Finding Grace on Narrows Road

An Energy Crisis in the Gray Zone

Thirty miles from home, my low fuel warning light flashed on.Photo/DanJordan

How could I have forgotten to fill up before I left my daughter’s house two hours ago?

I panicked and called my husband, Dan, “Where is the nearest gas station to our exit from the interstate?”

“What? Where are you?” I could hear concern in Dan’s voice.

“I’m exiting I-30 right now.”

“How much gas do you have left?” Another question I couldn’t answer.

“I don’t know. The warning light came on a minute ago?”

“Take Narrows Road. I think the gas station at the East Gate might be the closest one. Call me if you don’t make it, okay?”

“I’m SO sorry to worry you!” Even in the gray zone, I still can send my husband into emergency mode responding to my impulsivity and carelessness.

“Be sure to turn your air-conditioner off to save fuel. And be careful!”

“Just pray I make it.” Even as I spoke my request, I knew my words did not comfort my husband.

Lord, help me! I’ve been in trouble on this road before. But you guided me through that snow storm two years ago. So, Lord, I’m asking for your mercy and grace once more.

As I reached down to turn the air off, I remembered the fuel indicator on the dashboard. So I took a breath and pushed the button. Fourteen miles of gas left. Oh, Lord! How far am I from that gas station?

My digital GPS revealed that home was twenty miles away.

As I prayed again, a few scripture promises came to mind.

Lord, I’m so grateful that you promise to always be with me (Phil. 4:5) and provide all my needs (Phil. 4:19). Thank you for your promise to cover my weaknesses with your strength (1 Cor. 12:10).

I turned up the volume of the radio so I could focus my thoughts on some positive, encouraging Christian music.

After I made it through all the twists and turns of Narrows Road, I held my breath and turned left on the Hot Springs Highway. Almost there!

I looked at my gas gauge. Nine miles worth of gas left. Yikes!

I whispered another prayer and drove on.

When I saw the gas station’s bright, yellow sign, fear left me. And a few minutes later, I sent Dan a text, acknowledging my victory, “Thank You, Jesus!”

Photo/DanJordanHe responded, ”Made it, huh?”

“With four miles worth of gas to spare!”

“Joy comes in strange ways!”

Then, I asked Dan, “How many gallons in this tank?”

“It holds 20 gallons, I think.”

“Really? I bought 20.52 gallons!”

“Grace gas!”

“Yep! Not the first time that I’ve found grace on that “Narrow(s) Road.”

… the door is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life that lasts forever. Few people are finding it. (Matt.7:14)

Did my post remind you of a grace story? Be sure to share your story in the comments below or on my Facebook page.


A Wake-up Call

Grace in the Gray Zones of Life

What are some of the blockages to communications in your life?


Silence? Well, duh! Of course, silence would be a blockage to communication. But how do you open the door to conversation when the other person is not in the same room? Easy. Text messaging.

I’m embarrassed to admit how early I woke up this morning. Well, okay–it was three a.m. How’s that for vulnerability and transparency?

Positive beginning. Anyway, I tried to start my day with a positive attitude, listening to (DAB). Reading the Bible always kickstarts my day on a positive note.

Of course, I had my morning java to help me focus. But after DAB, I became restless. And the silence of the morning drove me to my social networks, where I caught up on news about family and friends. My life seemed a little boring in comparison.

I thought of what my 11-year-old grandson Ethan asked me this last Saturday, “What do you and Pop do when we’re not here?”

I guess life in the gray zone seemed a bit too slow for him, too. As I laughed about Ethan’s comment with my daughter, Tara (his mom), she made light of his comment, comparing the rituals of our life with the the daily circus at their house. But I could tell that Ethan didn’t buy it.

By Monday morning Ethan’s comment didn’t seem so funny to me. So, I abandoned my frustrations by reading blog posts and hoping for another good laugh or inspiration.

Minutes turned to hours—five a.m. and still no communication within my home. My impatience continued. So, I began to sort my e-mail. Then, I sent a text to a friend who I hadn’t heard from recently—we had been playing “phone tag” for days.

Then, I remembered a podcast I wanted to watch. Another diversion.

Finally, I heard movement in the kitchen. I looked at the time—six o’clock. I hear coffee brewing. Steps walking toward me? No, he headed toward his man cave. What do you have to do to get someone to engage in a dialogue around here? Text? Yes, maybe that will work.

Dynamic duel. I write a quick and sarcastic message. ”Sometimes it feels like we’re two strangers living in the same house.”

His response: “Strange message. Different sleep cycles.”

I respond: ”You sit in one room drinking your coffee, and I sit in another listening to you.”

He asks, ”Are you really listening?”

I answer, ”Maybe we communicate best via text.”

Another rhetorical question: “Why aren’t you in your new recliner?”

We digress—our ramblings tend to go downhill from here. So, I won’t record all of our not-so-friendly chat.

He concludes: “Texting is a form of sign language.”

“Whatever! It’s communicating without talking.”

Dumb reply, I know. But I was running out of curt comments.

“I know you like coffee before talking,” he offers another pithy one-liner.

I feel my blood pressure rising. “Really? And how would you know? Have you ever asked me what I like?”

I snap back before he has a change to respond. ”What do I like? Hmmm … I’ll have to think about that. No one has ever asked me that question.”

Another careless comment comes to mind, “But I bet you know what I don’t like, right? I’ve told you a million times!” Whoosh—I tap “send” without hesitation.

“White rice?” He jokes.

“Wrong! I like white rice. It’s just not the healthiest choice. See … I told you!”

Silence invades our home again. No talking. No texting. Did someone issue a gag order here?

My man continues to drink his coffee, alone in his cave, facing the changing seasons in our back yard.

I walk out the front door, moving to our screened-in porch. And I decide to write this blog post on my smart phone, venting my frustrations. A healing narrative? More like a rant.

Wake up call. Then, the phone rings. Finally, someone to talk to! I see my friend’s name displayed on the caller ID. I stop writing and answer.

“How are you? I’m glad we finally connected.”

“Yes, me, too,” she agrees. “Your text this morning was timely. My brother died around four a.m. this morning.”

Shocked, I express my condolences. ”I am SO sorry!”

I grieve with my friend. Her younger brother, a single dad with a young son, succumbed to cancer. So sad. My friend’s brother had a miraculous story of transformation after the birth of his son. Aware of God’s intervention, he walked away from one life to build a new life for his son.

Now, this tragedy with his health. My friend knew her brother found healing in heaven. But he would be missed by all, especially his three-year-old son.

“It’s been a hard week! But we didn’t expect this to come so soon. We only moved him to hospice care yesterday.”

”I can only imagine!”

I hear my friend’s husband call her name in the background. “Can I call you later? Things are kind of crazy around here right now.”

As our conversation ends, I consider the events of my morning. Caught up in the worries of my own life, I wasn’t aware of the trouble my friend faced. I thought my day started out rough! My friend’s brother died right about the time I poured my second cup of coffee.

Once again, I’m reminded how life could be SO much harder. What do I have to complain about today? Silence? Seriously, is that the worse thing happening in my life right now?

Lord, help me!

And Lord, please bless my friend and her family today as they face the loss of their loved one. Bring your peace to calm their storm. May they experience your grace and mercy during this difficult season of life.

Let the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing in Your eyes, O Lord, my Rock and the One Who saves me. (Psalms 19:14 NLT)

Lord, thank you for waking me up to the reality of your truth and lifting me out of my self-pity. Forgive me for judging others and help me forgive their offenses. Remind me to count my blessings and trust you with my frustrations and fears. And thank you for your promise of grace in the gray zones of our lives. Amen.

How has God broken down the blockages to communication in your life?

I’m honored to share some of the lessons that I’ve learned about worry at the Tulsa Women’s Connection in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on April 12, 2016.


A Word about Worry. How do you deal with worry in your own life? Many women suffer with symptoms of anxiety and stress that often affect their relationships, along with their mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. But I’ve discovered some practical, biblical strategies that have helped me navigate my negative self-talk and overwhelming worry.

Date: April 12, 2016
Time: 11:15 a.m. - 01:15 p.m.
Event: Tulsa Women's Connection: A Word about Worry
Topic: A Word about Worry
Sponsor: Tulsa Women's Connection
Venue: Marriott Hotel
(918) 493-7000
Location: 1902 E 71st Street
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74136
Public: Public

It’s Always Something!

4 Tips about Rashes and Relationships from the Gray Zone

Retirement days never get boring here in the gray zone—always a new problem, pain, or predicament to test your patience.


Patience. Did I say “patience”? If you haven’t pulled that “fruit of the Spirit” out of your treasured promise box lately, you might want to take it off the shelf and dust it before you graduate to the gray zone. Just saying …

Speaking of patience—I’ve needed a full bushel of that “fruit” in the past few weeks. And I am grateful for the promise in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (NLT).

Promises. I’ve heard many women praying for patience in every area of their lives, including marriage, children, job, friendships, and more. And I’ve been tempted to ask them, “Do you know that patience is a fruit of the Spirit?”

That’s a bold statement, huh? Why would I be so rude? Well, my kids say that I haven’t been watching my “filter” lately. But I guess that’s a topic for another blog post.

Bottom line—I get a little excited about the biblical principles I’m learning. Have you noticed?

Words That Change Everything. Galatians 5:22-23 promises that if the Spirit of Christ lives in us, He will produce patience and every other spiritual fruit you need, like love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I’ve needed this promise of patience as I dealt with an annoying body rash. Without going into all the personal detail, I can say that my itchy rash has forced me to examine myself and to apply God’s promises to my problems.

  1. Recognize. First of all, you can’t ignore a rash. You may try to ignore it, but some rashes just don’t go away without medication.I found the same truth about some annoying issues in marriage or any relationship. You must admit you have a problem before you can deal with it. And some itchy relational problems will never be solved unless the root of the problem is treated.
  2. Acknowledge. I also came to the realization that my home remedies and over-the-counter products did not relieve the rash. So, I had to seek professional help for a prescription.I discovered the same remedy applies to relational issues. Sometimes you do all you know to do, and the problem remains. I’m thankful that I can turn to the Great Physician for spiritual help.
  3. Submit. I confess, I don’t like to focus on this concept. And I don’t like to visit my doctor either. But I’ve learned that sometimes problems become too complicated for me, and I need a professional.At times, God has given me direction, and I failed to follow through. I started out strong, but I became weary in the battle and abandoned the idea of accomplishing it.
  4. Heal. With the rash, healing came after following my doctor’s advice with the prescribed medication. I also learned how to avoid future rashes.In relationships, healing comes as we allow God to guide us through a reconciliation process. But we must also remember to guard against repeating those mistakes.

Points. I hope my R. A. S. H. tips help you avoid some of the pitfalls in the gray zone of your life.

  • Recognize you have a problem.
  • Acknowledge your need for help.
  • Submit to the Great Physician’s guidance.
  • Heal, as you take the steps needed for restoration and reconciliation.

“It’s always something.” Comedian Gilda Radner used this well-known phrase from her famous character Roseanne Roseannadanna in her book about her struggle with cancer.

As I read Radner’s book, I recalled watching her on Saturday Night Live in the late 1970s. I’ve even quoted her many times as problems emerged in my own life. Again, in the gray zone, I continue to confess, “It’s always something!”

GrayZone Q & A: Do you have any tips that might help others avoid some of the pitfalls of the gray zones of their lives?







Every Day is Saturday!

Lessons from the Gray Zone

Many of you may have wondered, “What happened to Karen? I guess she’s unplugged for awhile.”

Photo/TaraRossThen again, you may not have even noticed.

Either way, here’s the deal—we’ve entered into a new season of life at our house.


Gray Zone. Maybe you’ve noticed my gray hair and tennis shoes. If you happen to drop by our house, you’ll also see some subtle changes in the décor—like the two new recliners in front of our big-screen TV.

You’re laughing? What’s the big deal? Every day is Saturday!

Several of Dan’s friends have asked him, “How’s retirement?”

Saturday Fever. If you know Dan, you won’t be surprised at his quick humor and pithy comebacks. So, don’t say I didn’t warn you. But if you dare to ask him that question, he’ll just smile and repeat his canned response, “Every day is Saturday.”

The first time I heard Dan reply to questions about retirement from one of his friends I thought, Maybe for YOU every day is Saturday. But I haven’t retired yet!

Writer’s Life. Do you know how hard it is to focus on a writing project when “every day is Saturday”?

Yet, the first eight weeks of Dan’s retirement, that is exactly what I needed to do. Why? I had a deadline to meet to turn in my first book manuscript.

Yes, I am a late bloomer. Just when my ‘baby boomer” decides to wind up his career, I’m stepping into a new role as a book author. 

How on earth can I do that? Good question. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out.

In fact, I can’t wait to tell you all about my debut nonfiction book, Words That Change Everything, scheduled for release in Spring 2016. But I’ll save that news flash for later. But considerer yourself warned—I’ve waited a LONG time for this moment. 

First Lesson. Back to Dan’s retirement—I know what you’re thinking, “What a great time for a writer to sit down and write her memoirs!”


I’m hoping this first lesson from the gray zone will help you understand a little bit more about this new season of my life. I never expected some of the blessings I’ve discovered with my husband’s retirement.

In fact, when one of my Texas friends found out Dan retired, she said, “Bless your heart!”

Now, if you’re from the South like me, you know what she meant. And I don’t think it was about counting my blessings.

So, I’m glad Dan didn’t hear her. He’s a native Texan, too.

I do plan to write more about the tribulations and celebrations of retirement—or my lessons from the gray zone. But at this point, I’m not making a lot of commitments. Remember–EVERY DAY IS SATURDAY. Right?

Hope to see you again next week—”If the good Lord’s willing and the (saints) don’t rise”!

GrayZone Q & A:  Do YOU have any helpful tips or warnings about retirement? Bring ’em on!



I will be teaching a workshop on “Writing for the Web” on Sunday morning, Aug. 30, 11-11:45 a.m., at the FIFTH Annual Conference (#AWBU 2015) to be held the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, August 28-30.


Date: August 30, 2015—August 30, 2015
Time: 11:00 - 11:45 a.m.
Event: #AWBU 2015: Arkansas Women Bloggers Conference
Topic: Writing for the Web
Sponsor: Arkansas Women Bloggers
Venue: The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa
Location: 239 Central Avenue
Hot Springs, Arkansas 71909
Public: Public
Registration: Click here to register.
More Info: Click here for more information.

Grin with Grace: A “Study, Story, and Steps” Approach to Grace


 To celebrate the release of her newest book, Grin with Grace, I invited Kathy Carlton Willis to tell us about her latest project. Be sure to check out Kathy’s blog or follow her on Twitter.

BookCover/GrinWithGraceHave you ever felt the need to bite your tongue or grit your teeth?

With humor and candor, popular women’s speaker Kathy Carlton Willis explores ways to smile in the face of adversity and challenging circumstances. Her go-to phrase Grin with Grace is the title of her latest book. She explores the word “grace” in Scripture, revealing how God’s grace blesses us and how it impacts our relationship with Him and with others.

Grin with Grace is part of the Grin With … Bible Study Series. This line of books is designed to help women on the run focus on a central theme. The “study, story and steps” formula helps readers assimilate new traits in small sections, all the while anticipating the next insight. Photo/KathyCartonWillis

“You can never have too much of God’s grace,” says Kathy. “While writing this series, I dealt with multiple health issues, surgeries, cancer, and hospitalizations. At the same time, I moved to a different town, diving in to a new church ministry with my husband. Very little in life seemed familiar or comfortable. But God infused grace into each challenge and turned them into opportunities.”

Kathy learned anew what the Bible means when it says: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor 12:9 ESV).

God’s grace strengthens us to live the lives He directs us to live. When we’re weak, grace makes us strong through Christ. His grace is not frail; it’s power-packed. (Kathy Carlton Willis, Grin with Grace)

Photo/KathyCarltonWillisThere’s an important element about grace. It’s not meant to be hoarded, regardless of its wonderful value. Once God blesses us with grace, we are then recruited to His team to be instruments of His grace to others.

Grin with Grace tells stories of real-life grace and gives suggestions for creating new grace moments for others. Every Bible passage is contained in the text, accommodating ease of reading anytime, anywhere. Read it straight through as a book, use it as a personal study, or join with a group to discuss the material together. The chapters are short enough to combine—resulting in a seven-week group study.

Photo/KathyCartonWillisMore about Grin with GraceEach chapter features five sections:

  1. Grin with Grace contains real-life stories and observations. You’ll laugh at the humorous confessions and wacky insights, and relate to Kathy’s transparent honesty. Be inspired to see grace in your everyday life.
  2. Grow with Grace features a grace word study. Kathy examines Bible verses and personalizes the meaning to your situation. Workbook prompts allows you to write down your thoughts as you read along.
  3. Go with Grace offers life application. Pick one action step and make it work for you, or pick all of them—but do something to live out your grace-walk.
  4. Give with Grace advances life application further, equipping you to become an instrument of God’s grace to others. You’ll be inspired to take what you’ve learned and give it away to others. This is when faith becomes ministry—when your focus expands to see the needs of others.
  5. Your Grin with Grace Challenge describes a grace-challenging scenario to give you an opportunity to exercise your newfound grace. It allows for speculation and judgment calls, to prepare you for the what-ifs that happen in life.


Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Not many funny girls also have Bible degrees! Kathy’s a pastor’s wife, which gives her plenty of opportunities to grin with grace. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published in books, magazines, newspapers and online publications. Kathy’s tagline describes her best: Light & Lively: His Reflection/Her Laughter. Kathy lives with her pastor/husband, Russ, in Rockdale, Texas.




What to Say When We Don't Know What to Pray

Today’s post is for my friends—who just lost their only child this week. I cannot imagine enduring such pain!


This tragedy reminded me of the day my sister, Leslea, lost her youngest son, Colter, to a tragic accident. Heartbreaking!

Lord, what will they do? How can they survive such a loss?

What can we do when life places us in unbearable circumstances? I can’t even imagine the pain—I refuse to even let my thoughts go there.

Where can we go? Who do we run to? What should we cling to when we’re drowning in a sea of our sorrows? When will someone throw us a lifeline? How will we we survive?

When friends and family walk through horrible events like this, my words fail me. Mere words seem inadequate to express my emotions.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been at a loss for words. And I don’t think any human words could ever bring peace and comfort to a parent in the death a child.

Now, after facing many trials and crises in my own life, I do know where to go. And I do know Who to run to. I know Who we can cling to when we’re drowning, and Who will throw us a lifeline. And I know how we will survive.

Help. The Lord promises to help us when we don’t know what to say or pray.

… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Rom. 8:26 NIV)

Hope. The Holy Spirit offers promises of hope, even if we never understand “why?” these things happen.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13 NLT)

Assurance. God’s Word provides the assurance that Jesus will bear our grief and carry our sorrows.

 He suffered the things we should have suffered. He took on himself the pain that should have been ours. (Is. 53:4 NIRV)

Peace. God’s Word can speak peace to the storm ravaging our dreams. And He promises to throw us the lifeline of His Word.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7 NIV).

Confidence. We can have the confidence to know that in Christ, we will survive. And we can expect Him to provide the power we need to overcome any circumstance in our life if we trust Him with the situation. Healing and hope for the future can be found in Him.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14)

As I pray from my friends. God continues to guide my prayers with His Word. So, today I pray these promises from God’s Word will give hope to my friends and to others who may be suffering under the heavy burden of loss and grief.

Blessings to you, my friends! You know who you are. And God knows your needs—even better than you do. He understands. And He wants to assure you of His presence right now and in all the days of your life.

I lift my friends up to You, Heavenly Father. You knows their pain because You lost Your only Son long ago in a tragic death—so we could all experience Your promised land of rest and peace in this life and in the life to come.

YouTube/Attitude of Gratitude (“Wayfaring Stranger” Selah)



Storytelling Workshop, Sponsored by Perry County Writers

Do you want to record some of your family stories, but you don’t know where to start?

Photo/CCWC.workshopI will be teaching some storytelling workshops, this Saturday, May 16, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at Perryville Second Baptist Church, 1520 N. Fourche Avenue, Perryville, Arkansas.

Workshops. These writing workshops, sponsored by the Perry County Writers, will offer practical and creative ideas to help you capture and craft some of your legacy stories.

Logo/PerryCountyWritersCost. There is no charge for this workshop; but donations will be accepted by the Perry County Writers group.

Lunch. Be sure to bring your own lunch (coffee and tea will be provided).

RSVP. Email or call 501-590-6172

What family stories have you written?


2015 Reader Survey

Photo/TaraRossWould you consider taking a few minutes to take my 2015 Reader Survey?

Here’s why this is so important to me … 

I want to ensure my blog does the best possible job of answering the needs and interests of my readers.

So, that means I need to know more about YOU! That’s why I created my 2015 Reader Survey.

Thank you SO much for reading this request to fill out my reader survey!

I believe this survey will not only help me, but it will ultimately help you.

How? Because YOU will be helping me create content that’s even more interesting and relevant to you.

Your input is VERY important to me!

This survey is easy to fill out, and your input is COMPLETELY anonymous. I can’t even tell who said what. Plus, you can finish it in just a few minutes.

Yes! I’m happy to help. Take me to your SURVEY!

Thanks in advance for your help!

P.S. Please excuse the ad at the end of my service–that just comes with the survey service. I was not able to choose the content of the ad. Thanks for your understanding!