Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Ever Mindful

When our family visited New York City in 2000, our hotel assigned to us Room 911. We joked about having a room number we could easily remember. Little did we know, 911 would soon become a number no American would forget.

One year later, an eighth-grade boy rushed down the hallway toward my classroom as students switched from first period to second. "Mrs. Prusik! New York City, the Pentagon--we're being attacked!"

"Who told you that?" I laughed, thinking his adolescent buddies had pulled one over on him for sure, but he persisted in his tale, so I turned on my AM/FM radio . . . and learned the truth.

As the tardy bell rang to begin second-period reading class, a room full of eighth graders looked to me, their teacher, for answers. Perhaps for the first time in my career, I had no words.

One girl looked up at me, her freckled face gone ashen, her eyes wide and brimming with tears. "Mrs. Prusik, does this mean we are going to war?"

That word crawled across my skin. Images of Pearl Harbor, Ia Drang Valley, Omaha Beach, Antietam filled my head. Images of injured, maimed, and fallen soldiers not much older than the kids who filled my classroom stabbed my heart. I stared at her, slack-jawed. In all my years as an educator, I had never wanted to withhold the truth from students, but in that moment, I did. I wanted to lie. To protect her. To protect us all.

I glanced out the window at the clear September sky. Ironically peaceful. Eerily quiet. How could I tell these stunned faces what I knew was sure to come? Goosebumps rising, I looked back at her through misty eyes.

"I'm afraid so."

A few weeks ago, I chanced upon one of those former students at the grocery store. A student who left my classroom as a boy . . . and returned from war a man. A man whose Army vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. A man who faces spinal surgery as a result of his injuries. A man who lost his buddy in that attack.

And a man who--even after all the tragedy he has experienced--says he will return to service after surgery if his body and the Army will allow. Why? Because of the tragedy he has experienced, he explained.

As I gazed into his determined eyes, I recalled that fateful September day, haunted by the shock, fear, and uncertainty in innocent eyes that looked to me for reassurance I could not offer. And I realized this former student knows that look too well. He's seen it in the eyes of children on the other side of the globe, where terrorists can enter classrooms at any moment, select children at random, and strap onto them vests wired with explosives.

Protecting the vulnerable--that's why he's willing to serve.

We will never forget 9/11, but may we be ever grateful to the brave men and women like my former student who risk their lives every day for the sake of others. Including strangers. Including foreigners. May we be ever mindful of their sacrifice.

And may we honor their efforts by living lives worthy of protection.

To those who offer yourselves in selfless service, thank you for sharing the gift!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Share the Gift This Mother's Day

How do you plan to honor moms in your life on Mother's Day? We all know the standard gifts--flowers, jewelry, dining out. Sleeping in would be the gift of choice for flower shop ladies in my novel Delivery, since they work long hours creating Mother's Day bouquets. Moms across the nation will be thrilled with any one or all of those treats next Sunday.

My Favorite Gift: Family Time (Mother's Day, 2005)

But this year, why not add a new dimension? In our culture of abundance, why not give a gift that keeps on giving? Dozens of charities provide opportunities for us to honor moms we love while also helping others. Here are a few ideas worth considering:

1. For as little as $10, you can send a Mother's Day card to your special mom while also helping the St. Louis Crisis Nursery work to prevent child abuse and neglect through "emergency intervention, respite care and support to families in crisis." Your gift will "help struggling mothers to care for their children and provide a safe and nurturing environment for those families in crisis." Click here for more info.

2. The International Rescue Committee invites you to select your price range ($18 and up) and your cause (health, education, emergency relief, rebuilding, or women and girls) to dedicate a rescue gift. The special mom in your life will receive a beautiful card and feel the joy in knowing that in her name, those less fortunate will receive a mosquito net, school supplies, livestock, food, clean water, medical care, or another gift of your choosing. Shop by clicking here. ("Order your printed card by May 9 to ensure delivery by Mother's Day or send an eCard within minutes.")

3. Choose from four styles of Mother's Day cards while also "helping women survivors of wars rebuild their lives" through Women for Women International. Your contribution helps women in war-torn nations learn job skills to earn a living and become leaders in their communities. To choose and send your card, click here. (Hurry on this one! You must order by May 6 to ensure card delivery by Mother's Day.)

If none of these ideas resonates with you, a quick Google search should lead to one that does. Have a unique Mother's Day gift idea? Please tell us all about it the comment section below. Share the gift!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Irish Healer

Have you heard the buzz? "Engrossing." "Heartwarming." "Poignant." "Stirring." These are a few words I've heard flying to describe Nancy Herriman's debut novel The Irish Healer, released this month. Best-selling author Margaret Brownley deems it " . . . a perfect read." If you enjoy historical fiction, a captivating story, cheering others through their doubts and insecurities, you surely will agree.

So what's The Irish Healer about? Here's the official book description:

"Accused of murdering a child under her care, Irish healer Rachel Dunne flees the ensuing scandal while vowing to never sit at another sickbed. She no longer trusts in her abilities--or God's mercy--though when a cholera epidemic sweeps through London, she feels compelled to nurse the dying daughter of the enigmatic physician she has come to love. James Edmunds, wearied by the deaths of too many patients, has his own doubts about God's grace. Together, they will have to face their darkest fears . . . and learn what it means to have real faith."

Nancy joins us for a chat today, so please pull up a chair while I pour us all a spot of tea, and let's get to know her.

Welcome, Nancy! What inspired your imagination to give birth to Rachel’s personality and her particular problem?

When I was researching another novel, I came across the transcripts of a trial that had taken place in London’s Old Bailey. It concerned a woman who had been accused of killing a child she’d been taking care of. That woman’s tale (she was acquitted, by the way, on the coroner’s testimony that the child was sickly from birth) led me to wondering what ever happened to her in later years - how did she live within the community who had accused her? Did she feel guilt over the child? Was she a woman of faith who questioned God’s mercy? All of this led me to my Irish healer, Rachel Dunne.

You've woven such a beautiful story around this premise. The Irish Healer begins with an awesome hook: “My name is Rachel Dunne. I am not a murderer.” Complete this statement: “My name is Nancy Herriman. I am not a(n) _____.”

I am not an introvert!

I'm not sure Rachel is, either. At least she, a native of Ireland, found the courage in 1832 to move to England alone to begin a new life. Have you visited either or both of these countries?

I have never been to Ireland, but I have once visited England. I think I was stunned by just how beautiful the countryside is and how much variety there was in the few places we had a chance to visit. And the history….so very rich with it. I love Irish music and would dearly enjoy an opportunity to hear it in the country of its birth.

Speaking of these two countries, if tonight’s dinner menu offered only two options—fish and chips or corned beef and cabbage—which would you choose?

Sorry, Rachel - fish and chips.

How diplomatic, Nancy! You choose the food of England and the music of Ireland. Music seems to be a big part of your life. Your bio states you are very active in music ministry at your church. That comes with serious responsibilities, but can you share a time when humor ruled the day?

In my life, humor always rules the day, even during music ministry. Music is joy to me, the greatest expression of my faith, and I want everyone to feel that. We laugh often - over missed lyrics or mistaken notes or massive audio system failures that have forced us to nearly scream to be heard!

Which musical instrument could best express the tone of The Irish Healer and why?

The uilleann pipes, which are the Irish version of the bagpipe. I think they’re both mournful and moving.

Mournful and moving . . . like the music in your lovely and intriguing book trailer. Let's check it out.

If Rachel were here, what words of wisdom would she share with us about facing our fears?

Simple - trust in God. He may not provide the solution we seek, but He will provide the strength to endure.

That, He does! If God were to write a review of The Irish Healer, what do you hope He would say?

That He greatly enjoyed the themes of forgiveness and mercy and faith.

The Irish Healer certainly is rich with these themes. I enjoyed it tremendously! Finish this statement: "I write historical fiction because _____."

I love to escape the reality of modern-day life! The past has always, always intrigued me.

When you aren’t writing or participating in church activities, where are we most likely to find you?

At a local coffee shop with a friend or two. Probably talking about writing or singing!

What comes next for Author Nancy Herriman?

I am working on another book, completely unrelated to The Irish Healer, set in 1880’s San Francisco. A very different setting for me.

I'll be watching for it. Meanwhile, how might readers connect with you online?

They can reach me at my website at www.nancyherriman.com, or most easily at my author Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Author.NancyHerriman.

Thanks, Nancy, for stopping by, and a special thanks for sharing your gift of writing.

The rest of you have grown so quiet. Must be my delicious tea. I'll top off your cup while YOU chime in. If you've read The Irish Healer, what did you enjoy most about it (without spoiling the plot for others, of course)?

In the novel, heroine Rachel Dunne shares the gift of healing, which has potential to bring a healing of her own. Have you ever set out to help someone and discovered that you were helped in the process? If so, please tell us about it in the comment section below. Share the gift!


About the Author: The Irish Healer is Nancy Herriman’s fourth completed manuscript, and it was runner-up in the Historical Fiction category of the 2009 ACFW Genesis contest. She also won the 2006 RWA Daphne du Maurier award for Best Unpublished Mystery/Romantic Suspense and has been a finalist in other contests. Nancy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and two teenagers, and is very active in the music ministry at her church.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Do You Feel It?

For once, this writer has no words--no words to fully express what Easter means to me. I could pen paragraphs, chapters, volumes attempting to convey it, but in the end, words alone could never be enough.

So abandoning words, I invite you to camp out with me here, at the foot of the Cross. Let's sit together in silence. Or kneel. Or fall prostrate. Contemplate Christ's sacrifice with me. Pray. Weep. Rejoice. Do you feel it? Do you feel His indescribable love?

Photograph by Diana Prusik

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8, NIV).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Time for a New Easter Tradition?

Don't you love how family traditions revive old memories while also creating new ones? Celebrating holidays in the same ways year after year gives us roots and branches all at once--connecting past, present, and future in meaningful, emotion-charged ways. But once in a while, a new idea comes along that begs us to mix it up a little. Several years ago, when a pastor shared an idea his family adopted for Easter, I knew it had to become part of our family's tradition. Along the way, we've added our own personal touches. It's so simple and so powerful, you may wish to adopt it, too. Here's how:

On Good Friday, place a grapevine wreath, symbolizing the Crown of Thorns, around a candle in the center of your table. Light the wick, recalling Jesus's words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:12, NIV).

Open your Bible and invite family members to take turns reading aloud the story of the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus. (I prefer the Gospel of Matthew for this.)

Lead a family prayer to thank Christ for sacrificing His life for us. Then, extinguish the flame, symbolizing His giving up His spirit.

Leave the candle dark until the third day.

On Easter Sunday, relight the candle to symbolize Jesus's victory over death. Then, invite family members to take turns reading aloud the resurrection story.

Finally, lead a family prayer: "Dear Jesus, we join together today to thank You for ___________________."

It may not be Easter yet, but since Jesus shared the gift of all gifts, why not praise Him together--right here, right now? Fill in the blank above using the comment section below to join the prayer, and please invite others to join as well.

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Questioning Easter Traditions

In my area, spring weather arrived early this year. Since grass is growing, flowers are blooming, and birds are preparing their nests, I felt inspired to pull Easter decorations out of storage this week.

As I filled my grandmother's heirloom bowl with decorative eggs

and displayed my favorite Beatrix Potter-style porcelain bunny,

I found myself questioning the Easter traditions I've practiced since childhood. What do eggs and rabbits have to do with celebrating Easter anyway?

I began to worry that I had fallen victim to commercialism, that decorating my home with eggs and bunnies meant I'd somehow missed the mark. But then, I flipped through this little book I purchased at a dollar store years ago and stumbled upon page 67.

from Dave Cheadle's Victorian Easter
and the Springtime Celebrations of a Romantic Age

This little verse reminded me that all traditions are empty unless we attach appropriate meaning to them. Signs of spring can speak of Christ to us, if we let them.

Why? Not solely because Christ died on the Cross, although His crucifixion is the greatest sacrifice.

But because the tomb is empty. He rose again. He lives!

So if you visit my home this spring, please don't misjudge my egg and bunny decorations. They are part of my Easter traditions not because of commercialism, but because they help me celebrate a risen Savior, the One who paid the ultimate price to share the ultimate gift--the gift of eternal life!

What Easter traditions do YOU question? Which ones speak to YOUR heart? Others, including me, might wish to adopt your ideas, so please share the gift!

Friday, March 9, 2012

A Book to the Rescue for Tornado Recovery

"In like a lion; out like a lamb." We've all heard that description of March weather, but for many residents of the Midwest this year, the reference to the month's entrance came tragically true with a massive tornado outbreak. I've read reports that 36 twisters touched down across the region on February 29, 2012, killing at least 12 people. Two days later, an estimated 40 more followed, claiming another reported 39 lives.

On Leap Day, 2012, Branson, MO, took a direct hit as a tornado roared down the Highway 76 strip, a popular tourist destination.

The Taneyhills Community Library stood in its path.

Photo courtesy of Branson resident Connie Foster Carter

Compared to devastated communities like Marysville, IN, Taneyhills' damage seems relatively mild. But for the sake of the Branson community, this little library deserves our attention now more than ever.

According to the library's website, it receives no local, state, or federal tax funds. It is financed solely through donations, including support from the Library Club. It is staffed primarily by volunteers.

In a community reeling from the tornado's aftermath, library donations could become scarce.

But we can help!

To support this library, Oak Ridge Boys singer and songwriter Joseph S. Bonsall and Sheaf House Publishers are offering a sweet deal.

For every copy of Bonsall's From My Perspective sold between March 5 and April 5, 2012, he will donate 100% of his royalties to the Taneyhills Community Library. Sheaf House will donate an additional $3.50 per copy and cover shipping and handling.

That means the library will receive $6.54 for each copy sold!

So why not order a new book, enjoy free shipping, and help the recovering Branson community maintain one of its greatest treasures--a public library? Visit the Sheaf House website to learn more by clicking here. Share the gift, folks. That's what it's all about!

Now for some FUN, blog friends--what's YOUR favorite Oak Ridge Boys song?