Twice the Miracle

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nurse

I could tell by the look in the nurse’s eyes she wasn’t sure I understood what she was saying. We stared at each other, she with one brow lifted in question for some sign of comprehension on my end; me drifting inside myself with a host of “what if’s” tumbling through my mind.

My twins, due in two months, would be delivered in a matter of hours. The medical staff had done their best to keep them in, and now they had no choice but to take them out surgically.

In part I was relieved. My son, whose water had burst five days earlier, and whose heart stopped with every contraction, couldn’t possibly survive much longer. But the nurse wanted me to acknowledge the risks of such an early delivery: long-term disabilities, breathing difficulties, jaundice, stunted growth, brain defects…and very possibly death. My husband squeezed my hand and spoke for me. Yes we understood. Yes we were prepared.

But no…I wasn’t.

I remember feeling so cold that the blanket tucked around my swollen body was about as effective as it could’ve been warming a block of ice. A new mother, never having held one of my children, I wasn’t at all prepared for the worst. In truth I wanted nothing to do with it.

In my mind’s eye I saw my children alive and healthy, growing and happy. From the first toddled steps to the first days of school; then on to camping trips, family vacations, and game days. That’s what I was prepared for. My heart, which others wanted me to coax into being ready for anything, was defiantly unyielding in its loyalty to the original plan. Come what may, problems and all, I wanted those babies.

But soon enough, as with every other time when my will has rushed to the frontlines of battle and tossed it’s proud locks, words buried in my core began to whisper what I knew all along to be true. It wasn’t my choice. And no amount of will could change that. Whether either twin would suck that first breath of God’s given air into their lungs, or pass quietly on to the call of their Maker, was out of my hands.

I had to lay before Him the desire of my heart – that He let my babies live – then lay my will flat-faced on the floor in submission to His, and accept whatever He chose for me. And in all that still know that He loves me, He is for me, and He is now and forever will be my King. As soon as I did that I had peace about the entire situation, and was finally prepared in the way the doctors and nurses wanted me to be prepared.

What strange creatures we are! What is it in us that makes us automatically think when we’re willing to let go of something we desperately want, it means we’ve already lost it? For at that time, though I still had hope, and I knew beyond doubt that God could not only let them live but make them completely healthy, I was internally cringing in preparation for loss.

I look back on that now, nine years which seem to have passed as quickly as nine glorious sunsets, and I can imagine Him looking down at me on that rather hard, sterile rollaway. His eyes full of compassion as He listened to the fears suppressed beneath my brave exterior. He knew I would love Him no matter what – perhaps He just wanted me to know it too – then He blessed me with two completely healthy, beautiful babies.

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My twins – His twins – turned nine recently. And as they reminisce over the fun they had bringing in the “big nine,” I sit back and look at them in celebration. Not just celebration for their lives, but also celebration of the worthy, mighty Father who gave them life. He who did not spare His own Son, spared both my son and my daughter.

And He is now, and will forever be, my King.

Walk it Out

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El interés tiene pies.

It’s a Spanish phrase that often comes back to haunt me when I find myself making excuses not to do something. The literal translation? Interest has feet.

Who has What?!?” you ask. Stay with me, the meaning is a bit more profound.

Many of us have approached a prospect or task at one time or another with the following attitude:

I’d like to be able to, BUT…

I wish I could help you, BUT…

I need to finish writing that today, BUT…

We express an intention, then chase it with a determination not to do the thing. El interés tiene pies says if you really wanted to do it, you’d drop the excuses and get it done.

We might argue that it’s not always that simple. But most times, it really is. We excuse ourselves time and again out of opportunities and obligations, sometimes for fear of failure or lack of passion, other times out of sheer convenience. Yet the less we make excuses and the more we act, the more impact we have on the world and those around us.

If one is to live up to one’s purpose, one must be purposeful.

El interés tiene pies.

Put some feet on that torso of a task, and get to stepping.

Dare to Live the Dream

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Every dream has a starting point. My love of reading, and the eventual desire to write, began in the pages of two childhood classics.

Where the Red Fern Grows is the first book to ever make me weep. Not cry. Weep. Hysterically. As if my house had just gone up in flames and every family member, friend, acquaintance, and celebrity crush perished inside.

Sing Down the Moon sobered me to the cruel realities of human nature, yet inspired hope. And it stayed with me, dug a sort of niche in my heart where I knew I’d always carry these people who never existed.

That niche grew and grew, and over time I began making up my own people to put in there. That they’re climbing out and into their own stories is a kindness of God I don’t have the words to describe. By His grace, my dreams are stirring to life.

The process is slow and the work is hard, but dreams are worth the effort. Otherwise they stay lofty notions in the head and passing flutters of the heart.

Your turn: What’s your dream and what inspired it?

 

Too Fat to Fly

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But those who wait on the Lord…they shall mount up with wings like eagles.

The other morning I pulled up to my driveway and encountered the fattest pigeon I’ve ever laid eyes on. After the initial shock of seeing its size, I wanted to see it move out of my parking spot.

I approached, fully expecting it to get a running start then take flight just like any other pigeon would. But as I neared–even after honking–that pigeon stayed on the slow track to nowhere.

It made an effort of course. One leg seemed intent on accumulating speed, the other on just bearing the weight. The plump figure shook and waddled its version of a run–improvisation at its finest.

It had me captivated. I watched its sketchy shuffle until it FINALLY backed into a corner by the gate. The feathers around its neck were spiked in a show of fear as it waited, presumably to see if I would act.

I only shook my head then parked in the garage.

I couldn’t judge the obese bird, because it occurred to me that a lot of times our spiritual lives can take on the same shape. I know mine sometimes can.

We live in a world of too-much-on-the-plate, and often feast on that which is least beneficial.

While the things Jesus provides are enough, we continue on down the buffet line and add to our platters the delicacies of excess. A helping of recognition, a dollop of people’s approval, a double scoop of wealth and success. How about a chunk of control? Or a leg of perpetual leisure?

Before we know it, our indulgent diets become spiritual weights. Our eagle status gets downgraded to pudgy pigeon.

And like that bird, we’re rendered trembling and inactive in the face of fear; unable to fly, lacking in faith. Not to mention the effects on our obedience and the fruit we’re called to bear.

And yet…there is the Lord and His mercy.

Had my husband found that pigeon, this might’ve been the bird’s eulogy. But because I found it, it lived to waddle another day. I doubt it’ll rush to shed pounds so that–when it’s threatened in the future–it can fly away. But it has the opportunity.

Likewise, with each new day, we have another chance to get our spiritual lives off the ground. It’s just a matter of choosing what stays and what goes, and of making sure the stuff that stays is the stuff that keeps our souls lifted up to Jesus.

Promised

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Life–if we’re honest–is hard.

That’s not to say it isn’t good. Laughter, the arms of a child thrown around your neck, kisses from the one you love–these are all precious tidbits of the countless things that keep us striving to lengthen our days.

But life does throw many a curve ball. And these unexpected hurls of devastation feel meteor-sized by the time they strike.

I’ve been blessed enough to not have a multitude of wayward pitches chucked my way. But when it happens the aftermath is intense, especially when there’s loss. Because those I love, I love deeply.

Yet even then I have a foundation that keeps me anchored and assures me comfort will come.

We’ve not been promised easy. Nor has our faith in Christ granted us immunity from the hardship and heartache of life.

We have, however, been promised Christ. And in the end, I can endure the uncertainty and pain of life, just as I enjoy the fruit of all the blessings.

Because I am His. And He is mine.

White Chocolate Banana Nut Bread

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My favorite banana bread recipe is from William-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking cookbook. If you can find the book, which is no longer available through their site, I recommend you snag it. It’s a culinary gem.

I’ve since slightly altered the way I make the banana bread recipe, mainly adding white chocolate, more nuts, and cutting or tweaking an ingredient or two. I make it often, and promised a friend I’d share the wealth in time for the holiday season.

2-1/2 large ripened bananas (or 3 medium ones)
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour*
*(I sometimes do 1 cup of each type of flour instead)
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (dark brown has a richer flavor than golden in this bread)
1/2 cup 2% milk, room temperature
6 tbsp. melted butter
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and make sure rack is centered in the middle of the oven. Butter* and flour either a 9×5 loaf pan, or a large muffin (makes 6) pan.

Combine the dry ingredients and mix together well. In a separate bowl mash the bananas until smooth. In another bowl (or mixer) mix together the brown sugar, eggs, milk, and butter until well blended. Mix in the dry ingredients “in 3 batches alternately with the bananas.” Add the chopped nuts and the white chocolate chips and stir in.

Pour the batter into the loaf or muffin pan. Add nuts on top (chopped, whole, decorative or random). In my oven I bake it about 50 minutes. The original recipe calls for 55-60 or until a toothpick comes out clean. In the muffin pan the baking time is cut to about 35-38 min.

ALWAYS best served warm (it might fall apart if you don’t let it cool completely, but who cares when you’re gonna chew it to pieces anyway), with coffee, and a house full of friends. Enjoy!

*Cooking Tip:
When I finish a stick of butter, I save the butter wrappers in a Ziploc sandwich bag specifically for the purpose of buttering a pan when baking. Take the wrapper out and let it sit at room temperature. The butter residue melts fast and you can rub it all over the pan fairly quickly, easily reaching corners and sides without the hassle you get from using the actual stick.

 

 

WriMo NoMo, but Keep it Up Writers!

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NaNoWriMo is over, and like thousands of other writers, I hit over 50,000 words in thirty days.

Sure a few things had to give. Blogging, for one, was chucked like an old pair of tennis shoes and left hanging on the telephone poll of “to-do-later.”

And though I’d love to say my house stayed in its usual perfect cleanliness, fiction is best left in stories. On that note, scratch “usual” from the record.

Nano was fun some days, downright torture some nights. Still, I made it through. Yes, some words were pulled out of the side of my head and are waiting to be edited right back to where they came from, but for the most part, I came out a better writer.

I scaled the wall of I’ve-got-nothing-left day after day, only to find on the other side of it pastures of imagination, possibilities, and progress. Being forced to keep going taught me that, with God’s help, I’m capable of much more than I give myself credit for.

I can do all things through Christ, and with Christ, I can do them well. Now I have half a novel that I wasn’t even sure I was going to write. And I love it.

Equipped with the “must do, can do, will do” determination adopted in NaNo, I’ll get this novel done, then edit it (and re-edit…and re-edit…and…), then we’ll see what God’s got next.

Your Turn: How are your end of the year goals coming?

 

Gone Fishing, Author Style

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As a child, I fished with my father. Dark, quiet nights, sometimes nothing but the calm sound of water lapping the bank, or the buzz of mosquitoes testing the perimeter of whatever insect repellent we wore. It’s been a long time since we’ve done that.

Lately, however, those memories are rushing back. Memories of fish too large for my lanky little arms, fighting against me, tugging so hard on the line I feared a time or two that I’d be pulled in instead of the fish being pulled out.

Memories of determination, refusing to give up; of reeling in those bullish fish.

The cause of these memories? National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and this commitment I’ve made to the program to have 50,000 words by the end of November; the side bet I’ve waged with myself to hit 80,000.

Striving to meet an ambitious daily word count–against all odds and come what may–is like fishing for words that are fighting to stay in the water.

Some days inspiration sleeps in. Creativity goes MIA. Skill leaves a “Be Back Later” sign on the door. And the words are left to swim amuck in an unsupervised pool of mockery and defiance; determined not to be hooked, refusing to be tamed.

I’d really rather not fight with the slippery suckers. Especially when the house is asleep, coffee’s lukewarm, and I’m getting a series of teasing tugs on my line with no bites.

Searching, straining, desperate for words, it gets tempting to just cut the line. Reel it in empty. Fish again another day. Maybe.

But to do that–to give up–is to get pulled in.

When I fished with my father I never got pulled in.

Strained a few muscles. Got mud on my knees. Suffered scrapes.

On the flip side my muscles grew stronger, my stance firm.

I didn’t quit then. I won’t quit now. One day, one word, one catch at a time.

Going fishing. Be back soon. <3

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. ~ Galatians 6:9 NKJV

NaNoWriMo: A Novel Goal

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Image courtesy of Just2shutter / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m amped. And not from pilfering candy.

My blood is buzzing through my veins because, in little more than an hour, I’ll lay aside inhibitions, excuses–and a small portion of my sanity–and join thousands of writers around the world on a mission to write an entire novel…in one month.

November is National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo.

I signed up less than a week ago, not sure if I could accomplish such a lofty goal. I had a million excuses reasons as to why I couldn’t. It didn’t take long to see those reasons excuses for what they were.

Now I’m committed.

Coffee to my right. Notepad to the left. Computer front and center. Hoodie on my noggin.

After some prayer, last-minute preps and a bit of knuckle cracking, I’ll watch the clock strike midnight. Then it’s “on like Donkey Kong.”

You can keep track of my daily progress on Twitter @TanaraMcCauley. If I need input or ideas for names, twists, etc., I’ll update that information on my Facebook. I will also make time to post here weekly.

Have a great November folks! Lord willing, I’ll have another novel under my belt when I meet you on the other side of it.

Your turn: Do you have any lofty goals you’ll be challenging yourself with? Or any special plans for the month of November?

The Research Pill

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A novel starts off with an idea. If the idea is a good one, it takes root, causes a sort of anxious excitement that makes my fingers itch and stirs up feelings for these yet-to-be-developed characters.

I can spit out the first chapter in no time. Maybe even plot out the whole story in a very rough, quite pedestrian version of what will be the synopsis one day.

But the characters, at least in their earliest stages, are mere mock-ups of whom they will become. The setting is vague and undefined. The plot a loosened version of the overall journey. Because before anything of value can take shape, I’ve got to do the research.

And research, depending on the type, is not always my friend.

Get a person talking about their field of expertise (if, of course, that field is not uh…less than entertaining), watch their eyes light up, hear them tell jokes appropriate to their line of work. I love that kind of thing.

And being a story groupie, if I can get my hands on a novel that deals with my topic, I’m good to go.

Hands-on experiences? Sign me up.

Nonfiction litanies, statistics, histories, political climates, psychological analyses of personality profiles, numbers, dates, etc., etc.,…

The second hand on my watch gongs like a grandfather clock: when…will…this…be…over………………then it’s, “Good night and God bless.”

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of what I learn is fascinating, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it. It’s just hard for my brain to focus long when I’m reading something that’s not telling a story. Even with nonfiction books I latch on to the parts of personal testimony and anecdotes. The rest I read in doses.

Despite the weakening effect research has on my enthusiasm, I press on, searching out the details to make each story as realistic, entertaining, and impactful as possible.

I just drink lots (really…LOTS) of coffee in the meantime.

Your turn: What one thing poses an obstacle to your progress? How have you overcome it?

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