Thanks for ALL Your Support!

The launch of Tap Code has been extraordinary. Smitty and Louise have traveled the country, had many interviews in radio and television, and visited many Air Force Bases. I am thrilled that the world is getting to know this amazing couple!

We have hit #1 spots in several categories on Amazon, landed a spot on Apples Top 10 Books People Are Talking About, and have had the support of local friends, family, and even strangers. I am so happy to hear that others are being inspired and touched by Smitty and Louise’s story! If you could do us a huge favor and write a review on Amazon, Books A Million, Barnes and Nobel, Goodreads, Target, Walmart, or any online store which carries our book, it would be greatly appreciated!

But today, I wanted to give a shout out to our local supporters! Reed’s bookstore has supported us with a huge turnout for our book signing last weekend!

Next week, we will be in Oxford for a book signing at SquareBooks on Tuesday at 5:30. All you Ole Miss fans please come out and meet Smitty and Louise! They are true American heroes! You can order the book online and in the store.

We SO appreciate these independent bookstores! They provide an atmosphere of community and expertise, which is so missing in today’s world! Please take a look at both of their websites and order a signed copy today! #shoplocal

I will try to keep you posted about other opportunities to meet Smitty and Louise! They will bless you so much!

https://www.indiebound.org/

https://www.squarebooks.com/event/carlyle-s-harri

https://shop.reedsms.com/products/tap-code-by-carlyle-s-harris-sara-w-berrys-tap-code


Write It In A Book

     I sat with my friend, Robin, as we talked home décor and paint colors, casually sipping our hot, afternoon coffee. My “new” friend was quickly becoming my dear friend. We had known of each other for years, as we both lived in the idyllic town of Tupelo, Mississippi, and shared many common interests not the least of which was love of God, country, and family.

     Both her sister, Carolyn, and her brother, Lyle and their families have been my kind neighbors in North Tupelo for years. I knew of her family’s tremendous story, as I had watched from afar as snippets of the story came to me through newspaper articles and my children, who were in school with her nieces and nephews. Her dad, COL Carlyle Smith “Smitty” Harris, had been held captive as a POW for almost eight years, and he was well respected in our community. I knew bits and pieces of his story, but I had never met the man himself.

     On this day in my living room, Robin began to share more details of their family’s story, and I was fascinated. Having read some of my books, Robin asked me if I would consider writing the story in book form.

     Though flattered, I immediately thought, “Me? What do I know about the Vietnam War?”

     I was not yet born when Smitty was shot down in enemy territory. When he was suffering torture and malnutrition, I was growing up in a loving family, filled with joy and fun memories, in an even smaller town, fifty miles down the road from Tupelo. When Smitty returned home, I was finishing kindergarten. Though as a writer, I was attracted and tempted by this story, drawn to it like a moth to a flame, I still was not convinced I was the one to write.

     “You write it, Robin. I have read some of your writing. You can do it! I will help you!”

     “It needs to be written by someone who is not so close to it. Someone who can see all the details from far away,” she explained. “At least pray about it,” she said.

     “I promise I will pray,” I replied, and we even prayed together right there at my dining room table.

     That night, I reached for my Bible, which is my daily custom. I like reading the One Year Bible, which gives assigned readings for each day and takes the reader through the Bible in one year. On this day, my assigned reading included Jeremiah 30. By the end of the chapter, I was thunderstruck at what I read.

     “This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you. The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,’ says the Lord.”

     Stunned, I continued reading as I made my way to Chapter 31, verse 8 “See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth.” And verse 16 and 17 continued in this theme with, “They will return from the land of the enemy. So, there is hope for your future,” declares the Lord.”

     These words written thousands of years before seemed a mirror image of what little I knew of the story of Smitty and Louise Harris.

     “Okay, Lord. I will do my best,” I prayed.

     And my best I have done. This work is not perfect, nor is it complete. A hundred books could not hold all the beautiful, intricate details of this story of one faithful family. I could have written it from so many different perspectives, and all would have been worth telling. But as I gleaned more and more information, I realized that my focus should simply be on Smitty and Louise and their human spirit and great love for God, country, and each other.

     I will never forget the first of many days I spent on their sofa in North Tupelo. The room—their den—is both comfortable and elegant. Smitty, now 90, and Louise, 81, are as sharp, witty, and together as any persons decades younger. Though they sat on opposite couches, I noticed how they looked at each other, as if they were speaking at once—together—in unison—as one told a snippet, then allowed time for the other to speak. Louise, with her beautiful, clear blue eyes and pure, soft white hair, seemed as if she were holding Smitty’s hand, just by the way she looked at him across the room when he spoke.

     “We get along very well,” Louise commented one day. “We never argue. Why would we waste time on that?” she said as if it made perfect sense. And that small piece of wisdom has crossed my mind many days since, etching its way into my own life.

     When the inevitable delays in writing came, they were filled with grace and patience. They approached this project as if they were delighted to share, but unconcerned when or if it ever happened. The story was told to me with great detail and superb memory. I marveled at their grace. I marveled at their healing. And I marveled the many times they insisted that the main objective was for people to see that overall, the net effect has been positive on their lives and that of their children and grandchildren. “We are truly blessed in every aspect of our lives. God’s been good to us,” they repeatedly told me.

     As you read through this true story, know that an imperfect person took a brilliant accounting which Smitty started in the late 70’s but never finished, and wove in many more details, scenes, and memories which were told to me by Smitty and Louise as we sat in their lovely home. From there I researched websites and articles and read more wonderful books by other POWs than I would have ever imagined to read. And yet, our readers, if you find mistakes in my accounting of the details of the most complex war our nation has ever fought, those mistakes are mine alone and were unintended. I hope you see this book as I see it—an amazing and inspiring story of the human spirit.

     COL Larry Guarino spoke of Smitty and the tap code in his book, A P.O.W. Story: 2801 Days in Hanoi, saying, “Neither Smitty Harris nor any of us realized that this would be the most valuable life and mind saving piece of information contributed by any prisoner for all the years we were there.” After reading Tap Code, I hope you will be inspired, as I have, to emulate the grit, honor, and courage of both Smitty and Louise. Through the telling of both sides of their story, which were lived out on opposite sides of the world, I believe you will not only learn important details of American history, but will also see a glimpse of true and enduring love.

     As I tearfully told them one day after a lovely session at their home, I am profoundly honored to be given the opportunity to help them tell their inspiring, life-changing true story. It is my great desire that this book brings honor to both of them, their family, our military men in all walks of service, and their families. Most of all, I hope to bring honor to God, who has set me free from my own captivity, just as He has every believing soul. To Him be the glory.

Check out videos, photos, and sample pictures at www.tapcodebook.com

 


To All You Moms Out There

To all you moms out there:

I sat on my sofa in the same spot, with the same countenance as I had thousands of times before, lifting my children one by one to the Lord.

“Lord, I plead the blood of Jesus over Katie, Ellie, Joseph, Troy, Joshua, Sally, Charlie, Owen, Drew, and Rorie…” Over the years, as the number of my children grew through births, adoption, and marriage I simply tacked on names. This stream of names flows easily over my tongue as I have spoken this prayer aloud and silently many times each day. Many of my prayers are covered like a blanket over my children as a corporate plea.

“Thank you that no weapon formed against them will prosper and every tongue that rises against them will be shown to be in the wrong, as they walk in Your ways and Your truth…”

“Protect their mind, their bodies, their spirits, their souls, and their emotions.”

“May they hear a voice behind them saying this is the way, walk in it.”

“May they have the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”

On and on, these scripture-based prayers flow naturally over my tongue because of the frequency with which I have prayed.

Sometimes, as my Mama-Anxiety grows for one reason or another, my prayers become bolder, louder even. And this boldness comes for my benefit, to remind myself of what I know and Who I believe.

I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

                                                                        2 Timothy 1:12

I often must recount and remind myself of the promises of God.

“Lord, You said: ‘I will contend with those who contend with you and your children I will save’. I believe You, Lord, help me with my unbelief.”

“Lord, You said: ‘All your children will be taught of the Lord and great will be the peace of your children’. You said ALL, Lord. I believe You, Lord, help me with my unbelief.”

Sometimes, I remind myself of the strength and authority that is ours in Christ.

“Lord, thank you that our weapons are not carnal but they are mighty for the pulling down of strongholds. I therefore cast down imaginations and destroy speculations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. I believe You, Lord, help me with my unbelief.”

And sometimes, after all of this, I still feel needy and afraid. And that is what I felt as I sat in that familiar place on my sofa that day.

“Lord, I need a word from You. I need the peace to know that this current worry for my child is a blip on the screen of life. I need to know that You are with us and that You are hearing my prayers.”

And then I opened my Bible. The assigned reading for that day was Isaiah 40. I have read this chapter countless times over the years. But my eye paused on verse 11, and I saw this Living Word in a new, fresh way which breathed life and hope and peace to my worried and troubled Mama-Heart.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

Isaiah 40:11

My lambs—my children—are carried by the Great Shepherd. They are safe in His arms and He holds them close to His heart. What relief!

And as the their mother, He gently leads me along with them.

For the first time, I stopped to think about mother sheep. We as believers are often referred to in scripture as sheep being led by Jesus, the Great Shepherd. But I had never thought specifically of mother sheep. Mother sheep can nuzzle their young. They can be near their young. But they cannot carry their young. They can’t hold them up. They are not physically capable of doing so. They were not created nor designed by the Creator to do so. Oh, we try. We try really hard to carry our kids along, carry their burdens, make life easier for them, stress-free, failure-free, pain-free. But we can’t.

But Jesus, the Great Shepherd can. He can carry them. He can protect them. He can help them. He can hold them close to His perfect, powerful heart. And then in His great compassion, He turns gently to us, knowing our Mother-Heart, and leads us along as well.

As peace filled my heart, praise filled my mouth. I praised Jesus for His provisions and His promises. I praised Him for carrying my children and comforting me. I praised Him for helping me, once again, in my unbelief. I once again, for the millionth time, gave my children to the only One who can carry them. Praise God that it is not up to me.


I Didn’t Make It to All of His Games

My precious son is getting married. In three months, three days, he will be officially grown and gone. We are beyond happy with his choice of bride and feel that she is one of those blatant answers to my prayers that God would do far more than we could ever hope or dream or imagine. We are blessed, indeed, with the maturity and godliness we see coming from those two. They love Jesus. And I thank my Jesus each day for that abundant answer to my prayers.

But there is one thing that the enemy of my soul keeps bringing up in my mind as I reflect on his growing up years. And though it may sound silly to most reading this post, I believe that some of you will relate.

I didn’t make it to all of his games.

There. I said it. For some reason, that is the source of my Mama Guilt. You see, I always envisioned myself front and center at every event each one of my children would participate in. I thought I would be “that mom”. The one who volunteered to be homeroom mom. (This only happened three times in all my children’s combined school years, which so far has equaled 62 school years, given the whole seven kids and all.)

I thought I would be the one with the healthy snacks, the homemade valentines, the carefully prepared lunches, and of course dinner on the table every. single. night. Instead, I was the one who sent the tacky valentines, most often signed by me because it was quicker. I was the one who used paper plates so I wouldn’t have to wash the dishes. I was the one who made my kids fix their own sack lunches if they didn’t want to eat in the cafeteria, because let’s face it, it is far easier to give them lunch money (or now prepay online!) than it is to go to the grocery for all the special requests they have, prepare the what they actually want to eat for lunch, and do it all before 7:25a.m. Nope. Didn’t happen at my house.

Recently, there was an article circulating around entitled “Why Parents Should Go to All of Their Kids Games”. Each time I saw it being shared I cringed. That Mama Guilt would rear its ugly head and throw fiery darts at my mind. Because guess what? It is too late. I can’t go back and go to every game.

Actually, it wasn’t that I totally agreed with the article. I think supporting our children should be an upmost priority. However, I think the mentality that we should drop everything and focus solely on them has potential to create self-centered adults. It also has the potential to create unrealistic expectations for them when they are parents. But the truth is this: I just couldn’t do it all. I wasn’t strong enough. I didn’t have enough stamina. I didn’t have enough emotional or physical energy to do it all. But maybe because I couldn’t do it all, my kids will receive some comfort when they come to the realization that they can’t do it all either.

That is the thing that rubs a raw spot in my mind. I couldn’t do it all. I tried, I really did. But having a lot of kids (or let’s face it, even if you don’t have a lot of kids) is very humbling. I was the late mom. I was the scattered mom. I was the one who missed the best play of the game because I was taking another child to the bathroom. I was the one who actually cheered an entire game for a child that was not my own, thinking he was the whole time. You see, they were built the same. Same weight, same height. And I had somehow forgotten that my son had been given a different number that year. He was supposed to be number 14. He had been number 14 from the time he was in T-Ball. But oh, no. They had to give the number 14 jersey to someone else that year—someone who was the same weight and height as my son. I am sure the other moms were wondering why I jumped up and cheered at every play of number 14 and sat silently eating my chips when my own son was up to bat. Lord, help me! I couldn’t do it all!

But when faced with that reality I hear a deeper truth whispering in my soul. Jesus comes softly, sweetly and calms my Mama Guilt. I hear him actually saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

“But, Lord, I yelled at my kids sometimes.” And I hear whispered, “But you also taught them about Me.”

“But, Lord, my words were sometimes impatient, even angry at times.” And I hear whispered, “But you spoke My words over them every day in prayer.”

“But, Lord, I wasn’t at every game”. And I hear whispered, “But I was. And because you pointed them to Me, they knew they were never forsaken.”

“But, Lord, I wasn’t the perfect parent that I always imagined I would be.” And I hear whispered, “But I am the Perfect Parent. Because you weren’t perfect, they relied more on Me. Because you pointed them to the Perfect Parent, they know Me. In your weakness, I am strong.”

And with those whisperings, my mind and heart settles. Yes, there were things I would have done differently. But I know my children know I love them. They know Jesus in a personal way. They love me and more importantly, they love Jesus. So, I guess in light of that great truth, the other one—the Mama Guilt truth—simply doesn’t seem so important after all.

 

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

                                                                                    3 John 4


The Way I See It

I don’t like politics.

Yes, I have strong opinions, you can call them convictions; but I don’t like politics. I really avoid speaking out on political issues, especially on social media, because there is the whirlwind of anger, misunderstanding, hate, and separation of friendships that often follows.

But there is this one issue …

And before I express my opinion let me address my friends who see it differently. Listen carefully! I. Love. You. And actually, I like you. And respect you and admire you and think you are funny and compassionate and kind. And that doesn’t change because we see it differently.

But I have to tell you how I see the topic of abortion.

I see it through the eyes of dear, godly friends who have struggled for decades with regret, emotional pain, anxiety, and depression because they chose abortion.

I see it through the eyes of dear, godly friends who desire more than anything to feel the movement of life within them, yet can’t no matter how hard they have tried to conceive.

I see it through the eyes of my role as a mother, who has felt life within my belly 5 different times. Each time I saw that pink line on the pregnancy test, I knew there was life. When I heard their heartbeats as early as 8 weeks, I knew there was life. When I felt them kick and roll around inside me, I knew there was life. When my back ached and the labor pains came and my life was forever changed, I knew it was worth it, for there was life.

I see this topic of abortion through the tear-stained eyes of seeing one of mine blue and unresponsive when born. I also see it through joyful tear-stained eyes when I heard the gasp for breath we longed for, then the loud, screaming cry announcing she was still with us. (Admittedly, that cry had a different effect on me at 3am for 8 weeks, but it was relatively a short season!)

I see it through the eyes of one who has longed for and prayed for and filled out miles and miles of paperwork, so that we could bring home two adorable Asians, who didn’t look like us, but were so very us. When I look at them, I see life. And when I look at them, I see the love of two different birthmothers who had a choice to make.

Yes, they lived in a country where they could have easily made a different choice. They could have ended the life of my children without repercussions, or social stigma. Not only is it not illegal in China, but it is also encouraged to end the life of a baby in the womb. But these brave women chose differently. They chose life. They chose life despite these children having birth defects which could have been dangerous and complicated. And because they chose life, the world gets to experience the joy of Sally and Charlie. They are healthy and funny and smart and silly and kind and generous and accepting of others. They love life. They are my life. All because two mothers in difficult circumstances chose life.

To the women of New York, who may feel that your answer has come and your difficult problems are solved …

To the women who are rejoicing that they now legally have the choice to abort their baby whenever they want to …

Let me tell you that I am sorry for your pain. I am sorry for your difficult circumstances. But let me encourage you in this: you do have a choice. And would you please stop and think about adoption over abortion? Before you make your choice, would you pause long enough to investigate the process of life within you? The heartbeat, the development of hands and feet and brain and fingers and toes.

You do have a choice. Please know that choosing life is still on the table. And the way I see it, it is really the only wise choice to make.

Now, to my friends who see it differently. Wanna go get a cup of coffee together? Wanna talk and laugh and go see a movie? I’m here. And I love you.