Friday, February 15, 2013

Kathy Harris: The Giving Of Treasures and God's Opportunities


Everyone's Story welcomes debut author Kathy Harris. I had the pleasure of getting to know Kathy through her blog, Divine Detour, and have watched her on her travels from blogger to published author. Kathy is encouraging and genuine both on her blog and intimately. I hope you enjoy your visit with her this week. Kathy will share thoughts on what we choose to leave behind as heirlooms. She also answers the one question that I've wanted to ask her for the longest of times. Also, check out Kathy's awesome book giveaway of her debut novel THE ROAD TO MERCY, as well as a preview of this fine story.

Book Giveaway:
Kathy is offering one copy of THE ROAD TO MERCY to one randomly chosen commenter. The winner will be announced next Friday, February 22nd, between 5-6 EST. For convenience, please leave your email address within the body of your comment. Thanks! And do enjoy the novel's prologue below.





The Road To Mercy by Kathy Harris
PROLOGUE
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

October 10, 1959
Jack Randall jerked his foot from the accelerator and instinctively applied the brakes. His mind raced as his Plymouth Belvedere slowed to a stop. Police cars with lights blazing blocked the intersection that led to his home. The reflection off the wet pavement created an eerie blur, and shadowy figures danced across the sides of the squad cars.
Must be a bad accident. The storm that passed earlier in the night had soaked the black asphalt.
As he watched the policeman walk toward his car, Jack cranked down the driver’s side window. The uniformed officer flashed a bright light in his direction, not quite in his eyes.
“Sorry, sir, no through traffic this morning. A small plane crashed on the Neimann farm.”
Jack’s heart pounded. “Anyone hurt? I need to see if my family is—”
“No one on the ground was hurt, sir. Everyone in the plane was killed. May I see your driver’s license?”
Jack reached into a back pocket for his well-worn wallet. From it he pulled a small piece of paper, which he placed into the gloved hand of the Illinois State Trooper.
“Did the storm bring it down?”
The officer nodded while studying the license. “Lightning took out the engine. It was en route to St. Louis.” His brusque demeanor softened and he returned the paper to Jack. “A family of four. Two kids onboard.”
“Terrible.” Jack tucked the license back inside his wallet.
“You can go home now, Mr. Randall. Hug your kids. Life is short.” The trooper tipped his hat and stepped away from the blue sedan.

Jack punched his pillow down. Sleep would not come. Thoughts of the plane crash crowded his consciousness. His wife lay beside him. His children were safe in their beds. Why did he have such an uneasy feeling? Why did he feel compelled to go to the crash site?
He prayed softly and sat up on the side of the bed. “Lord, what should I do?”
Running his hands through his hair, he stared at the fluorescent green numbers on the clock face. Five thirty.
“Jack?” His wife roused beside him.
“I’m sorry.” He turned to her. “I didn’t mean to wake you, honey.”
“What’s wrong?”
“When I came home this morning, the state police had the intersection blocked. A plane crashed on the Neimann farm. I’m thinking about driving over there.”
“What can you do?” She propped herself on an elbow.
He kissed her on the forehead. “I don’t know. I just have to see if I can help.”
A few minutes later, Jack turned left out of his gravel driveway, his headlights illuminating the heart-shaped leaves of the tall catalpa trees growing in the vacant lot across the street. Pods dangled from the branches like bony fingers, sending a chilling reminder of death through him.
The Neimann farm lay to the southwest, about a mile as the crow flies, toward the small town of Mercy. He had been there last year for an estate sale after old man Neimann passed away. The Neimann children had auctioned off the farm equipment and livestock. Mrs. Neimann continued to live in the house, while the land had been rented to other farmers in the community.
Sunrise streaked the twilight sky by the time Jack approached the turn onto Mercy Road. This narrow strip of asphalt led all the way into town, no more than ten miles past the farm, which was less than a thousand yards beyond the intersection.
He pulled his sedan into the gravel driveway and recognized the face of a friend, Canaan County Deputy Sheriff Harold Chester.
“Hey, buddy. How are you?” Chester said, walking toward him.
“Good, but I heard about the plane crash. Anything I can do?”
Deputy Chester shook his head. “A real shame. Two beautiful kids, maybe five to seven years old.” A tear welled in the deputy’s eye. “Not much older than my kids or yours.”
“Need any help documenting the scene, measurements, anything?”
Chester smiled, brushing moisture from his cheek. “You’re still a law enforcement man at heart, Jack. Gets in your blood, don’t it?” He nodded toward the barn. “We’ve got it done. I’m just waiting for the Feds to come in and do their assessments before we cart off the wreckage. There’s metal all over this farm.”
“Not surprising,” Jack said.
“I’m not sure how the bodies were so intact. Not much trauma, except for the pilot. He had a gash on his head. We’re pretty sure he was the father. He was still inside the plane. The mother and two kids were thrown out.”
“Would you mind if I look around?”
“Not at all. You know not to move anything.”
“Sure. No problem.”
The deputy pointed toward the orange streaks in the awakening horizon. “The main wreckage is about five hundred feet beyond the barn.”
Jack pulled his flannel shirt collar up around his neck and set out toward the deteriorating structure that stood between him and the crash site. The chilly wind chastened him for not wearing a jacket. Thankfully, he had worn his boots. Weeds had taken over the lot. The rain still clung to them, and his pants legs were quickly soaked to the knees. He scowled. If old man Neimann could see the shape this place was in, he would turn in his grave.
Jack noticed the faint odor of decaying cow manure as he walked through the open livestock gate. The old hayfield beyond had grown past the time to harvest, and ragweed stood half a foot higher than the tops of the fescue, alfalfa, and red clover.
He saw the plane wreckage straight ahead. From this distance it mimicked a kind of abstract sculpture someone had dropped onto the field. The wet surface glistened in the early morning light, creating an unnerving glow. As he approached, Jack noticed beads of moisture covering the white, twisted metal.
Four people died in this wreckage.
The distinct odor of burnt wiring filled his nostrils. No doubt lightning had struck the plane. Fortunately, the whole thing didn’t go up in flames. Not that the outcome would have been any different.
There was an unpleasantness in thinking about the bodies now lying in the county morgue. It was a far cry from the destination they must have planned in St. Louis. Lord willing, those four souls had reached an even better place, the throne of their Creator.
Had it not been for such a terrible accident, the beauty of this quiet morning would have been refreshing. He loved the open land. Especially when it stretched further than the eyes could see, like it did on this estate. Old man Neimann had certainly enjoyed a gorgeous piece of nature. Perhaps he was part of the welcoming committee for the…the… Jack realized he didn’t even know the names of those who had died here.
He reached out to touch the squared-off tail section of the plane. Teardrops of moisture clung to his fingers. He wiped his hands on his trousers. There was nothing he could do. He might as well go home to his family.
Turning toward the barn, a piece of trash from the plane caught his attention. A familiar shape out of context. It took a moment for him to process what he was seeing. Something was missing. What was it? Lack of sleep had slowed his cognitive processes, and he strained to put the pieces together.
A bottle. It was a rubber nipple from a baby bottle.
He thought back to what Chet had said. Two children, five and seven years old, had been found. They wouldn’t need a baby bottle. So what was…?
The realization hit him hard. An infant had been onboard. There was another body. Oh, God. Help me find that child. He needs to be with his family, not alone in this field.
Jack scratched his head. Where should he start looking? If only he knew where the other bodies had been located. The mother had likely been holding the child in her arms during the flight. Chet had said she was expelled from the plane, but where had she been found?
He scanned the weeds for a sign. A red kerchief lay east of the wreckage. Perhaps the mother had worn it over her shoulder when burping the baby?
Come on, Jack, you’re grasping at straws. Just walk around the site in a grid. You know the rules, he reminded himself. Search and Rescue 101.
He set out to walk every inch of soil in the field. It took more than thirty ever-widening circles before he reached the fence line. When he approached the final turn, he debated what he should do. No doubt he had scoured the entire field. Perhaps it was time to call in assistance.
Then he heard a sound.
He stopped to listen.
Nothing.
Only the low chirping of birds filled his ears. Must have been a barn cat.
Wait! He heard it again. It was coming from that haystack, and it sounded like…a baby.
Jack sprinted toward the loose mound of hay. How could a child have survived such a horrendous crash? What would he find? Walking closer, he saw what appeared to be a newborn. The baby was dressed in bright blue and lay motionless in a crater of grey-green straw.
Energy drained from Jack’s body. Had he arrived too late? When he touched the infant, he knew he hadn’t. The child’s soft, pale skin felt moist and warm. Jack gently picked up the sole survivor of the crash and held him to his chest, shielding him from the cold wind.
Panic replaced relief. The baby needed immediate medical attention. He could have internal injuries, complications from exposure, or even shock.
Lack of sleep had begun to take its toll, and Jack operated on remote power. He traversed the uneven terrain back to his car as fast as he could without jostling the fragile life cradled in his arms. If Chet was still there, he could drive them to the hospital in the squad car. If not, he would find a way to secure the baby in the front seat of his Belvedere.
When Jack passed through the gate, he saw the deputy’s green Bel Air, but no sign of Harold Chester. “Chet! Chet! I need help!”

A few minutes later, Jack watched Harold Chester’s right foot hover close to the floorboard of the police cruiser. His other leg jiggled nervously, as if peeved that it had no particular task in this special mission. They had decided to take the baby to Mercy Hospital. Although a small facility, it was the closest to the farm.
Despite the upset and commotion that had come into his world today, the infant lay quietly in Jack’s lap, swaddled in Chet’s olive green jacket. The siren screamed, making conversation impossible. Jack cupped the baby’s ears between his hands and tried to focus on the narrow road ahead.
A patchwork of color blurred in his peripheral vision as they sped past white clapboard farmhouses and red barns with silver silos. He imagined farmers interrupting their chores and wives peering from porches to investigate the early morning disturbance. They would soon be the talk of the neighborhood. In fact, the party lines were probably already buzzing.
When Chet pulled into the hospital parking lot and stopped, Jack jumped out of the car and ran to the hospital entrance. Because the deputy had radioed ahead, a group of doctors and nurses met him at the door. As he transferred the baby into the arms of a nurse, the infant opened his blue eyes and held Jack’s gaze—for what seemed like a lifetime.

Three days later, Pastor Sam Lewis caught Jack’s shoulder and spun him around. “I heard about the rescue. Good work, brother.” He reached to shake Jack’s hand.
Jack smiled and thanked the reverend. People had made over him like he was some kind of hero. But he had done what any other man would do. “Right place at the right time,” he said. “That child is fortunate to be alive.”
“Blessed, I would say.” The reverend nodded. “In fact, I believe God has plans for that young man.”


A Gift vs. An Heirloom by Kathy Harris
I recently heard a prominent national talk show host speak about the difference between a gift and an heirloom. A gift, whether large or small, is a wonderful gesture, and some people have a special knack for choosing just the right thing. A book we’ve wanted to read but hadn’t bought for ourselves. A pair of house shoes that are “oh, so comfy.” Or maybe even the perfect kitchen tool. These were among the gifts I received at Christmas—and loved! 
But a gift usually has finite qualities. I will read the book and, perhaps, loan it to a friend. I will no doubt eventually wear holes in my cozy house slippers. And the food processor may grind to a halt one day.
On the other hand, heirlooms are gifts that are handed down for generations. A framed photo of a grandparent. The family Bible. Or a great story about Uncle John.
Many times we’re aware when we’re giving an heirloom. When I was young, my grandmother proudly presented me with a cut glass condiment dish and explained that it had been passed down from her grandmother. The decorative bowl, which had originated in the 1800’s (the exact date I have long since forgotten), is still the perfect shape and size to use on my table for important family occasions. Taking it from my cupboard brings back special memories of my grandmother, as well as an inexplicable longing to know the other women, three and four generations before me, who used it. Is it valuable? Probably not. It is priceless? Yes. To say that dish is an heirloom is an understatement.
But heirlooms aren’t always things we can touch. They may be memories, or stories that have been handed down. While I never met her, I can almost taste my great-grandmother’s sugar cookies. Through the years, my dad has talked over and over again about how delicious they were. I envision the poor woman constantly baking, because, as the story goes, my dad and his three siblings cleaned out the cookie jar within minutes of arriving at her house each time. I wonder if she knew she was leaving an indelible legacy . . . a cookie crumb trail to her heart that others could follow for decades?
I suppose it’s obvious at this point that many of my heirlooms have been passed down from grandparents. Someone once told me, “We’re the product of our grandparents’ prayers,” and the idea that we are blessed by the generations before us is often included in the stories I write. In my multi-generational, debut novel, The Road to Mercy, a “grandfather” plays an important role.
Those of us who write—whether fiction, non-fiction, or daily journals—would like to think that our written words will survive our temporal witness. And perhaps some will. Good stories are timeless. Great books are read and re-read. Journals fill in the details of history that would otherwise be lost. But it’s really our personal stories—the character we possess and show to others—that will remain behind when we’re gone.
What about you . . . Is there a character trait or a lesson from your life that you want to leave behind for your family, friends, or even strangers? How are you working to earn that trait? How will you give it away? And to whom will you give it?
I’ve told you about some of my heirlooms. Now I want to hear about yours.
*~**~*

I've asked Kathy the one question that I always enjoy reading on her blog that she asks of her own guests:

Kathy, have you experienced any unexpected detours on the road to publication? In general, how do you cope with setbacks in life?

The road to publication is all about detours. At least that has been my experience. Many writers will tell you that the detours don't stop after you're published.


The big turning point, i.e. detour, for me as a writer was when I decided to write Christian fiction. I tried for several years to finish a general market (secular) manuscript, but I could never get past the first chapter. Then, about a dozen years ago, I made the decision that, if I was going to dedicate so much time to something, I wanted it to glorify God. That's when I decided to write Christian fiction. I finished the next manuscript I started, and then the next, and the next.

When setbacks come—and we all have them in every aspect of our lives—I try to remind myself that they are only opportunities. Opportunities to watch God work in my life. Opportunities to grow my faith in, and my reliance upon, God—and His will for my life. Setbacks often bring something even better than what we had originally planned. We just have to be patient and wait.

One of my favorite verses that speaks to this is Romans 8:28, And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Author Bio:
Kathy Harris is an author by way of a divine detour into the Nashville entertainment business. She graduated with a B.S. in Communications from Southern Illinois University and has spent the past two decades employed as a marketing director in the Nashville music industry.

An active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the publicity officer for Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Kathy lives near Nashville with her husband and their two Shiloh Shepherd dogs. Her fiction debut, The Road to Mercy, was released by Abingdon Press on September 1, 2012.

Kathy regularly interviews literary and music guests on her blog at www.DivineDetour.com. Her author site is www.kathyharrisbooks.com. You can find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KathyHarrisAuthor or Twitter @DivineDetour.

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30 comments:

  1. welcome Kathy! great view and great teaser - bless you two! I hope you have an awesome writing life!

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    1. Murray, thanks so much for visiting Everyone's Story! You just made my day :)

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    2. Thank you, Murray, for your kind words.

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    3. Thank you for sharing your story. I agree that the greatest heirlooms are not material things but memories and experiences. They are what life is comprised of. Having others touch our lives and touching the lives of others is the legacy we should leave, a legacy of love.

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    4. Nancy, I'm happy for your visit! And I so agree with you.

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    5. Nancy, for some reason I just now saw your comment. Sorry about that! And thanks so much for stopping by.

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  2. So good to read about you, Kathy. Heirlooms. For many years I had the quilt my husband's mother made before he was born. I'll never forget the day I gave it to my husband's grandson. It was something tangible he could hold on to to remember his grandfather and great-grandmother.
    The book sounds really interesting.

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    1. Hi, Patricia! I have several heirloom quilts and can imagine how wonderful that was for your husband's grandson. A wonderful gift!

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    2. Hi, Pat. What a blessing you are to your grandson to pass down this quilt. I imagine your husband was quite touched.

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  3. Kathy

    Congratulations on your achievement in releasing your first novel & your willingness to persist and trust.

    Best wishes in your writing travels.

    Ian

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  4. Ian, thanks and congrats to you too. I enjoyed reading about Angelguard.

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  5. As far as heirlooms I hope to leave behind a library (the recipient has already been chosen and knows about it), quilts and hand knitted or crocheted items. I enjoyed reading this interview today. The novel looks wonderful as well. Looking forward to reading future posts. Blessings, Susan Fryman susanngarrylee@yahoo.com

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    1. A fond hello, Susan. It's always a joy when you visit.

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    2. Hi, Susan! A library is a great gift. To personalize it even more, you might leave a "bookmark" in each of your favorite books with a note about why you enjoyed it. Quilts are some of my favorite heirlooms too!

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    3. Kathy, what a great idea about those bookmarks left in those gifts of books. A true treasure.

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  6. I would love a chance to win this book. It looks like something I would love to read. Thank you for this opportunity. clSwalwell@gmail.com

    in Him,

    Cheri :)

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    1. Thanks for visiting today, Cheri. Hope all is well for you.

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    2. Cheri, thanks for leaving a comment and a smile! :) Have a great weekend -- holiday included!

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  7. I'm in the middle of reading this book and I'm loving it!!!! My best friend almost died from a subarachnoid hemorrhage and so I find myself going back to that time while I'm reading. You're an awesome writer, Kathy!

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    1. Thanks for your visit today, Sherri. If the rest of Kathy's novel is as great as that prologue--and I'm sure it is--you're right, Kathy is an awesome writer! Happy reading!

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  8. Thank you for your kind words, Sherri (and Elaine). It sounds like your friend was very blessed to have survived, Sherri. Praise God!

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  9. That is surely the truth
    At any writers booth
    Always a detour no matter the stage
    One just has to turn that page

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    1. A fond hello, Pat, and also to the cat!

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  10. Hi, Pat... love the rhyme. :)

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  11. I will be thinking of your heirloom memories as I pack my boxes, Sis. Thanks for all you do for others and especially for me. With love and hugs, Linda and the Bone Mafia

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    1. So happy to see you here on Everyone's Story, Linda. Hope you will visit more when you're settled down.

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  12. Linda, every time I see "Bone Mafia" it makes me smile. For those who don't know, Linda's "Bone Mafia" are two beloved dogs.

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  13. Kathy, heartfelt thanks for being my guest on Everyone's Story this past week. In view of a few demands you've faced while remaining loyal to this blog, I so appreciate everything you've done. Thank you too for your special giveaway of your debut novel, THE ROAD TO MERCY...

    And the winner of this wonderful novel is Susan. Congratulations, Susan! Both Kathy and I will be in touch with you directly.

    Blessings to you both.

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  14. Elaine, I had fun visiting with you and everyone this week! Thanks for inviting me. May God bless the road you travel. Blessings to all!

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