Like her heroine, Police Chief Jo Oliver, Dr. Catherine Finger is committed to protect and serve, but instead of handcuffs and handguns, she uses her wit and wisdom as a high school superintendent and a community volunteer in Grayslake, Illinois. When she’s not working or writing she can be found enjoying God’s presence and the people of New Hope Church in Round Lake, Illinois. She is passionate about sharing God’s truth through her fiction. Alabaster Vases is her debut novel and the first in the Murder with a Message series.
Good Morning and Happy Sunday Everyone! Today’s the day! I’m thrilled to announce that SHATTERED MASKS, book 2 in my Murder with a Message series, has been selected as the Grand Prize Winner in the Deep River Books Writing Contest!
Good Morning Everyone!
This is a day that I HAVE to share a really cool verse that came to me during my morning prayer time Monday in preparation to share some crazy good news very soon.
God has been the constant in my life since I was 16 years old in a very personal way. And He has been faithful to lead, love, support, and comfort me ever since.
A few years ago, He gave me a verse that I felt was a direct push to keep on in my writing journey: “And He who sits on the throne said to me, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’”
On Monday morning, He gave me this verse from Psalm 26:7, “that I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving and tell of all Thy wonderous works.”
This verse follows on the heels of admonishments to obey Him, and to walk in integrity. Sort of an ‘if p then q’ sort of progression.
The way it’s worded is of course catnip to a writer! So I’ve been praying about it and enjoying the feeling of it all week.
And then, driving home yesterday after work, I got an amazing phone call…regarding my writing…
Something I’ll shout from the rooftops on March 15th.
Stay tuned and stay grateful for another day in His kingdom!
Late afternoon breezes by overhead as I sit in the warmth of the green house at St. Claire Meadows. This is where I sit and calm myself, stilling my emotions before I pile into my Acura and point it down the highway toward home. Three hours away, beyond the Cheddar Curtain.
Having just clicked past a dozen senior citizens in various states of mental awareness and physical presence, running the gauntlet from my mother’s room to the exit. As always, tears well up, unbidden, and my heart rips apart just a smidge more. And here I sit, crying. It’s a gentle cry, usually.
A gentle cry of mercy, and of gratitude, and of helplessness. Gratitude for the safety and warmth and care of strangers-turned-family. Mercy tugging at my heart for the amounts of love I heap in service, and in miles, that never seem to be enough. Helplessness because for every mile I drive, every stranger’s parent I tend to on my way to tending to my own, there are so many men and women sitting here alone. And I can’t fix that. I can edge away some of the loneliness, I can warm up a room with my temporary presence, like the green flash before a tropical sunset. But I cannot keep the heat from waning as I click on down the hall.
And for that I cry. For the echo of my footsteps retreating down the hall as I make my way toward freedom, and head on down the highway. A freedom laced with tears. And while driving home I wander still. Down the hallways in my mind, pausing to pray in doorways, to hug stooped shoulders and kiss greying heads. Making my way back to room 305, making my way back home.
Here’s to our mothers and fathers, and to our loving them all the way home.
Good News! In Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV), the prophet proclaims “the year of the Lord’s favor”, and shares that God sent him to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives…and to provide for those who grieve in Zion by bestowing on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
Any life well-lived accumulates ashes. Mourning is a natural result of the losses of life. And despair happens.
God longs to bestow His kingdom riches upon us through His grace alone. All we have to do is come humbly before His throne, offer up the ashes of our lives, and allow Him to place His crown of beauty upon our heads. I love the powerful imagery of putting on a garment of praise and throwing off a spirit of despair. I love hearing that my heavenly Father calls me to soak in the oil of joy, and to let go of mourning.
Ask God to reveal the ashes in your life that He longs to transform into a crown of beauty. Let Him show you the areas in your life where you might be clinging to a spirit of despair instead of reaching up to Him, and accepting His garment of praise. God wants to turn your mourning into joy, to richly bless you as you come to Him, and to display His splendor through your life.
This week’s post features a beautiful reunion between two lifelong friends.
Kay (in the wheel chair) and Marion, my mother, found each other one last time a few weeks ago, being treated at the same hospital on different floors in my home town.
Days later, our Gracious God called Kay home.
Please join me in praying for Kay’s family as they walk through this season of loss, and for my mother’s broken heart.
We should all be so lucky to keep our loved ones near up until our last days.
Grateful for friendships that go the distance,
Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach.
Lately God’s been showing me anchors in my life that are holding me back from the right next place for me.
My biggest anchor might be rumination! I have one of those always active brains that works super well for a writer, a bit less well perhaps for a sailor. Life is chock full of lessons about leaving the past behind, letting go and letting God, and in general fully embracing the moment and accepting all that is before you. And that means letting go of that death grip on the past, or of the way you think you wanted things to be, or of the way you think things should be.
What if all that’s come before could serve as a bridge to much greater adventures, more of His presence, and more of His love showered down upon us? You wouldn’t want to spend all day long staring down at the bridge and neglecting the beauty of the road before you, right? Neither do I!
Today I vow to look up and look forward, thanking Him for what’s come before, trusting Him for what’s about to come, and taking great joy in the journey.
Turns out I love to sail.
Therefore, behold, I will allure her (Israel) and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart.
There I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor (Troubling) to be for her a door of hope and expectations. And she shall sing there and respond as in the days of her youth and as at the time when she came up out of the land of Egypt.
And it shall be in that day, says the Lord, that you will call Me Ishi (My Husband), and you shall no more call Me baali (my baal).
For I will take away the names of the baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be mentioned or seriously remembered by their name. Hosea 2: 15-17
Today, looking out over the frozen tundra that is my front yard, I am reminded that God has MORE for us. Greater expectations, truer hope, than we could possibly have for ourselves. Hosea 2:15-17 illustrates this truth powerfully.
You want to hear a little secret? I am a blessed woman, and I am grateful. God has brought healing and abundance into my life in so many areas, and I am grateful. Yet, to this day, anyone who really knows me will tell you that I have a husband-shaped hole in my heart. That’s right, I admit it: I dearly wish that I were married to the love of my life. Don’t get me wrong—I love my life, and the amazing family and friends in my life—but in the midst of the joy and freedom of my single life, I still struggle with my unexpected marital status. And not being married, even years after having weathered a devastating divorce, can still bring me down from time to time.
I live under grace, under forgiveness, and in the awesome power of the Holy Spirit, daily, (sometimes minute-by-minute!), and I am grateful. And God has my heart, my soul, my mind, and everything else that comes with the package that is Catherine! And yet, as He very well knows, from time to time, I do indeed suffer from what I’ve come to call the occasional bout of Man Sadness. Many is the time I’ve called a friend to share that I’m struggling with feeling Man Sad—and they know all about it!
But I’d love to share another little secret with you about this area in my life. Lately, the Living Lord Jesus Christ has peeled backed this veil a little more and shown me surprising joy in the midst of my singleness. He has reminded me that I am precious, and that I am indeed NOT alone, and that I DO have a husband! He has lured me into the wilderness of loneliness, into my own valley of trouble, and given me enough time to stop looking within, and to look up—to Him. And He has blessed me in a deeper way with a sense of His presence. He has blessed me by revealing the wonderful truth of His Lordship in my life in a new way: by reminding me that He is my Ishi.
Such a great gift comes with a responsibility. It is my job to love my Ishi, to listen to His tender words of love as He speaks to me, to make room for Him. Making room for my Ishi requires me to stop listening to the voices of the false gods in my life, and to ‘stop mentioning or seriously remembering’ the losses that came before.
So here is my gift to you on this chilly February morning: know that you are loved. Know that as you struggle through your own Valley of Troubling, that God is waiting to transform your journey into one of hope and great expectations. Take His hand through the valley, look up to Him and find yourIshi.
Catherine & Ishi
Last weekend took me back to Baraboo, WI to care for my mother and to bask in the beauty of friendship. My mother has lived a respectable 88 years so far, having earned the care of others and the worry of her children along with her now wandering mind and weakening body. I love her; I pray and worry over her—half afraid that doing the one cancels the other. Mostly I am eternally grateful for excellent care lavished upon her in the midst of what feels like, and has become, home to her. And in an unexpected way, it has become home to me as well.
You will be as surprised as I was to find some harrowing scenes centering around a senior living center not unlike my mother’s in Shattered Masks—my sequel to Alabaster Vases, and coming sometime in the next several months. You write what you know, and I’ve come to know every floor tile on every level, from all angles, and in many different lights. Caring for our loved ones takes on many shades, and I feel an unsettling combination of weathered love, mixed with abject panic every time I go ‘home’.
I am blessed beyond measure to have stalwart friends with ever open arms to run to when I come back ‘home’ to Baraboo. These amazing women and men hold my heart still, and keep my spirits lively, as we come together and catch up, often over bonfires and adult beverages. Last Saturday night we added a new tradition: the First Annual Tater Tot Casserole Cook-off.
To have been invited was honor enough. From the start I pledged to cook something up, though my friends said I didn’t need to go to all the trouble. They gave me a graceful exit, knowing that my time is split between hospital and facility visits, the local Wal-Mart, and quick walks at the lake. In an exhausted moment on Saturday afternoon, I nearly took them up on it, this notion of not cooking, but then I came home to myself—somewhere between shopping for ice cream bars and Depends (two separate trips).
Reminded of who I am, I headed to Pierces Country Store, armed with a warm smile and a grateful heart. Realizing, too late, that adding a recipe to my armament might have been a better choice. No matter. Pushing the cart through the aisle mindlessly solved the problem. I eagerly tossed an interesting combination of items into my cart, raced through the checkout lanes, and down the road to get to my mom’s facility—to go ‘home’. Once there, I enlisted the aid of staff members, who graciously allowed me to use their kitchen.
I bundled my mother up in blankets and sat her in a chair to join me as I prepped. Her birdlike movements and milky confusion brought tears to my ears, as they always do, yet it was good to be together in a kitchen again. Two things can be true at the same time.
You know how this is going to end, don’t you? Don’t hate me just because I took home the hardware at last Saturday’s 1st Annual Tater Tot Casserole Cook-off in Baraboo, WI (Most Unique AND 2nd Place overall!) Love my friends because they are creative, and funny, and warm, and reach out to me from another world, drawing me back to the beauty and the power of community, of connection.
Sometimes the balm for the all the woundedness of this temporary world can be found in the layers of a tater tot casserole.
Happy 3rd Saturday in January Everyone!
Now that we’ve all had time to get used to the idea of living in 2015, let’s circle back to our hopes and dreams for the New Year.
I have declared 2015 as The Year of Gladness. The Year of Happiness. Because I have decided that happiness matters. Gladness matters. Gladness is an important part of who we are and who we can become in His likeness.
Thou has put gladness in my heart,
More than when grain and new wine abound.
Being happy as though drunk-boisterous as though with wine-is an oft-repeated notion in the Bible. And why is that? I believe it is an intentional reminder that God has MORE for us. God wants us to be happy-to enjoy a deep and true gladness of heart.
I invite you to join me in my journey to dwell on this concept of gladness, and of happiness, throughout this year. Let’s commit to consciously embracing circumstances and opportunities designed to create gladness of heart and happiness in the lives of others and in our own lives. As I consider how I will approach the gift of each new day, I want to start my day with this question: what can I do to bring happiness to the people around me? What can I do to invite gladness of heart into my own life?
Here’s to creating more happiness together in 2015!