In an isolated tropical bush village in Papua New Guinea, one would expect to find creepy critters—and I did. Over 30 years ago, I went to PNG as a single missionary teacher. While there, I experienced millipedes, centipedes (the 4-6 inch kind with crablike legs), and spiders with bodies the size of golf balls (yes, you read that right).
But unexpected situations in North Carolina? No way! This is the USA. With temperate weather, an idyllic coastline, gorgeous sunsets, and stunning mountain vistas, who would expect creepy crawlies?? I soon found out! My first encounter was at Hickory Cove Bible Camp in Taylorsville. It was early summer, and the day was hot, so I wore my flip-flops on my .125-mile uphill trek to the camp mailbox. It was nearing dusk, so as I walked back to our cozy doublewide, I noticed something looking like a long tube stretched across two lanes on the country road. I kept walking, and then slowed. Wait. Was that a snake?? Yikes! Was it dead? Deadly? Ready to slither across the road as I passed by? Would he try to bite me? Oh, great. What a day to wear flip-flops!
I didn't ponder those questions for long. I moved steadily down the road without glancing over at the cold-blooded creature. And I survived. Later that week, I was told he was harmless and had a name: Frank or something similar. Evidently, he comes quite often to the camp, especially to the front porch of the double-wide we are staying in. What?? Snakes climb stairs??! Suddenly, I felt exposed. Unprotected. But still able to sleep at night.
Until. . .
We moved to Fort Caswell, just 50 minutes from our new home, where we are volunteering while we await our move-in date. It's a Baptist camp located at the end of a coastal peninsula, complete with lighthouse, and ships, ferries and fishing boats galore passing by throughout the day. Oh, and there are stunning sunsets, a wild breeze, and an array of seabirds along the shore, calling, catching prey, and sunning themselves on the dock.
So, imagine how stunned I was to find a small snake laying across the threshold between the kitchen and living room in (yes, IN) our beach house (Note the pic at the top). Not knowing what it was, I immediately took a pic and asked my friends on Facebook if it was friend or foe. Turns out, it was a rat snake. Totally harmless. Well, unless, of course, you're a rat.
We had a maintenance man from the camp come and find the source, after we had seen five of these snakes pop up in various rooms of the house—even on the second floor. (Yes, Mabel, it's true— they slither up stairs). He blocked up the hole with foam, and called it a day. Our relief lasted only a day or two, then three more showed up. So bizzare! To this day, we don't know how they get into our living quarters. Thankfully, they are all babies of various sizes.
An Unexpected Web of Intrigue
One day, on our way to work in the cafeteria, we found this beauty just outside the back door. She graced the web like a star. I was shocked because I hadn't seen a spider that large (actual size) since my time in New Guinea. Again, I reached out to my Facebook friends, and they didn't disappoint. I was told it was a banana or orb spider, but both were harmless.
I breathed a sigh of relief until one of the interns showed me a pic of a hummingbird caught in the web of one such creature; life sucked out of him and spun into a coffin to eat later. So sad. Next thing you know, she will be catching rats! Even so, I'm making peace with her. Each time we enter the back door to the kitchen, we say hello. I'm calling her Asmerelda, which seems to fit a brightly patterned spider.
Hide and Seek with Ghost Crabs
You'd think, with my aversion to spiders, I would be fearful of crabs. Not so. For some reason, I consider them comical and cute. Ghost crabs are also shy, and play hide and seek in the bushes. They can be found on the beach at night, popping out of their holes in the sand. But have your flashlights ready—they move fast!
And last, but not least are lizards. They do not strike fear in my heart. But I have been known to strike up a conversation with one, as I did this day. Lizzie is what I called her. And no, this is not a gecko. Their head is v-shaped and a gecko’s triangular.
A Creature of an Unexpected Kind
Although these foes are not alive, they are cause for concern. Sand Spurs are everywhere, so footwear is essential. It is not pleasant to step on one, and they are a challenge to pick out of rugs and shoes without sticking oneself. At least they are not poisonous, nor do they bite.
Although we realize it's hurricane season, we expected to be safe inside our comfy beach house, just yards away from the Intracoastal inlet. Each day, the tide flows in and out (four times a day, evidently), but only in a tropical storm or hurricane is there danger of flooding. We are thankful God has spared us from this disaster so far. But there is another source of possible flooding: water dripping from the porch roof and onto the inside window frame. Here, you can witness our attempt at preventing pools of water in our downstairs kitchen/living room during tropical storm Ophelia. Ahh, yes. The coastal life.
An Unexpected Pleasure
All in all, we are thriving and even enjoying our volunteer work here at Fort Caswell. The setting is relaxing, the staff friendly and helpful, and our kitchen duties workable for our aging bodies. Plus, we have the pleasure of experiencing the hurricane season near a body of water, witnessing the effects firsthand.
God has been good to us every step of our nomad way. But more on that next month. He is teaching us to trust Him in all situations, proving once again--He is enough.
Have you experienced a hurricane? What about a creature invasion? Let me know below!
IS IT WORTH THE WORK? THINGS THAT SATISFY
I never would have guessed that a preschooler would teach me an important lesson about things that satisfy. This past July (and every July for the past 31 years) my hubby and I attended a family Bible Camp at Conference Point in Wisconsin. Our days were full of worship, good food, fellowship, and teaching from God’s Word. And of course there was fun in the sun— everyone’s favorite activity.
As I would rather be on the lake instead of in it, I was satisfied with a front-row seat on the beach where I could people-watch (one of my favorite activities). Kids and adults of all ages enjoyed swimming, diving, playing tag, sunbathing, and chatting. Some were floating on the surface of the water in an inflatable chair.
However, only a subset of attendees were actually satisfied with working during their vacation, and I found that curious. It was the toddlers and preschoolers who were busy digging trenches and building forts, while the older crowd took it easy. One young girl, early on in her task, worked alongside two boys digging a long trench perpendicular to the beach. After a while, the boys got bored and left. But the girl? She soldiered on, like she was engaged in a marathon. Intent on her job, the tike journeyed to and from the lake, filling her bucket with water, pouring it into the trench and then padding back to the lake to fill it again. She must have made the trip 12 times before I lost count.
But what I did note was this: as soon as she'd turn to fetch more lake water the last bucketful would begin slowly seeping into the sand. So by the time she returned, the water had disappeared.
FRUITLESS EFFORT TO SATISFY
I wondered how long it would take before she realized her efforts were fruitless—that no matter how many times she filled the trench, it would never hold water?
Well, soon after I contemplated this, she stopped at one point to examine her work, a puzzled expression forming on her face. I could just imagine her inner thoughts: “What happened to all that water? I know I poured lots in—where did it go?”
And then it happened. The realization was too much. So, with determination, she took a breath and threw the bucket on the sand, then stomped away. Ahh, the youngster finally understood. She had expended all that effort for nothing!
It was a lesson for me, too. How many times had I put energy into something I thought would satisfy, only to be disappointed? A new self-help book that will change my life. A pair of shoes with an arch the ads say will allow you to walk all day in comfort. Classic wicker furniture for our screened-in porch that will fit perfectly. A visit to a nearby tourist spot that promises good food and even better shops.
In reality, the book is shallow and unhelpful. The shoes rub in the wrong places. The wicker furniture is too big for the spot. Most restaurants and shops in the touristy areas are closed on Sunday.
And so on. . .
So what does satisfy? Really, only Christ can satisfy. He has made you and delights in you. He wants what's best and knows what's best for you. Pouring yourself into people and digging into and meditating on God’s Word will change your life. It will bring you peace and contentment. Here’s what the book of Isaiah has to say:
Wow! Can you think of anything more satisfying than to repair the breaches in this world? To restore relationships? To make a difference in people’s lives?
Each one of us has a sphere of influence that no one else holds. Start today—with a friend, a college student or a grandchild. Take them out for a treat. Offer to help them with a problem. Tell them they are in your prayers.
Invest in things that will last. Things that satisfy. Not stuff and meaningless activity, but people. It will renew your heart and give you a fresh perspective on life.
Can you think of one person to encourage or one ministry to engage in that will bring deep satisfaction to your soul? Let me know in the comments below. . .
Challenges are Sure to Come
“Into each life some rain must fall.” —Allan Roberts
Yep, it’s true. No one goes through this world unscathed. Troubles are sure to fall like rain, whether we want them or not. So, if that’s the case, how should we respond?
As far as I can tell, there are only three ways. (If you can think of more, please enlighten me in the comments). You can either resist them by pretending they don’t exist, fight them angrily (blaming others in the process), or accept them, letting the challenges wash over you, knowing that somehow, they will transform you into a better person.
Challenges Are For Our Good
But, accepting them is not so easy, is it? We want to squirm out of them, side step them or squash them, right? If we are a child of God, though, we know He has a plan for our lives, and ultimately, our goal is to reflect our Father.
Sometimes, He uses the ‘controlled burn’ to conform us. Just enough challenges to kill the wayward parts like impatience and jealousy, so new seed can grow into hardy plants that will bear a good harvest (remember the fruits of the spirit?)
Not only do trials make us more like Christ, but when we accept them and allow them to strengthen our faith, in the end, it will bring honor His name. Check out the verses below. . .
1 Peter 1:6-7
Occasionally, we are the reason for the hard times. I know I have used a harsh word in the past, or avoided the truth when asked. I’ve even been jealous or critical, which leads to discontent and depression. No one sees it, of course, but Jesus does. He knows what’s in my heart. And at times, it’s not pretty—and I’m sure it makes Him sad.
Challenges Make Us Stronger
How many of us pray for challenges and trials? Scary idea, eh? But, consider this--we can speed up our goal of being Christ-like by putting ourselves into a situation that requires trust in our Heavenly Father. When everything is going well, why would we need to call out to Jesus?
I have done this a few times in my life. Sometimes, it’s being brave to talk with and editor or agent about my latest project. Other times it’s stepping out in faith, literally, as I walk across a mile-high swinging bridge, or climb a ladder like the one below. You see, I’m afraid of heights. But I was determined to move forward in faith. And I’m glad I did!
I’m not sure if it’s my age (I’m less intimidated), or that my desire to be conformed to Christ’s image is front and center in my heart right now. That, too, could be due to my age, since I have more years behind me that ahead of me.
This nomad journey has at times been a challenge. My time isn’t my own. Neither is my space. And don’t even talk about the issue of mail delivery when we move every few weeks. It’s a nightmare! One thing is for sure. I will appreciate our townhome So, Much. More. when our nomad life is done.
Whoa. I just thought of something. After dealing with this earthly life and our sinful nature all our lives, it will be So. Incredibly. Amazing. to finally step into Heaven and know we are FINALLY HOME and free of all that hinders us!
How have you seen God transform your struggles into something good? Let me know in the comments below!
It never occurred to me that my desire to write middle-grade historical fiction would change. Nor, that my author’s bio must follow suit. But I was recently enlightened when I had to write a book proposal (much like a term paper, for those of you who are unfamiliar with them) and with it, include my bio. Seems simple, until you understand I am writing a non-fiction book on “aging confidently”, something I am struggling to do lately. Now, instead of writing for young people, I'm reaching my peers.
My Middle-grade Bio
This is what I created when I published The Heart Changer in 2019:
Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a 'Y') Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe, observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on lives of characters from the past, Jarm is devoted to breathing new life into the pages of history, and offers her young readers hope, heart, and a real-life hero.
Jarm loves to travel, is passionate about visiting new places and determined never to visit the same location twice. Unfortunately, sometimes she has to break her own rule. Having journeyed to six out of seven continents, she’s slowly checking off destinations on her bucket list. Jarm’s next dream destination is a stay in a Mongolian yurt with plenty of yak milk to drink!
Some interesting factoids about the author: Her first job was working in — no kidding — a Chinese laundromat! After meeting a bat head-on, Jarm had the distinct privilege of sporting black eyes for eighth grade graduation. Her secret desire? To get caught up in a flash mob singing a tune from a favorite musical.
Jarm taught Kindergarten and high school art/home economics, served as school librarian, and later, nannied a four year old girl. But her greatest challenge was educating three missionary children in an isolated bush village in Papua New Guinea, without the benefit of modern conveniences.
Jarm is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and American Christian Fiction Writers and Word Weavers, and has published three articles in The Old Schoolhouse magazine (2013/18/19). She finished her advanced course with the Institute of Children’s Literature, completing her third MG historical fiction.
Jarm Del Boccio is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband, adult daughter and son (when he lands at home), in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago. Her debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer released with Ambassador International April 26th, and recently won the Illuminations Silver Medal Award in the Children’s/YA category, and honorable mention in The Purple Dragonfly Book Award’s spiritual/religious category.
You can connect on her website: Jarm Del Boccio, Author or social media platforms: Goodreads, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.
A New Genre, a New Bio—a New Identity!
Now that I am writing a non-fiction book on Aging Confidently, it's necessary to change my bio to reflect the current ‘me’ and to identify with my future readers—folks in their silver years and beyond. Below is my revised but tentative bio. I'd appreciate your feedback!
Jarm (‘J’ pronounced as a 'Y') Del Boccio has spent the last 10 years breathing new life into the pages of history offering middle-grade readers hope, heart, and a real-life hero. Now, well into her silver years, and maturing along with her peers, she is looking forward, and not back. Jarm sees a reluctance to let go of the past and its comforts to forge ahead into new territory that will enlighten, refresh and energize the spirit. What many peers fear is the very thing that will help them age with grace, confidence and faith, making their last years productive and meaningful.
Jarm scares off the aging bug with travel, and is passionate about visiting new places—she is determined never to visit the same location twice. Unfortunately, sometimes she has to break her own rule. Having journeyed to six out of seven continents, she’s slowly checking off destinations on her bucket list. Her secret desire? To get caught up in a flash mob singing a tune from a favorite musical. Jarm feels like a 20-something when someone comments on her stunning silver hair. She tells them it's God’s gift to her (along with her stellar hairdresser of 30 years.)
Although Jarm taught elementary and high school students, served as school librarian, and later, nannied a young girl, her greatest challenge was educating three missionary children in an isolated bush village in Papua New Guinea, without the benefit of modern conveniences.
Jarm is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Word Weavers, and Hope*Writers. She has published articles in The Old Schoolhouse magazine and recently, her devotional on Nehemiah was accepted for Unlocked Teen Devotional.
Having sold her home in a tree-lined Chicago suburb, Jarm has moved 11 times in four months. Although it's an adventure she wasn't asking for, Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and plans to settle down with her husband to the North Carolina coast. With this move, she has become an avid declutterer and minimalist, since discovering it fogs her aging brain.
Her award-winning debut middle-grade historical fiction, The Heart Changer released with Ambassador International in 2019, and still has two more kidlit novels to submit when the time is right.
You can connect on her website: Jarm Del Boccio, Author or social media platforms: Goodreads, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.
What do you think of my new identity? Would you add anything to my bio that would represent my ‘silver self” better? Anything you would remove that is not necessary? Please tell me in the comments below. . .
Since my husband and I are without a home at this time (our townhome construction in North Carolina has been delayed until spring), we are wanderers and sojourners, traveling across country, visiting friends, house-sitting and staying with very generous church family members a few weeks at a time. Above, you see me in a "here's proof I was at one of the most popular spots in the US" pose.
I'm the Happy Sojourner. . .
. . .and he is not. Dan is a home-body who can spend his vacations in his workshop or music studio, and not leave the house. He loves ritual and hates change. I, on the other hand, love variety and crave changes. It inspires me and tickles my little grey cells (as Poirot often says).
So, I must applaud my hubby for his bravery. I am coming very quickly to the conclusion that it's the thing we dread that keep our minds sharp. Getting adjusted to a new lodging and routine every couple of weeks (not to mention moving our belongings), jiggles our thought processes and comfort zones. Last month, we spent four weeks at Conference Point Camp in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. We volunteered three weeks, and attended our annual family Bible camp the fourth week. Working in the kitchen was exhausting, and ramped up our appreciation for restaurant and camp meals.
During our last week of volunteering, I was asked to manage the snack shop for a friend who flew out west with her husband to visit their daughter and family. The first part of the week, I worked alongside my friend as she showed me the ropes. But come Thursday, I was on my own with two well-trained and capable (thankfully) teens. Occasionally, my husband, Dan, would help out, but he was even more of a novice than me.
I was amazed at how my multi-tasking abilities returned (thank you, Jesus!) as we served a hoard of 107 band kids who literally swarmed in for their ice cream, smoothies and slushies. Whew! It confirmed my hope that I was not ripe for assisted living just yet.
So, What Does Sojourning Have to Do with Writing?
Ready for a surprise? I am moving my focus from Middle-Grade Historical Fiction to Memoir and nonfiction, specifically addressing aging and its many facets. Of course, I will offer ways to grow older gracefully, and point out the issues we silver-haired folks face daily. Does that sound like something you resonate with? I would love to have you comment below, if that is the case. What is your biggest roadblock to moving forward as you age? What are your fears?
If you receive this blogpost via email, click on the title of the post, and it should bring you to the blog itself, where you can comment below. I truly want and need to hear from you! Even if you are in your 40s and 50s, I want to know what concerns you about the future.
The Serious and the Silly
Looking forward to your comments. And I guarantee some of them will show up in my next book!
Fear rises up in the pit of my gut. I'm signing away my home with no place to go. Is that wise? At least nine long months stretch out to the end of 2022 before my hubby and I will lay our heads on our own pillows in our own bed within our own new townhome. But until then?
I am thankful for friends and family who are willing to give us a place to lay our tired bodies for a short time as we wait for the construction crew to break ground, build a foundation for our new abode, and finally the home itself. Some weeks, we will travel, other times, we maybe rent an AirBnb. Or live in a tiny house—yay!
The Ukrainian Refugees: Fleeing Home
My thoughts immediately turned towards the heartbreakingly tragic situation in Ukraine. Now, I can't profess to know much about the situation. For more on that, click HERE for a newsletter from an author friend who lived among them and wrote two historical novels based on her research.
But, I can imagine what it would be like to leave the home you loved in exchange for the unknown. Of course, I am not being driven from my home. Nor are we fleeing. Well, maybe. Taxes and the political trajectory of our state is motivating us. Not to mention the weather. But the Ukranians have no choice. Not only when to leave or how to leave, but the choice what to take, keep or store. I'm sure they had little time to think about what to pack. Only the necessities: food, clothing, a bit of money, maybe a pet or toy for the children? Speaking of which, did you see the photo of a bridge into Poland lined with stuffed animals from the local community for the bereft children crossing the bridge to safety with their parents? If you haven't seen it, take a LOOK.
I on the other hand, have been clearing out the clutter and giving tons away. Later, we will have an estate sale. And frankly, it's a relief. The less you have, the less to lose. Less to get attached to. Less to care for. But it was my choice. The Ukranian people have no choice. Maybe owning less is a good idea?
Luke 12:22-24 He said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” And from what I'm hearing from refugees’ stories, God is providing in so many ways. So why am I worried about this temporary transition to our new home? He has so many ways to provide.
Something to Ponder
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Jesus was talking about Himself! He had no place to call home. But His friends and disciples where happy to host Him. Can you imagine showing hospitality to the Son of God? Wow.
So, in a small way, I will be able to relate to Jesus in His homelessness. How much more will the Ukrainian refugees? Thankfully, there are ways to help them. If you have a desire to aid the Ukrainian church, click on this link for Christian Ministries doing so.
What am I learning in this time of year, homeless transition?
What about you? Have you made a move recently? I'd love some tips on surviving during that time of upheaval. Do you have a heart for the Ukrainian people? Have you found a way to help? Let me know below!
Since we just celebrated Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to do something out of the ordinary this month—post my favorite heart images. I see them everywhere! In shops, out in nature, on signs and quirky places Below are some of my favs. . .
This display above is on my kitchen shelf above the stairs. Don’t you just love the saying? It reminds me of the musical “Annie.”
Stores are full of heart shaped items in February. . .
The one above is from Starbucks. . .
This tiny sign was a gift from a friend. . .
I couldn’t resist arranging the ingredients for our Valentine’s dinner in this manner!
Even in historic neighborhoods you’ll find hearts! This one I found in Charleston, SC
Nature loves hearts, too. . .
My hubby and I took a quick cruise around Sanibel Island and stopped at a beach for some shadow play.
A lone leaf served as another natural heart image as it hung on for dear life!
And, of course, even though there is not an image of a heart on my book’s cover, there is heart in the title AND between the pages. Along with a ton of hope and a stubborn young heroine who changes hearts when she yields her heart to the one who loves her most—Father God. For a peek into my author’s heart, check out my interview on Write2Ignite this month. And consider gifting The Heart Changer to a middle grade reader who loves adventure, history and stories that they will remember many years up the road.
Tell me in the comments below which of my images you liked best. I’d love to know!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.