Sunday, October 28, 2007


Some days, I write, write, write. Other days, my ministry duties or life in general keep me from it. Christian bestselling novelist Francine Rivers says she strives to write at least four pages a day but doesn't always achieve that.

Yesterday, I got down three. I felt pretty good. This is the story that has been like pulling teeth to write—the only story that's ever been this way for me. In essence, it's been hard. Most times, the words explode out of my fingertips, as NY Times bestselling novelist Pat Conroy says.

Getting three pages written, but taking into account that this was a whole new set of characters I was introducing to this novel, I felt it was a good day of writing.

Then I had to stop and get ready for a church member's fish fry. I pushed aside "the muse" (in my case, "the anointing" because I believe my writing is a gift from God), and ran to shower and dress. I was standing in front of the mirror doing my makeup when Milton came in, took me in his arms, kissed me, and said, "Let's stay home and play."

I started giggling. I couldn't help it. That very morning, in my manuscript, I'd had my character take his wife in his arms as she was getting dressed, kiss her, and say, "Let's stay home." I thought, Bingo, just what my line of dialogue needs. I knew I would add the words and play to my novel. So, last night, after we got home, I did just that, and when I looked up over two hours later, I'd added a whole page!

All because of something my husband said to me.


It's so much fun writing love stories, especially when you don't need to research!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I've been tagged by Rose McCauley to "Remember When…Ten, Twenty, and Thirty Years Ago."

Ten Years Ago: 1997. My husband was an official for the state office of our denomination, which meant we traveled all over Florida and the Virgin Islands ministering in churches. I know. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta' do it. (That's Milton's phrase.) Oh, the beauty of that turquoise water! We felt blessed to get to do this.

Both daughters would marry the next year, in 1998, within four months of each other.

Though I'd had hundreds and hundreds of articles published, had worked for two New York Times subsidiaries, had earned my degree in mass communications/journalism in 1992, had taught at two colleges, yada, yada, yada, it was my dream to see my fiction published. I'd always loved fiction—since elementary school days and the Nina Grant nurse novels. Favorite authors became Willa Cather, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Victoria Holt, Grace Livingston Hill, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, and then Catherine Marshall when she wrote Christy. How I loved that novel my mother purchased for me.

So I set out to get my fiction published in the 90s. Though I'd had lots of success in nonfiction, I quickly learned fiction is a whole 'nother ballgame. You have to learn dialogue techniques, and scene and sequel, and show don't tell, and point of view, ad infinitum. The list was a mile long. I enrolled in a weekly college fiction-writing class and attended for four long years. My multi-published instructor critiqued 10 pages per week, and that was invaluable! I worked and worked and worked, and in 2000, my dream came true. Amazingly, the editor named it American Dream (a Barbour 4-in-1 novella collection; my novella: "I Take Thee, A Stranger"), and it hit the Christian bestsellers list and sold over 50,000 copies! (Out of print but still available on Amazon, for mere pennies! :) )

Twenty Years Ago: 1987. Boy, that's going a-ways back. We were pastoring in Bartow, the prettiest little town in Florida. Interestingly, in the 1990s when Walt Disney World spent mega-millions creating a city in Florida named Celebration, I thought, That's what we had in Bartow: charming small-town ambience. White picket fences. Sidewalks and street lamps. A town square. Friendliness. Safety. Neighborhood schools. Every evening after supper, we'd ride our bikes with the girls, pedaling down the sidewalks beside the picket fences, even riding up to the door of the domed courthouse, then back home to baths, bowls of ice cream, and Bible stories and prayer. Fun.

I was seeing success in my writing. I was taking every opportunity I could find. I wrote for Christian magazines, newspapers, etc. I had my own weekly newspaper column called "The Good Life." I likened it to the fare of nationally-syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman's, only I wrote about current events in relation to what the Bible said.

In church life as a pastor's wife, I did what I've always done, working in areas of need at the church: women's ministries, youth, children, young adults, etc. I joke that I've worked in every area of church life except men's ministry, and I don't joke about cleaning enough commodes to last a lifetime! :) In that year, I was leading women and playing the organ for all services.

Thirty Years Ago: 1977. Yikes. This is really going down Memory Lane. I had two-year-old Julie, and we lived in one of the prettiest towns in Alabama: Elba, The Little Town With the Big Heart. The next year, little Jennifer would be born--15 miles away in Enterprise, Alabama, the only city with a monument to a boll weevil. Yes, you read that right. A boll weevil, an insect that destroys cotton. (An interesting story.) We built our third church, and I did everything from hanging wallpaper and ceiling panels, to painting life-size murals, to you-name-it. Loved every minute of it.

It was about this time that the Lord whispered into my heart that one day I would be a writer. "A writer?" I said, the shakes hitting me. He might as well have said, One day, you're going to be an astronaut. It seemed that unachievable at the time—my mind quickly said I had to have a journalism degree, and I had to do this and that and the other (like take time away from ministry duties, etc., which I didn't feel I could do). So, like Mary the Mother of Jesus, I pondered these things in my heart.

At the same time this was going on, the Lord whispered the same thing to Milton! In addition, he felt the Lord say we would one day write together. Awhile later, Milton told me about this, and I wept at this confirmation.

Later, I started checking out armloads of books from the library, books about how to get published, how to sell articles, where to send them, etc. It was like my own college courses. I studied my heart out, and soon, I was getting published. Hundreds of articles later, I got my heart's desire: I went back to college and earned my degree in mass communications/journalism.

In addition, Milton and I have written together and been published, and we enjoy that process.


It's interesting, this "tag" about remembrances, because in the last two or three weeks at church, that's been a word that's been used often: remembering. We heard a song at our denomination's national convention in August with the words,

I will remember,
I will remember,
I will remember,
The works of Your hands,
I will stop,
And give You praise,
For great is Your faithfulness.

Milton had our music minister teach it to our congregation, and it's been a blessing to us as a church and as individuals. Then, this past Wednesday night, during a time of sharing, a woman exhorted us to remember the things God had done for us in the past so we could trust and believe Him for the future, for the things we were struggling with.

Oh yes!

David had the courage to fight Goliath by remembering how the Lord helped him kill the lion and the bear.

Oh yes! That's a word for all of us!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


We have enjoyed a beautiful tree-size plant in our back yard that has the most unusual blooms. They are white in the morning and pink in the afternoon. It has been spectacular to see the blooms open each morning so white and then return home late in the afternoon and see the same blooms having turned a beautiful pink. Just amazing and spectacular!

We pruned the plant this year and now it is giving us the prettiest flowers. For the last three years we have watched the plant bloom in its unique fashion and couldn’t get anyone to tell us what kind of plant it was. Finally I took some pictures to a nearby nursery, and they identified it as a Confederate rose.

Confederate roses are not from the South but China, and they are not roses but hibiscus. Go figure…I haven’t discovered the origin of its name, but I was disappointed that it isn’t a genuine Southerner like me.

Nevertheless, we’ll keep it and enjoy the blooms each October.


Kristy, here: I told Milton these flowers remind me of the verse in Isaiah: "...though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18). They're pink at night, and in the morning, presto, they're white. Just like our sins. From pink (red) to white. God is forgiving. Though we have sinned, if we repent and accept God's cleansing through the blood of Jesus, He will forgive us. What a glorious thought! No matter what we've done, no matter how stained our lives are, repentance and confession of sin bring back the purity!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Last night for supper, I fixed meatloaf and sauce, smashed potatoes (no typo), and pole beans, plus bread and butter pickles. Yum, yum. Milton loves my meatloaf. I make it kind of "iffy"--if I don't have this or that, I improvise. For example, if I don't have the ground pork, so what? If I have less ground beef that the recipe calls for--or more--so what? If I don't have the bell pepper, so what? It's still good. I think it's the sauce that's the winner. The main thing is to get the meatloaf done. I've had a variety of ovens that heat too much or too little, so the trick to the success of meatloaf is to find the right amount of time to bake it.
I used to write a cooking column, "Kristy's Kitchen," for a New York Times subsidiary. I'd entertain groups, missionaries, evangelists, etc., as a pastor's wife and then write about the recipes, the dinner parties, and the yum-yums from my guests. Or, we'd be invited to homes with fabulous cooks, and I'd write about dinner parties I attended.
This recipe (with my tweakings, already mentioned) is from a parishioner whom we pastored way back when we lived in coastal Carrabelle, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida's pretty panhandle. However, we ate mostly seafood when we lived there. Some of our parishioners were oysterers and shrimpers and fishermen, and they enjoyed sharing their seafood with us. At that time, Carrabelle was known to have The World's Smallest Police Station. It was a phone booth! Yes, that's right. Smaller than even Andy's and Barney's! We made some good memories while living there. Today, though it still retains its charm and quaintness, it's also a hot spot--it has very expensive real estate.
Sorry. I didn't mean to walk down Memory Lane.
Here's the meatloaf recipe:
Meatloaf & Sauce
1 1/2 to 2 pounds very lean ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
4 slices of bread cut up and mashed into 4 eggs
handful of frozen diced onions
handful of frozen diced bell pepper
salt and pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients together and form into a loaf in a 9 x 13 pan. Bake 45 minutes in a hot oven. (Recipe calls for 350. I set mine to 425.) Remove from oven and pour out any accumulated grease. Pour sauce over meatloaf and replace in oven for 30 to 45 minutes more. You can cover with foil the last 15 minutes or so to avoid too much browning.
1 small can tomato paste
3 small cans water
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce
glob of ketchup
glob of BBQ sauce
Whisk together until blended.

Monday, October 15, 2007


My husband Milton is a master pulpiteer. The content of his sermons is excellent, and so is his delivery. And he's the best funeral preacher I've ever heard. He comforts, cheers, and encourages; he brings out happy memories of the deceased, and he can even get the mourners laughing. Today, at a funeral, when he mentioned the deceased's dog Pork Chop, everybody laughed, which brought a light moment in the midst of grief. And this family desperately needed lightness and comfort. They buried another family member only 10 days ago.
You're lucky to get Milton Dykes to preach your funeral. He has a gift. Today, he closed with this illustration which was especially poignant since we live near the beach.
Two people were standing on the beach and saw a ship out on the ocean. After a few moments, it sailed away, and one man said, "It's gone." The other man said, "It's not gone. You just can't see it right now."
Milton said, "(The man who passed away) isn't 'gone.' His spirit is very much alive--in heaven. You just can't see him right now."
I'm thankful that if we have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9, 10), then when this earthly body dies, we live forever with the Lord in heaven.
You do a lot of hugging at funerals. Hugs show love, comfort, care, concern, warmth, and kindliness. Christlikeness, personified.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I've anchored my soul
In the haven of rest.
I'll sail the wide seas no more.
The tempest may sweep,
O'er the wild, stormy deep,
But in Jesus,
I'm safe evermore.

These are the words of an old hymn. I was reminded of them this morning as we sat on the beach sipping coffee and watching the sun come up over the Atlantic Ocean. First, it was dark. Then the sky pinkened. Then it turned orange, then peach, and presto, a double sunrise--a second sun a reflection in the sudsy surf. Then, the sky went back to pinkening, and before long it was baby blue, and the day had begun. A few gulls flittered here and there, and a lonely jogger or two swoped by, plus some dog walkers crossed our view. We didn't have the pleasure of seeing a school of dolphins, like we've seen before, but still, it was spectacular.

I sat there quoting from Genesis: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, 'Let there be light' and there was light."

The words, above, are from the hymn The Haven of Rest.

I'm grateful my soul has entered the haven of rest. Oh, wait. Rest? On the way to and from the beach, we were discussing the needs of the ministry, and possible solutions, and ideas, ad infinitum. How to see more souls won into the Kingdom, how to grow our church, how to see our congregation blessed. What to do about this and that and the other. We experienced another death Thursday. Milton arrived to see the deceased sitting in his recliner. A grieving family. A funeral Monday. My writing. Making it the best it can be. Finding the right publisher for it. Wanting God to bless it. It seemed it was anything but rest to this pastor and his wife as they labored over (continually) doing the will of God in all their ways.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Wait, there's more.

"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

Oh, man, this is good.

But the best is yet to come...

"For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

Matthew 11:28-30.

Thank You, Lord! I'm resting in your haven.

Webster's: "haven": a place offering favorable opportunities or conditions."

I receive that!

Both for the church and my writing. A double sunrise. A double blessing.

Friday, October 12, 2007


I've been slaving away in front of the computer, writing and rewriting. Good writing is rewriting, some famous author said. It's getting it down on paper, and then tweaking, and fixing, and deleting, and adding, get the picture.

Ernest Hemingway was said to have worked all day just to get one word right. Well, I'm no Hemingway, of course, but I'm a hard worker trying to make her writing the best it can be.

This story has been the hardest I have ever written, and I've written lots. Ten titles, plus lots more unpublished as of yet. I haven't been able to get this story right. I've started it a gillion times. I've gotten editorial input, and agent input, and husband input (asked for, not dictated). I'm a striver of excellence and want this story to be...wonderful, heart-gripping, challenging, life-changing...

Thank the Lord for computers, where you can cut out chunks of paragraphs or pages and insert them in other places. Like all writers, I do that a lot. For certain segments, I also use The Scissors-and-Tape Method. I print out the pages in hard copy, lay them on my kitchen table or counters, and go to work. I study and labor and pore over my words, and then I start snipping. I snip out sections and tape them to other parts of the story. I work and work to get it just right. Then I tape the pages along the edges of my bookshelves by my computer and start cutting and pasting via computer.

Lord, guide my hands and my heart as I write this story of grace. Amen.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Dear Mrs. Dykes,
Thank you for those awesome tips. My favorites were the sayings, "What if?" and "Believe in yourself." I want to be just like you when I grow up. I really got to thinking when you told us The Three E's (Kristy, here: why I write). I remember them in my head: entertain, enlighten, and encourage. I hope to see you again, Janey


Dear Mrs. Dykes,
What made you persistent to keep rewriting your rejected stories?
Sincerely, Melinda


Dear Mrs. Dykes,
That was cool, when you talked about if you have a dream, you can fulfill that dream. Your friend, Nick


Dear Mrs. Dykes,
Do you predict that you are going to be a famous writer? How do you feel when you write? I hope you are going to be a famous writer. You are the best writer in the whole wide world. Good luck. Keep up the good work.
A young writer, Jason

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


"Everybody ought to go to Sunday school, Sunday school, Sunday school, the men and the women and the boys and the girls, everybody ought to go to Sunday school."

I grew up singing that song in Sunday school. Sunday school was where you made friends, learned Bible stories, memorized scriptures, sang faith-building songs, and where you were nurtured by loving, faithful teachers. It was where your spiritual life was shaped, and it was also where you got sticky fingers from lots of Elmer's glue!

Christian comedian Chonda Pierce talks about some of her early experiences in Sunday school, and they're a hoot. Check out her DVDs and books here. Milton and I have heard her routines in person, and sometimes we like to watch her DVDs with family or friends.

Sunday, I taught fourth and fifth graders. Three of my students are refugees recently arrived from war-torn Liberia. It'd make the hair on your arm stand on end to hear of what they've endured. I choke up thinking about it. One little boy is so new to America, he can't speak a word of English. One little girl I taught several years ago would come to class and writhe on the floor like a snake and lick the bottoms of kids' shoes and scream. (Talk about stress? Oh, my, yes. I felt like a dishrag after dealing with her.) Today, she's a cute little thing with a ready mind and a big heart, drinking up the Word of God.

Our lesson was "Choose Right Input," and we had two memory verses:

"Whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things."
Philippians 4:8 NIV


"Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life."
Proverbs 4:23 NIV

Great verses!

I instructed them about their thought life, and about what they allowed to come into their minds, such as music and TV programs, etc., and why this is so important.

Great lesson.

Oh, Lord, guard my heart. Always.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Last night we were on our way home and made a turn we've made many times. As we came onto the street, it was as if our car was being swallowed up, with sounds--and clatterings--coming out from under the engine, making us wonder if the motor was falling out or something. Milton kept driving--to get us out of whatever we were in--and we clang-banged onto straight pavement, and then we turned toward each other, staring, and said, "What in the world was that?" and I said, "You reckon our car is torn up?" He drove a few feet further with no trouble, then u-turned and shined the headlights on The Thing.

In the pitch darkness, we saw that The Thing was a sinkhole over six feet wide. We had driven through it. I had my camera with me and snapped a pic.

We called and reported it, and then Milton stood in the road to alert other drivers. Funny thing, though. They didn't want to heed his warnings. Several proceeded to drive straight toward it until Milton yelled like a banshee, and then they finally slowed, shined their headlights on it, and saw the danger. One said he thought Milton was a drunk.

This reminds me of souls who are on a sure path to eternal damnation unless they heed the warnings.

Lord, help people to find You, the Way, the Truth, the Life. And Lord, help us Christians witness more. Give us a fresh hunger, a fresh fire in our souls for You, oh, Lord.


I saw it today, and a worker said it's seven feet deep. Florida's had a lot of rain lately. This is what caused it, he said.

Sunday, October 07, 2007



Oh, how sweet the sound, to hear the laughter of the little ones, to see the joy on their faces at even the smallest of things. We can't be with them day in and day out, or even see them once a month or every two or three months, but they're there--in our hearts--all the time.
Lord, bless and keep them in your tender care.
A Christian love story!

Friday, October 05, 2007


Picture: chillo entero (whole red snapper). It even has its teeth intact.

Picture: Milton and me and little Claudia (pronounced in Spanish CLOUD EE UH) and Lorenzo in front of Raices Fountain, with a cruise ship passing right behind us.

Picture: Milton and me by the cerulean Caribbean.

Picture: Jennifer cutting fresh mango every day!


Picture: our daughter Jennifer holding a Puerto Rican fruit, with little Claudia (pronounced in Spanish "CLOUD EE UH) looking on. In your mouth, it "acts" like our scuppernong grapes—pleasant going down but a chalky aftertaste.

Picture: the plate the waitress delivered at Rosa de Triana, which has flamenco dancers on Friday and Saturday nights. The food I ordered is arroz y broccoli y Amarillo habichuelas negras—rice, broccoli, black beans, and sauteed sweet plantains. Now that's some good eating.

Picture: on the streets of old San Juan. Note the narrow streets and profusion of cars. You get real close to Jesus driving in San Juan (you're drawing near to Him with your fervent praying!). Thankfully, Jennifer's a pro.

Pictures: looking out her kitchen window at dusk and at night. She's 22 stories up, in a tall condominium. At night, it's a jewel box. From some of her windows, you can see the sparkling turquoise Caribbean Ocean.