Category Archives: Writing

Time Out from Politics…Have You Taken Time for an Autumn Retreat?

blue-water-writers-groupOur Blue Water Writers’ Group had their first ever fall retreat at my house last month, and we had such a grand time that we’ve already planned our next one. memoirsIn fact, I had so much fun personally that now I’m wishing everybody could cook up their own autumn retreat—if not for a group of like-minded friends who might need a concentrated time of productivity in their chosen field—meditationthen a personal retreat to focus on something that’s especially precious to you. brenda-bringing-a-basket-of-goodiesOur group shared breakfast together, had a three-hour “silent time” for writing, took an hour break for a brown-bag lunch together, and then went for another three-hour silent time for writing.

writers-retreatSome of us sat at a table together, writing-in-the-garden-roombut most found cozy corners or private areas where they could spread out quiet-retreatand work without any distractions whatsoever.preparing-to-be-a-spiritual-mentorAll of us felt like our time had been well spent.

deer-on-laneI know a number of you are caregivers and can’t even leave your homes to go anywhere for the day, but what about declaring your own private retreat? writer-at-workFor my son Michael’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, he asked for an “electronics-free day,” and he loved having his family enjoying life together with no computers, telephones, or other interruptions. It’s really okay to turn off your phone for a few hours (unless somebody’s life depends on it). writer-in-progressThink about it! If you can’t take a whole day off, maybe you could take a few hours off one evening. If you love taking a personal retreat as much as I enjoyed our writers’ retreat, I bet it will generate sequels!writing-historical-fiction

And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place,
and rest a while
” (Mark 6:31).

charylene-and-lisa(P.S.—Although we have all types of writing going on within our writers’ group, several of the women write devotionals, and I asked if they’d be willing to share with you. They’ve consented, so the posts on Wednesday through Friday this week will be guest-authored by these lovely ladies!)

From Post to Post

DaisiesOn April 8 and October 8 each year I like to give semi-annual reports on Summer Setting, including some stats and reflections on the highlights of my blogging journey. Because stats are straightforward and fun, I’ll start there. Since last October 8, Summer Setting passed the quarter-of-a-million view milestone and has landed at a little over 318,000 views as of today. I’d like to say “Welcome!” again to the additional 202 followers who’ve joined us this year, and “Thank you, Father!” for the number of daily views growing significantly. The statisticians have reorganized our records such that I can no longer see all the countries that have accessed Summer Setting over the course of its existence, but since January 1 of this year, people from 169 countries have checked in with us some 74,443 times, which is an almost 30% increase from last year. Owl and Huskie So, that’s the easy part of the accounting. The harder part is reflecting on the possible value of what I’ve done, and that’s pretty much impossible to honestly estimate, because I’m basically trying to sow seeds through cyberspace. I will say that writing has been a huge personal blessing. It has definitely expanded my vision of life and gives me joy. I love writing and find myself  living with more intensity and intentionality..acutely interested in every detail…meditating on even the minutia of existence in the hopes of extrapolating some goodness, truth, or beauty to pass along as a blessing to you. My daily prayer is that what I write will exalt God and uplift people…that the stories will encourage every person who reads them and draw us all together more deeply into the love of God.  Dogs made of DogsWhen my children were little and listening to stories, I was constantly aware of my desire to edify and educate them, but they would remind me that there needed to be another “e” word in the formula: “Entertain!” “Make it scary; make it funny!” they would crow. I’ve never been much for the scary, although life itself is scary, and so some of my posts do deal with the harsh realities of life. However, I much prefer the “make-it-funny,” happy side of daily existence, since I think all of us are exposed to more than enough pain and tragedy. Asters. Pink and White Thank you for journeying with me. I treasure every connection and every comment (on this blog, email, and Facebook [please look me up if we’re not FB friends yet!]). I value your friendship, even if it’s only a cyber relationship, and I’ve loved the new friendships that have become real-time experiences with those of you who live close enough to interact in person. I sincerely look forward to the hope of meeting many of you in heaven some day, through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us, and gave himself for us: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:13-14).

Chrysanthemums“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.” (Ecclesiastes 11:1) Shell (The above pictures were taken Tuesday night at Meijer Garden;
for ArtPrize, 2015 they’re exhibiting a collection of works by Japanese artists.)

Below is the list of countries/views for Summer Setting in 2015 as of last night:

47732 United States
3137 Germany
3024 United Kingdom
2302 Canada
2144 France
1678 Australia
996 India
854 European Union
569 Philippines
530 South Africa
523 Russia
430 Brazil
429 Spain
428 Italy
418 Ireland
390 Netherlands
355 Poland
338 South Korea
311 Singapore
307 Norway
282 Turkey
267 Indonesia
248 Thailand
223 Japan
207 Taiwan
200 Romania
195 New Zealand
185 Malaysia
176 Hungary
175 Greece
163 Mexico
163 Sweden
157 Belgium
154 Czech Republic
153 Switzerland
147 Hong Kong SAR China
143 Austria
136 Israel
132 Denmark
132 Ukraine
131 Finland
120 Saudi Arabia
110 Pakistan
102 United Arab Emirates
99 Vietnam
85 Argentina
84 Portugal
77 Colombia
74 Slovakia
73 Egypt
72 Croatia
69 Bulgaria
62 Serbia
60 Belarus
57 Slovenia
56 Lebanon
54 Nigeria
51 Trinidad & Tobago
44 Latvia
43 Bosnia & Herzegovina
41 Malta
40 Bangladesh
40 Peru
40 Kenya
39 Lithuania
38 Chile
37 Algeria
36 Jordan
36 Sri Lanka
35 Estonia
35 Qatar
32 China
32 Jamaica
31 Uruguay
30 Iraq
27 Macedonia
26 Puerto Rico
25 Azerbaijan
25 Ghana
24 Morocco
23 Cyprus
22 Costa Rica
21 Tunisia
20 Georgia
19 Ecuador
19 Moldova
18 Cambodia
18 Albania
18 Kuwait
18 Venezuela
16 Tanzania
16 El Salvador
13 Bahamas
12 Palestinian Territories
12 Uganda
11 Mauritius
11 Kazakhstan
11 Myanmar (Burma)
11 Bahrain
11 Mongolia
10 Oman
10 Armenia
9 Belize
9 Namibia
9 Botswana
9 Panama
9 Iceland
9 Guam
8 Luxembourg
8 Ethiopia
7 Barbados
7 Martinique
7 Syria
7 Laos
7 Dominican Republic
6 Nepal
6 Guyana
6 French Guiana
6 Sint Maarten
6 Guatemala
5 Zimbabwe
5 New Caledonia
5 Honduras
4 Seychelles
4 Cayman Islands
4 Guernsey
4 Fiji
3 Bhutan
3 Jersey
3 Nicaragua
3 Brunei
3 Maldives
3 Grenada
3 Monaco
3 Sudan
3 Guinea-Bissau
3 Burkina Faso
2 Angola
2 Macau SAR China
2 Isle of Man
2 U.S. Virgin Islands
2 Paraguay
2 Aruba
2 C√¥te d’Ivoire
2 Bermuda
2 Montenegro
2 Kyrgyzstan
1 Congo – Kinshasa
1 Cuba
1 Togo
1 Cameroon
1 British Virgin Islands
1 Vatican City
1 Suriname
1 Papua New Guinea
1 Swaziland
1 Andorra
1 Madagascar
1 Tonga
1 Antigua & Barbuda
1 Djibouti
1 American Samoa
1 Bolivia
1 St. Lucia
1 Réunion
1 Iran
1 St. Pierre & Miquelon
1 Gibraltar
1 Lesotho



Celebrating Summer Setting’s Seventh Anniversary in Busan, South Korea

Cherry BlossomsSummer Setting‘s Seventh Anniversary was April 8th, although I’m a bit late getting out my annual update because I was out of country on April 8! Kids with Asians students by Seoul Tower In this past year Summer Setting gained 187 new followers (Welcome!!), was viewed more than 80,000 times, and has now been visited by people from 199 countries. Balloon stuck in cherry tree One of my dreams as a young woman was preach the gospel to “every nation.” Performance by Seoul TowerJust looking on the internet this morning, the U.N. recognizes 193 sovereign states, 2 more “observer” states, and  2 “partially recognized” states. Signpost in Busan That’s fewer than the number of “nations” from which I’ve received visitors! Whoever Coffee and Herb However, there are also 45 “inhabited dependent territories,” so perhaps that’s where some of the names come from. Love is in the air. Seoul Tower At any rate, I am rejoicing in the thought that I’ve been able to reach out to pretty much every nation via this blog. Distances from Busan Thank you, Father!  Seoul National Cherry Blossom FestivalLast year on April 8 Alan and I were enjoying Seoul’s Cherry Blossom Festival in South Korea…and this year on April 8th Alan and I were again in South Korea, Busan, South Korea although this time in Busan as part of a “Grand Southeastern Asia Tour” with Princess Cruises. Approaching Busan Harbor We were told that Busan was “small…easy to get around” so we went on our own. View of Busan from Busan Tower 2Surprise! Someone had no clue what they were talking about! View from Busan Tower Busan is nearly 300 sq. miles in area with a population of over 3.5 million. Busan View from Tower It’s South Korea’s largest seaport Busan. 5 largest container port in world and ranks as the fifth largest container port in the world! Busan Bridge Definitely worth a visit, Cherry Blossoms in Yongdusan Park especially if you can go in early April while the cherry trees are in blossom. Busan Tower We took a taxi to the base of the Busan Tower Busan Tower above Cherry Blossoms (you still have to climb lots of stairs to reach the top), Busan and from there we got a bird’s eye view of the city. Shrine in Yongdusan Park After checking out Yongdusan Park at the base of the tower, Cherry trees in Yondusan Park we walked downtown Jagalchi Fish Market to marvel at Jagalchi Fish Market 3 all the peculiar offerings Jagalchi Fish Market 2 at the world’s largest fish market, Crabs at Jagalchi Market Jagalchi Market (which also seemed to have some of the world’s largest crabs…Crabs at Jagalchi Marketmany of whom seemed intent on escaping)!Lunch at Jagalchi Fish Market If you go to Jagalchi Market around lunch time, it’s a great place to eat. Choosing Seafood at Jagalchi Market You can point to whatever you’d like, Fish frying at Jagalchi Market and they’ll cook it on the spot for you! Kathi in Yongdusan Park  When Alan and I were in South Korea on April 8, 2014, Bell Shrine in Yongdusan Park it never crossed our minds that we might actually be in South Korea View of Busan from Sapphire Princess exactly one year later, and I didn’t really even realize this was true until today. Camilia Rose. Yongdusan Park 4.8.15 copy Life is always full of surprises! I can’t imagine we’ll ever be in South Korea again, but you never know. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Lockets and promises at Yongdusan ParkHowever, even though we change and our circumstances change, God’s person and attributes, his purposes and promises, never do! Lockets at Yongdusan Park. Busan He is always the same…
“Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Writer to Writer

09.17.14 Writer to WriterIf you’re serious about writing and ever hope to publish, I’d highly recommend Cec Murphy’s recent book, Writer to Writer: Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing. Cec, who’s published over 135 books in his 40+ year career as a professional writer, filled his book chock full of ideas on how to improve as a writer and how to get published.

Cec’s style is plain, personal, and pointed. The entire book is written in bite-sized essays that provide excellent snacks for thought and are easily digested. He begins with a plethora of information to help unpublished writers grow beyond the amateur look—starting with your book’s first sentence. He walks you through principles for writing the best book you’re capable of writing and then goes on to explain many things about the publishing business, including how to write an engaging query letter, things to consider when looking for an agent, and even some tips on what to watch for when you’re getting ready to sign a contract with an editor who’s offered to take your book.

Writer to Writer is also a practical writing manual containing sections on grammar, verbs, point-of-view, and on and on! As a final gift, Cec includes a “bonus chapter” about marketing written by Kathy Carlton Willis (head of a communications company), because—as he puts it—she “knows more about marketing than I’d figure out in years.”

I highlighted so much material in my copy of Writer to Writer that it looks like a text book…and in reality, that’s exactly what it is! If you’re interested but can’t afford your own copy, Cec also has an excellent blog where he has shared much of this information over time and continues to give out freely from his lifetime of experience, as well as providing insights from other writers.  You can access his blog here:

Happy writing, and all the best to you as you write! If you read Writer to Writer, get inspired to be a part of a writing group such as he describes, and live in the GR area…let me know. Maybe we can get something going!

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
(Colossians 3:23)



Highlighting Bright Hope

Joel's Bio as an AuthorShortly after posting about my son Joel on Monday, I got a response from a dear friend whom I’ve known since childhood who lost her daughter just four months ago—a beautiful, godly mother of four who’d been named for my sister & had helped care for my father…a tragedy that’ll never make sense this side of heaven. Bright Hope So, I sent my extra copy of Bright Hope to her, but it occurred to me that there may be others who need the comfort and wisdom of Lu’s grief memoir, so today I want to share just a little bit about LuAnne De Vries, grief, and Bright Hope. Reason for WritingWhy did LuAnne write her story? As a way of reaching out to others who grieve. Through her own struggles, she found  wisdom and comfort, and her desire is to share what she found with others who may be searching and in great pain.ForwardEven the forward gives some wise counsel for those who are grieving: The grief journey globally affects every facet of our lives and is uniquely personal. When we’re suffering with grief, we need the support of others, but at the deepest level, no one else here on earth can completely enter into our pain, so it’s very lonely. Part 1

The beginning of the book offers a open look into the tender heart of grief. Lu's kidsLuAnne had four sons and then adopted a darling baby daughter who came under the protective wing of the entire household! Everybody loved Mandy. The first part of the book gives an honest look through the rear view window into the storms and heartaches of LuAnne’s early life. Bright Hope is not a book with pat answers for hard questions. It’s a book than wrestles with all the crushing disappointments of life but still clings to faith: “So, is the saying true, ‘God doesn’t give us more than we can handle’? I don’t have the answer to that question. Only faith lets us believe there is a purpose, even though we may sail through life wondering, ‘What next?’ There will always be storms in life.” Part 2                                                    In the second part of the book, Mandy LuAnne tells the story of her daughter: her vibrant life, her sudden, tragic death, Visiting Hours                            and the crushing impact of Mandy’s death on Lu. TearsIn this section, LuAnne shares some of the scripture verses, poems, journaling
and email notes that emerged from trying to process her grief. Part 3         In Part 3, Luanne reflects on her long, slow journey toward recovery
…things she learned, little treasures of wisdom that spoke to her,  Moving Forward                 the faith that anchored her soul and helped her move forward, Comfort   and ideas for how to understand and offer comfort to others who are grieving. Lu's Family Today                Today, LuAnne is a vibrant survivor with a beautiful, big family Lu with Grand Kids             and lots of adorable grand children who keep her happy and busy. Going OnBut, does that mean that everything is fine again? When I asked LuAnne how she was doing today, she responded: “People believe time heals—it does NOT. It’s a pain you learn to live with and call out to God often to get you through it another day. But I do focus on my blessings and go from there.” Synopsis of Bright Hope   I’m sure that in life we never really forget our past with its joys and sorrows, Lu with Mandy     but we can learn how to honor our past without letting it crush our present Joy Anyway                                         or destroy any hope for future joy. Bright HopeI think for all of us, part of the secret to surviving grief and heartache is in ministering to others, just as LuAnne is doing. She’s trying to reach out with her book, and if you’re in deep pain over the loss of a loved one, you might want to reach back! 

(If you’re interested, you can order a copy of her book from Amazon below:)

(All the pictures and photo messages are from her book and/or her Facebook page, used by permission.)


Happy Sixth Anniversary, Summer Setting

Orchids in our Garden RoomOn April 8, 2008 I posted my first blog, and every year I like to give a “progress report” on what’s been happening, although this year I was in South Korea on April 8 so didn’t take time to post. However, now that I’m home and caught up, I wanted to share what the Lord’s been doing for me. Last year, I reported: “Today is the fifth anniversary of my blog. I’ve been blessed by more than 128,000 visits (nearly half of them during this past year) from 168 countries and now have 193 ‘followers’.”

Today “today” is May 1, 2014, and I’ve now been blessed by more than 190,000 visits from 180 countries and have 480 followers. All I can say is, “Thank you, Jesus!” Preparing for and writing this blog is one of the most exciting ways to invest time I can even imagine, and I really think writing is therapeutic for me in a way I can’t explain. It makes me happy to think about God’s goodness, God’s world, and the blessings of life. I love watching the wildlife out my window, taking pictures, photo journaling, and reflecting on life (during the quiet times when I’m not otherwise working).

Moving forward: How can I improve this blog so it’s maximally positive for you? Would you be willing to offer critique? What would you personally like to see done differently, and how? Are the individual articles too long? Too many pictures? Is it hard to read the text as a flowing line interrupted by pictures? Are there any particular topics you wish I’d cover? Any you dislike? How do you feel about my passing along jokes and cartoons every so often?  How can I pray more effectively for you?

I’m going to try to do some reformatting, although I’m terribly awkward and struggle to understand how to change anything. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions, I will count it an honor that you’d take the time to think about things and respond to me. Thank you! 🙂



“For the Lord thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: he knoweth thy walking through this great wilderness: these forty years the Lord thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing” (Deuteronomy 2:7).

Saving Mr. Banks…but Could Anyone Save P.L. Travers?


Saving_Mr_BanksIf you’re a fan of Disney’s classic movie, Mary Poppins, you might enjoy watching Saving Mr. Banks, which was just released to video recently, although Travers’ character was so grating that Alan found the movie tedious and savingmrbanksimpossible to watch. I assumed the whole conflict was fabricated to make Emma Thompson suffer as the protagonist, but after digging into the background, I discovered that the movie is a pretty accurate retelling of Travers’ life story and the 20-year conflict between Walt Disney and the author over rights to turn her book into a movie. In fact, Disney actually gave Saving Mr. Banks one of their typical happy endings, which sadly was not true of the real experience.P.L. Travers“Pamela Lyndon Travers” was born in 1899 as “Helen Lyndon Goff” in Australia to Travers Goff and Margaret Agnes. Margaret’s mother had come from a very influential family and her brother, Boyd Morehead, was the premier of trvgfQueensland at the time of Helen’s birth. Unfortunately, Helen’s father (although very charismatic and close to Helen) really was an alcoholic who get demoted from bank manager to bank clerk. And, he also died tragically when Helen was only 7, although it was from influenza, not liver failure (as you would assume from the movie). mrgffHelen’s mother, totally traumatized by her husband’s death (probably his miserable life too) and consequent plunge into deep poverty with three small girls to rear alone, did attempt suicide, but did not die. In an effort to save the rlntlfamily, their formidable maiden great aunt,  Helen Morehead, came to live with their family and helped restore order and stability through very strict discipline. She was the true inspiration for Mary Poppins (who was much harsher in the books than in the movie), and she really did say, “Spit spot into bed.”pltrvHelen survived her traumatic childhood, although it sounds like she never overcame the scars of abandonment and the severity of a rather graceless, loveless upbringing. She became an actress and eventually held a position as writer in residence at Radcliffe College. After 20 years of unpleasant cajoling and attempted persuasions by Walt Disney (who had indeed made a promise to his daughters to make their favorite story into a movie), Travers acquiesced, selling the movie rights to Disney for a $100,000 advance plus 5% of the royalties, which eventually made her a multi-millionaire. wltdsThe unremitting tension in Saving Mr. Banks was real. Travers was totally opposed to what she considered the unbearable trivialization of Mary Poppin’s personality and cried tears of anger (not tenderhearted emotion) at the premiere, stating, “As chalk is to cheese, so is the film to the book” (The Secret Life of Mary Poppins). She tried to demand that the animation be removed but discovered to her dismay that she had been given script approval but not film-editing rights. (Beware, all would-be novelists; however: please note that Disney’s decisions did produce a world-famous movie and tons of money).rbtshAs one interesting side note, I read that Robert Sherman walked with a limp because he was shot while charging a hill during World War II. (He also won a purple heart for helping liberate the prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp.) (…which is a great source of information about the true stories behind movies) Travers’ caustic comment to Sherman gives you an accurate feel for her critical, negative nature. Although she lived well into her nineties, she died without ever marrying, with an unfulfilling attempt at adoption, and with this heartbreaking comment in the news: she “died loving no one and with no one loving her” (The New York Times. 5 January 2014).

In reality, Saving Mr. Banks was about imagineering a happy ending to the tragic tales of Travers Goff, P.L. Travers, Mr. Banks, and all failed lives. In the movie, Walt Disney says, “Imagination restores disorder and inspires hope again and again.” I am a firm believer in the role of imagination. Yesterday I listened to one of my sons’ GodTalks, and in an interview with Allister McGrath, McGrath commented that  “reason and imagination” were key to C.S. Lewis’ brilliant defenses of orthodox Christian faith (

Imagination is a good thing, and it may help us envision how to create a better future, but I personally don’t think imagination is truly the key to restoring disorder and inspiring hope.

However, tomorrow I’m going to post on a book that was just released by Zondervan yesterday, and I believe this book does give us the key. It’s a great read, and if you want a free copy, just be the first one to ask for it after I publish my blog tomorrow! Hope to see you then…

“He [Jesus] is always able to save those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25, HSCB).