seat.”

“That’s okay. I’ll get another chair from the garage. Be back in a jiffy.” Kate turned and headed back toward the house.

Adam couldn’t keep himself from watching her go.

Grandpa Clayton cleared his throat. “As I was saying, when my Bonnie laid her hand on my shoulder and earnestly prayed for me, a stranger, my soul stirred. Despite all of the death and destruction, there was a sweet, little glimmer of hope. For about two weeks I kept going back to see her with fake pains in my back or knee or whatever I could think up until I finally got up the nerve to ask her out on a date.” Grandpa Clayton smiled staring off into another place and time. “She told me yes, but she would have to pick the time and place.” Grandpa Clayton turned to Adam with a twinkle in his eye. “Do you know where we went on our first date?”

Adam shook his head.

“We went to a young adult Bible study that she was leading at her church and then out for coffee afterwards.”

Adam grinned. That sounds just like Kate. But then his expression fell slightly as he questioned Grandpa Clayton’s, and, in all honesty, his own motives. “So you became a Christian for your wife?”

“No-o. No, no, no. You can’t become a Christian for someone else. I became a Christian for me but it was because of Bonnie. Sometimes the Lord brings people into your life who will very gently take your hand and lead you to Him.”

Adam redirected his gaze to Kate, crossing the lawn with a chair that matched his and Grandpa Clayton’s. “I’m beginning to see that.”

“That’s good. You’re seeing with your heart. That’s a start.” Grandpa Clayton looked thoughtful for a moment. “You know the old saying, ‘Everything happens for a reason?’”

Adam nodded.

“Well, it’s true. The Bible promises us that God uses all things for His good. All things. As terrible as that December day was, there was good that came out of it – in our nation, in the world, in my life. Because of what happened, I met Bonnie, and the forty-two years I spent with her were the best years of this old man’s life. It took a long while, countless evenings of Bible studies and a whole lotta prayer, but she helped me grow to have a solid relationship with the Lord.” Grandpa Clayton’s eyes became misty and Kate laid her hand over his. “And when He called her home twenty-four years ago, I still had that relationship to bring me peace and comfort.” Grandpa Clayton shrugged. “If ya ask me, that’s what faith is about.”

Adam’s gaze fell to his beaten, worn tennis shoes. He could never have a faith like Grandpa Clayton’s and he couldn’t stand the thought of letting Kate down, not to mention Chloe and the rest of his family. “I . . . I don’t have it in me.”

“Yes, you do.”

Adam stared at Grandpa Clayton. “How do you know?”

“It says in Romans chapter twelve verse three that ‘. . . God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.’ The hard part is done for you. The seed has already been planted. Now all you have to do is grow it.”

“And how do I do that?”

“First, you have to make the commitment to believe without seeing even when it doesn’t make sense, to trust in the Lord when you don’t understand. Then, just keep doing what you’re doing now – read your Bible and ask questions when you need to. It would be good to attend church to worship and fellowship with other believers.”

Adam shoved his fingers through his hair. Commitment? Church?

Kate leaned forward. “Just take it one step at a time. It’s a journey, Adam. A marathon, not a sprint.”

Adam looked at Kate suddenly very aware that she didn’t enter his life by some crazy coincidence. Driving from Nashville, she’d had five hundred miles for a flat tire to occur, yet it happened just a few yards from his parents’ house. Was that God? The corners of Adam’s mouth turned up. “One step at a time, huh? I think I can do that.”

PRAYER REQUESTS: I've gotten some more heart wrenching requests, guys. This first one is the grandparent of a sweet little girl in my class. Please pray for Janet Kraski. It was recently discovered that she has a mass on her brain. From what I understand she'd been having some memory loss and having a hard time making heads or tails out of simple tasks such as counting Monopoly money. She went in for some tests and that's when they found the mass on her brain. They are scheduled to do a craniotomy on Monday morning to remove and then biopsy a baseball sized tumor. Please pray for the strength and peace for Janet as she is awaiting surgery. Pray for a soft, fuzzy blanket of comfort to be wrapped around her family, including the sweet child in my class, who is not fully aware of all of the details. Pray for the doctors that they will have wisdom and discernment to know exactly how to treat this tumor. Please pray with all of your might that this tumor NOT be malignant. I will update you on this as soon as I get an update.

I also need you to pray for a distant cousin of mine. Her name is Verona. Her mother was my grandfather's sister. I have recently learned that Verona's daughter, Marissa, has passed away from Parkinson's. Please pray for peace for Verona and her family. Pray for the kind of peace that fell upon the raging waters when Jesus simply lifted His hand and said, "Peace, be still."

UPDATES: Many of you have become a member of the group on facebook, Praying for Katie Leach, so you may already know that our Katie is having a surgery on Monday to remove a spot on her lung. Please pray right now that this spot is NOT cancerous. Pray that these excellent doctors cannot even find the spot! Wouldn't that be something?! I wanted to put this picture of Katie on here so you'd know exactly who you are praying for. Isn't she so sweet?! Look at that angel face. Ashley said in a recent post that Katie is already working on coordinating her hats with her clothes. This entire family is remarkable. I get on facebook daily and check Ashley or Ron's daily posts and am unceasingly amazed at the faith they have shown through this ordeal with their sweet baby. If you have not yet become a member of Praying for Katie Leach, I encourage you to do so. You won't be sorry! I'll bet you'll quickly grow to love her as I do.

PRAISE REPORT: This is new. I don't know why I haven't added it sooner because it is SOOOO important to praise our Lord. I have had an amazing thing happen to me this week that has truly been a gift from God. There's no other way to put it. Through 1 letter that I got via snail mail, I found and connected with six family members on facebook whose mother or grandmother was a sister to my grandfather. (One of them lives only about 30-40 minutes from me!) My heart feels so full to have this new family that I'd only ever heard of. It's my heritage. It's part of who I am and I'm so thankful to have them.

Finally! We've come to the end of this post! Whew! Please keep your eyes on this computer screen until we've come to a complete stop. I hope you've enjoyed your stay here and thank you for riding this ride with me! :o) Until next time, love and blessings to you and yours!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, I enjoyed your snippet very much. Your Dad and I always suspected that our little "social butterfly" who wrote poems & short stories at the age of nine would eventually turn into a writer and you certainly did. How proud your Dad would be. I can't wait to read your book. Being an avid reader, I also tend to forget the research that goes along with writing a book. Good job!
Love, Shirley