Faith on Friday: Izzy, Elvis and the Mother of God

Icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God

Icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God

August 15 is the date that millions of people commemorate the death of two very different heroes—Elvis Presley and the Mother of God.

Tomorrow is the date of the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God in the Orthodox Church.

On this same date thousands of people from all over the world come to Memphis—to Elvis’s home at Graceland—for a candlelight vigil for Elvis.

Candlelight vigil for Elvis at Graceland in Memphis

Candlelight vigil for Elvis at Graceland in Memphis

I’ve never been a big Elvis fan. We’ve lived in Memphis for 27 years and I’ve only been to Graceland twice—both times at the request of guests from out of town. And then six years ago I was schooled on Elvis by an English nun. I’ve grown to appreciate him as a musical and cultural icon, but I don’t venerate him. I don’t plan to attend any candlelight vigils for him.

Lots of people who aren’t Catholic or Orthodox have a problem with our veneration of the Mother of God. And yet I wonder how many of those same people don’t have a problem with the veneration of Elvis?
That’s all.

Oh, and for those of you who aren’t on Facebook: I now have 4 granddaughters! Isabelle Katherine Davis was born Wednesday afternoon, August 12! She’s beautiful and healthy, and I’m so thankful for her safe arrival. Mother and baby are both doing great! I’ll be in Denver until August 25 helping Beth, Kevin, Gabby and Izzy adjust to being a family of four. Also having a great time hanging out with my son, Jason, and his wife, See and daughters Grace and Anna. Heading to Anna’s 5th birthday party tomorrow. After all the extreme heat and humidity in Memphis, it’s such a treat to be enjoying this try, breezy, beautiful weather and the mountain sunsets. Enjoy a few photos!

Gabby (3), Grace (6), Susu, Izzy (2 hours), and Anna (5)

Gabby (3), Grace (6), Susu, Izzy (2 hours), and Anna (5)


Isabelle Katherine Davis

Isabelle Katherine Davis


Davis family of 4: Beth, Kevin, Izzy and Gabby!

Davis family of 4: Beth, Kevin, Izzy and Gabby!

Mental Health Monday: Adding Insult to Injury

IRS Audit 3I don’t have time to write a thoughtful post today because I’ve already spent 8-9 hours digging through medical files and invoices, making phone calls to hospitals and doctor offices to get copies of missing invoices, making lots of photocopies, sending and receiving emails and faxes…. WHY? We’re being audited by the IRS. Yes, they want all our medical expenses for 2013. The year of my devastating car wreck.

Ugh. So I’m trying to find some humor and I’ll share a few cartoons.

Oh, and I am thankful for one thing: everyone I called at all the medical offices were super nice and took time to help me. They all expressed compassion as they helped me gather information.

As our accountant says, the audit just adds insult to injury. But we’re getting it done.

IRS Audit 4






IRS audit2


IRS audit

Writing on Wednesday: The Long and Winding Road

long_and_winding_road_ahead_sign_by_pudgemountain-d5uqpuxMost authors already know this. Many readers might be interested to know that getting a book published is often a difficult, long, drawn-out process. A few examples from my own (recent) experience and several of my writing buddies’ stories:

In February I pitched an anthology proposal to the editor of a university press. He showed interest immediately, and I followed up with a formal proposal. We exchanged a couple of emails, one phone call, and then the waiting began. We spoke again yesterday and finally—four months after my initial contact with him—he’s ready to do an advance contract and send my proposal out for peer review. Next step will be the editorial board. Finally the real work of gathering, editing and organizing the essays will happen. And then the draft of the book will go through the same process—peer review and editorial board approval. After that the final editing, cover design, marketing plan, etc. will come into play. My guess is the book will come out in 2017. This process is without an agent or involvement with the large publishing houses.

The novel, on the other hand, is still undergoing my third major revision. I hope to send it back to the agent by the end of July. She and her staff will read the new revision and either (1) ask for more revisions, (2) possibly involve another editor, or (3) sign a contract with me and start working to sell the book to a publisher. Then the editing process will begin all over again, this time with the publisher’s editorial staff. I’m sure cover design and marketing will come into play at a much later date. I think I will be lucky to have this book out in 2017 and I began writing it in 2010.

MC_WritingProcess_PUBLISHING77I have three writer friends who are in various stages with their work right now. One is working with another university press and has finished all the editing and is moving towards having advance reader copies in her hands. (She already has two published books.) A second friend (who has one published book) is working with a hybrid press and is about to have the cover design and advance reader copies of her second book, with a launch date in late July. The third friend (who already has published a book, an anthology, and numerous published short stories and essays) is in the query process for her novel. Several agents are reading it and another just asked for an “exclusive,” which she wasn’t able to give since other agents were already reading it, but the agent still agreed to read it. My friend is learning how to negotiate this process.

All this to say that writing isn’t only about writing. Unless you are only writing a private journal. The publication process is indeed a long and winding road.

Writing on Wednesday: (Another’s Writer’s) Rewriting Hell

Corabel Shofner

Corabel Shofner

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve seen my rants about how tough revising a novel can be—working with an editor to make the manuscript more commercially viable while trying to hold onto your own vision for your book. My friend from high school (in Jackson, Mississippi) Corabel (Alexander) Shofner has been through this difficult process with editors before and after getting a book deal for her debut novel. So today, in lieu of my own post, I’m going to share Corabel’s blog post from Monday:

“Rewriting Hell”

I’m sure she would love to hear from you, if you have time to leave a comment on her blog or on the Facebook thread.

Bel FB cover


Faith on Friday: Letting Good Things Run Wild

1b9b63_531af8aafb23418a97c0b649d24bac10.jpg_srz_p_128_135_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzAngela Doll Carlson (don’t you just love her name?) and I have never met in person, but I feel like we know each other. We met on Facebook. And we’ve both contributed essays to the Saint Katherine Review. And we’re both converts to Orthodox Christianity. But our stories are completely different. Well, not completely, since Angela and her husband were part of a religious “start up” group which bore some similarities to the early years of the Evangelical Orthodox Church, which my husband and I were part of. But Angela grew up Catholic, so there’s that. And while I’ve written a memoir about my experience of becoming Orthodox, I decided not to publish it. Angel’s memoir, Nearly Orthodox: On Being a Modern Woman in an Ancient Tradition, was recently published by Ancient Faith Press, and it’s terrific.

1b9b63_6061d920559d49698ae6b1bb7aaa13dd.jpg_srz_p_302_408_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzWait… don’t stop reading if you think this is only a book for Orthodox Christians. Or Christians in general. It’s so much more than that. It’s a book, as the Orthodox poet and theologian Scott Cairns says, that might “comfort, serve and assist other pilgrims along the way.” Yes, it’s about Angela’s spiritual pilgrimage and it’s filled with candid looks into a pilgrim’s honest grappling with issues many of us face, but few of us talk (or write) about.

Like fasting and being clean. Like confession and communion (and who’s allowed and who’s not). Like how prayer cleans your nous and how saints open windows when God closes doors. But ultimately it’s about freedom, although Angela doesn’t use that word. I almost chose “freedom” as my “OneWord365” for 2015, so maybe I look for it everywhere now. But I don’t expect to find it within the rules—or the structure—of the Church. Angela learned something about this from her friend, Beth, an artist and fellow homeschooling mom who eventually sent her daughter to a traditional school:

Beth had tried homeschooling…. Her artist-mom temperament made her a natural life teacher…. It sounded good on paper, this pairing of freedom and bonding and making the world a vast learning environment…. When Beth told me about the new plan to send Grace to school… the first thing she said was that Grace needed structure. They both needed it…. Because it allowed them both to be wild in their art lives.

Wild in their art lives. Structure provides that freedom? Angela points out that G. K. Chesterton agrees that it’s needed for “good things to run wild.”

One reason I started writing (painting) icons is also one of the reasons I quit—because writing icons requires lots of structure. There are many rules and even Church canons governing the process, and at first I found comfort in those rules. But eventually I realized that I was hiding within the liturgical art form when everything in my being was crying out to be “wild in my art life.” Iconography isn’t for everyone. Neither is Orthodoxy.

Which is why even after her chrismation Angela feels that she is still only “nearly Orthodox”:

My chrismation didn’t fix me, because I will always be in need of healing from the bleeding wounds I brought into the faith with me the day I was welcomed. I am always going to be healing, always practicing the faith, just nearly Orthodox—almost there, within reach, welcome at the feast, given food for the journey—because the road is long and winding, and it was never about the destination. It was always about the road.

In my own personal experience I have to say that it IS about the destination for me. If it was only about the road, I might not have made it. The road was (and often still is) too difficult. Too full of dangerous curves and unsafe passages. Sometimes I don’t feel that the destination (the Orthodox Church) was worth the journey, which damaged my soul as much or more than my years leading up to that journey. But I can still appreciate Angela’s story. And it’s so well written that it should be read and enjoyed for its own sake. She figured out a way to be “wild in her art” and to produce a memoir that is truly a work of art.

Faith on Friday: Nine Ladies Dancing and Choirs of Angels

dsc_02223Happy 9th Day of Christmas! Some folks believe the twelve days of Christmas are those days leading up to the holiday, but historically the meaning has been applied to the 12 days between Christmas and Theophany (January 6). This is the time of feasting and celebrating the birth of Jesus and the beginning of his ministry on earth. I’ve always loved singing the song with a group of people, but I didn’t realize until a few years ago that it was created as a secret method of teaching Christian catechism during a time of persecution. Two meanings have been applied to the 9th Day of Christmas:

Nine Ladies Dancing—This verse is about the fruits of the Holy Spirit described in Galatians 5:22:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, with modesty and continence added to the original 7 gifts listed in the scripture. It’s good to focus on these virtues that can easily be forgotten amidst all the flurry of shopping and gift-giving and cooking and partying during this season.

Saint Basil the Great

Saint Basil the Great

We hosted three parties over the past few weeks—two of which were actually during the preparatory days leading up to Christmas (known in Western tradition as Advent and in the Orthodox faith as the Nativity Fast). Although partying isn’t recommended before Christmas (in the Orthodox faith,) I felt that our gatherings were very much in keeping with love, joy, kindness, and goodness, as they brought together friends and neighbors in a spirit of friendship. Our third and final party of the season was our annual New Year’s Day Open House (yesterday) at which we also celebrated my husband’s Name Day: the Feast of Saint Basil the Great. (Saint Basil was a priest who also established the first hospital, which makes him a wonderful patron saint for my husband, who is a priest and a physician.)



Nine Choirs of Angels—Another meaning attached to this day is the nine choirs—or orders—of angels.  These nine orders are divided into three hierarchies:



First hierarchy: Seraphim, Cherubim and Thrones (On a related note, today is also the Feast Day of Saint Seraphim of Sarov.)

Second hierarchy: Dominions, Virtues and Powers

Third hierarchy: Principalities, Archangels and Angels




How will you celebrate today? My dancing feet are a little achy, so I think I’ll embrace the fruits of the Spirit instead of the ladies dancing. But I’m always dancing in my heart. It’s cold and damp outside, and I’m pretty tired from yesterday’s party, so I’m going to stay in and catch up on some writing and editing. Tonight we plan to go see the movie, “Unbroken.” I think I’ll learn something about the fruits of the Spirit from this brave man’s story.

Archangel Michael

Archangel Michael

Archangel Gabriel

Archangel Gabriel



By the way, all the icons in this post adorn the walls of our parish here in Memphis, Saint John Orthodox.

P.S. I’m beginning the New Year by continuing Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditations. Here’s his entry from January 1: “A  New Beginning: A Journey of Faith.”

Happy New Year!

Writing (and Drawing) on Wednesday: My Favorite Christmas Cards!

I LOVE CHRISTMAS CARDS. Here are the ones we’ve received so far this year.


















I used to do posts about my favorite Christmas cards:

“A Few of My Favorite Christmas Cards” in 2011

“Greetings: A Few of my Favorite Christmas Cards” was in 2010

“On the Eve of Nativity” (also in 2010)

“The Best Christmas Card Ever” in 2009

 What do my “favorites” have in common? Most of them include original art and/or writing by children. Some have icons done by the sender. Others have nostalgic or historical value. Two families who have been mentioned by me in the past have come through with yet another “favorite Christmas card” this year.

Erin and Christian Moulton’s card features original art by one of their sons and text by another.

Cover art by Nicholas Moulton, age 4; haiku by Simon Moulton, age 9

Cover art by Nicholas Moulton, age 4; haiku by Simon Moulton, age 9


Inside of Moultons' card

Inside of Moultons’ card




Art by 13-year-old Christine McCollum

Art by 13-year-old Christine McCollum

Anne Marie and Josh McCollum’s card (left) also has original art by one of their children.

What do these two families have in common? They’re Orthodox (hence the icon art) and they both homeschool their children.

 My two favorite original art cards done by adults?

This one (below) from my high school friend, Kit Whitsett Fields, a fine artist whose work adorns several walls in our home.


Cover art by Kit Fields

Cover art by Kit Fields

BOiles front

Front of card designed by Weezie Boiles

 And the one below that from Damon and Weezie Boiles. Weezie designs these herself (don’t know how!) and the people, dogs, cars (she did a house for her in-laws’ card) look just like the real thing.

(I’m having technical difficultlies and can’t get the art work to insert in the right order, but you can figure it out.)

Fields back

Boiles back
Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to send us a card this year!  Happy New Year’s Eve!

Mental Health Monday: Becoming a Generative Hero

ow_facebook_cover1This time last year I wrote an end of year 2013 post: “The Semantics of New Year’s Resolutions.”  Shortly after that post I decided to choose my “One Word” for 2014: mindfulness. Of the 9 people from all over the world who chose mindfulness (and registered it at the site) three of us are from Tennessee. Not sure what that says, but I thought it was interesting. Looking back on 2014, I realize that I completely forgot about mindfulness much of the time. But the days I did remember it were times of peace and inner growth, whether I was applying mindfulness to eating, to relationships with others, or to spiritual things.

Karissa Sorrell introduced me to #oneword365 in her post one year ago today: “The Year of Presence.”  Her One Word for 2014 was “present.” I’m anxious to see what she writes about this week as we enter 2015.

Joseph-and-Jesus-IMG_0999-adjusted-small-detailI’m choosing “generative” as my One Word for 2015. One source gives this definition for generative:

having the power or function of generating, originating, producing, or reproducing

I wasn’t able to reproduce (hence all the wonderful adopted kids!) but I can generate. I love this detail from a fresco at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kansas, showing Joseph teaching Jesus carpentry. The abbey calls itself a “generative community.”

Originally I heard the term in Ricahrd Rohr’s wonderful book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. Generative is a characteristic of a hero—the level I’m aspiring to in this second half of my life. As Rohr says:

The hero’s journey is always an experience of an excess of life, a surplus of energy, with plenty left over for others. The hero or heroine has found eros or life energy, and it is more than enough to undo thanatos the energy of death. If it is an authentic life energy, it is always experienced as a surplus of an abundance of life. The hero or heroine is by definition a “generative” person to use Erik Erikson’s fine term, concerned about the next generation and not just himself or herself. The hero lives in deep time and not just in his or her own small time. In fact, I would wonder if you could be a hero or heroine if you did not live in what many call deep time—that is, past, present and future all at once.

Deep time. I like that. So I guess if I’ve got a New Year’s resolution it’s to live in deep time. And to become a generative hero.

Anna BaymaxMy number two granddaughter, Anna Susan, loved the movie, “Big Hero 6,” and especially loves Baymax, the helpful robot character. Here’s a short video showing Hiro meeting Baymax for the first time. I like him, too. He gets his generative power from water, a life source I need to make better use of myself. (So I guess one of my New Year’s resolutions might be to drink more water.) Baymax was created to be a healthcare companion. Co-director Don Hall said:

Baymax views the world from one perspective—he just wants to help people.

baymax-4x4-hugThat’s what a generative hero does, right? Here’s to Anna Susan, Baymax, Richard Rohr, and living in deep time in 2015.

(Not) Writing on Wednesday: Angels Are Singing

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m in Denver visiting children and grandchildren. And not writing. Not even blogging about writing. Celebrating the season with our Grand Christmas Angels. (The ones on the front of our Christmas card.)

2014 Xmas Card Cover 

But as long as you’re here, how about some beautiful Christmas music?

I know I’ve posted links to these Serbian Christmas videos before, but they are favorites of mine so here goes. Enjoy!

Angels Are Singing

Angels Are Singing (Studio Version)

And for my fellow country music fans:

Keith Urban sings “The Christmas Song”

Rascal Flatts singing “Mary Did You Know?

I wish for all my readers a joyful and peaceful Christmas Eve and a glorious Christmas Day.

Family on Friday: Last day in Denver

In lieu of a blog post today, I’m sharing some photos of my last day in Denver with my kids, Jason and Beth, and their families. We spent the morning at the Children’s Museum, then lunch at Ruby Tuesday’s. After naps we’re getting back together for more “cousin time” and dinner before I have to leave tomorrow morning. My cup runneth over. Enjoy!

Gabby on the rings at the playground outside the Children's Museum.

Gabby on the rings at the playground outside the Children’s Museum.

Anna drives the fire truck.

Anna drives the fire truck.

Gabby working with tools.

Gabby working with tools.

Gabby finger painting.

Gabby finger painting.

Grace the squirrel collecting acorns

Grace the squirrel collecting acorns

Grace and Anna as a squirrel and an owl.

Grace and Anna as a squirrel and an owl.

Gabby getting into her animal costume....

Gabby getting into her animal costume….



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