Say My Name, Say My Name

After reading this week’s Torah portion, Naso, I continued my studies by reading Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’s essays found in his book series Covenant & Conversation, Numbers: The Wilderness Years. The essay What Counts? discussed the census at the beginning of the book of Numbers, B’midbar in Hebrew.

As always when reading Rabbi Sacks’s works, they are so infused with a passion for Torah and a love of Hashem that I must often remind myself that he passed on. I cannot believe this brilliant man is gone. Fortunately, and with much gratitude to Adonai, the Rabbi’s works live on.

One point Rabbi Sacks made in this essay was the importance of the individual to Hashem. He quoted one of my favorite Psalms (147:4) which says that Adonai “counts the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” He went on to say:

A name is a marker of uniqueness. Collective nouns group things together; proper names distinguish them as individuals. Only what we value do we name. God gives even the stars their names. All the more so does this apply to human beings, on whom He has set His image. When God calls, He calls our name, to which the reply is simply, “Hineni,” “Here I am.”

And that’s when it hit me.

Hebrew is an amazing language with a message for all humanity encoded into the very letters themselves. Learning to read and speak Hebrew will only enhance one’s Biblical studies, so I strongly encourage digging in as soon as possible. But this time, English came through, and not just the words but a smidgeon of punctuation, too.

What first leapt off the page at me was the fact that with the simple addition of a comma, one could render the response, “Here, I am,” or even better, “Here, I AM.” The focus is taken off the person and placed with much respect on Adonai Himself. The reply acknowledges Him by name in the same way a student might say, “Here, Mrs. Smith” when being called on by a teacher or other authority figure.

The second way I saw and understood the reply “Here I am” was as a bridge between myself and our Father, Avinu, who is also our King, Malkeinu. This perspective enabled me to see that while Adonai the King often seems to be over there because He is so vast, there is nothing else, and “in Him we live and move and exist” (CJB), Adonai the Father is also right here because He breathed into humanity, and I am a living soul. In other words, what many call the divine spark resides within me.

It’s as if Adonai said, “There I AM, here I AM, and everywhere in between I AM because where could you possibly go that I AM not?” We are in Hashem, and He is in us. Please do not hear me say that I am in any way equal to Adonai; I am merely a conduit through whom He speaks. But it is because He is in me that I, created in His image, can answer “Here I am” knowing that “here He is.”

Lastly, as Rabbi Sacks mentioned in a footnote included in the passage above, when Hashem calls our name, He often does so twice. It is done as an expression of love, an endearment. My favorite instance of this is when Yeshua spoke Martha’s name twice thus elevating this humble woman to the level of the patriarchs. But that’s a discussion for another time.

May Adonai call on you, and when He does, may you remember to simply say, “Here I am.”

Avinu, Malkeinu

(I recommend watching the link above in the Brave browser to avoid advertisements.)


Sacks, Jonathan. “What Counts?” Numbers, The Wilderness Years, First ed., Maggid Books & The Orthodox Union, New Milford, CT, 2017, pp. 76–77.

Tuesday Tea – Summer Daze Teatail

April was a busy month as I prepared for my book launch celebration for my novel, Realm. With that being said, I didn’t have the opportunity to write a post for Tuesday Tea. I’m hoping that today’s will more than make up for that.

Oolong is one of my favorite teas, and Tie Guan Yin oolong presents the perfect base for Ohio Tea Co.’s Cucumber Lime Oolong. If you’re not familiar with Tie Guan Yin (also written as Ti Kuan or Ti Kwan), apparently, it is the most famous, tastiest, and rarest of Chinese teas. The name translates to Iron Goddess of Mercy, which makes me like it even more. These days it’s only lightly oxidized making it closer to green tea than black tea. It can be roasted or unroasted.

Tie Guan Yin paired with freeze dried cucumber and natural flavor produced a scent combination that inspired me to go straight to icing this beauty. The mention of limes and cucumbers, two items I’ve only ever eaten cold, made me think of all things cool and refreshing.

I didn’t want to stop at simply icing it, however, and I quickly worked it into what I call a teatail, i.e., a cocktail made with tea. Follow the directions below, and you, too, can remain cool, calm, and relaxed for the hot summer days just around the corner.

Summer Daze Teatail

6 c fresh water

6 t Cucumber Lime Oolong

1 ½ c raw sugar

1 c fresh water

Hendrick’s Gin

Bring the water to 180° F in a stainless-steel pot on the stove. While the water heats, measure out the oolong into a large, mesh tea ball. When the water reaches the appropriate temperature, place the tea ball in it and cover the pot with a lid. Remember to turn off the heat below the pot (gas stove) or remove it from the burner (electric stove).

Allow the tea to brew for six hours, during which time it will also come down to room temperature. You may swirl it gently, otherwise do not remove the lid from the pot. The long, undisturbed brewing time ensures the tea is strong enough to stand up to the liquor you will add later without being bitter.

While the tea is brewing, add the raw sugar to one cup of water in a stainless-steel pot and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium-high heat, stirring gently, until a rich syrup has formed. Cover the pot with a lid and allow the syrup to cool to room temperature. The syrup can be stored for up to a week in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

When the tea has brewed, you may swirl the tea ball once to ensure evenness of color. Remove the tea ball and discard the expended tea. Do not press out the leaves into the brewed tea. Pour the tea into a glass pitcher and place in the refrigerator until the tea is completely chilled.

To prepare:

You can perform a dry shake with a cocktail shaker if you choose. I recommend Viski products as they are quality and a great place to start building your personal bar. You can, however, achieve the same results, which is to thoroughly combine the Hendrick’s and chilled syrup, using a glass and a fork.

Measure 1 oz. Hendrick’s gin into a cocktail shaker or short glass. Add ½ oz. of the rich syrup. Shake or stir until the liquor and syrup are completely combined. Set aside.

Choose a glass tumbler that is at least 12 oz. in size. Add four to six ice cubes depending on the size of your glass. Pour the chilled Cucumber Lime Oolong tea into your glass to within one inch of the rim. Top with the Hendricks/sugar mixture. Stir gently and sip yourself to contentment.


Book Signing – Thirty-two 8 Inspired


I am excited to announce the first book signing since my book launch celebration for Realm. Join us this Friday, May 26, 2023, from 11 A until 2 PM at Thirty-two Eight Inspired & Co., located at 328 South Prospect Avenue, Hartville, Ohio for a fun-filled day of book signing and local shopping.

I’ll be presenting coupons for Thirty-two 8 Inspired & Co. with the purchase of Realm in softcover and gifts with the purchase of Realm in hardcover.

Mix Tape from the Realm

I must preface this post with the statement that none of the artists, their music, or any of their affiliates are in any way connected with the Realm project for the purpose of promotion or endorsement thereof. ~HL Gibson

What inspires you to write? For me, it’s overwhelmingly music. I can create and relive entire scenes while listening to music. What I’m listening to is often reflected in the mood of a particular scenario or traits of a character. While I’m writing, the music must be without words, but when driving or working around my home, lyrics play into my visions which are then translated onto the page.

For the reason stated at the beginning of this post, I’m unable to share links directly to the music that most profoundly influenced Realm. I’m hoping you’ll do yourself the favor of taking a few moments to seek the music so you can retrace the steps of my journey as I wrote Realm.

I must admit, this post is a written version of a mix tape, and while we all know mix tapes are cringey, we all secretly enjoy them because of the memories attached to the songs.

Almost eight years ago, I wrote a blog post about E.S. Posthumus called Sound Travels for Your Mind. I was surprised to realize that’s how long my novel had been in the various stages of production, and I know this because the album, Cartographer, supplied the background music for my writing.

There was a point, however, during the lengthy process of editing my manuscript, having it beta read, being further edited by me, and then handing it off for professional editing that I allowed myself to slip away from the music that inspired the story and characters. I didn’t notice at first, but a few days prior to my book launch, I sensed something was missing. I always turn to music to soothe whatever bothers me, but I couldn’t decide what genre of music would do the trick. That’s when Cartographer came to mind.

It had been so long since I listened to the album, but with the first notes of “Nolitus” I was suddenly transported back to the Realm. For me, the songs provided scene description and character sketches. Specifically, “Isunova,” a beautiful, haunting melody that builds in intensity and perfectly depicts Bialig’s internal and external struggles.

Then there was “Selisona,” which I played during any scene wherein the Realmers journeyed with Rogue; “Marunae,” a song that captures Nish’s elegance, beauty, and strength, and which I came to think of as her theme song; “Ashielf Pi,” the opening credits of Realm on the big screen; and “Nasivern,” which I imagined playing during the end credits of Realm, the movie. (Yes, I admit I imagined Realm as a movie many times.)

Then I replayed a song by Adrian Von Ziegler, a Swiss composer from Zürich, who was recommended to me by a friend. For Realm, the piece called “Between Worlds” became my theme for Misko, a troubled young man whose divided heart, mind, and loyalties were a detriment to himself and everyone around him.

“Between Worlds” is incredibly beautiful, but it also sounds cold and lonely, mysterious with a layer of uncertainty, and heavy with the air of expectation. It ends the same way it began, as if one is holding his or her breath in cautious anticipation.

The last song I’d like to mention is Lauren Daigle’s “Rescue.” My husband, William, arriving home in the early hours of the morning, couldn’t wait to have me listen to the song he knew captured the battle both Rogue and Raine were fighting, believing they could save each other and never imagining that their rescue would come from a source greater than them both.

We stood in the darkened kitchen, hovering over Will’s cell with one earbud apiece, eyes locked in agreement that Ms. Daigle’s lyrics were essentially the theme of the relationship between Rogue, Raine, and their Rescuer.

I’ll never tire of listening to the music that helped shape Realm. Even as I build playlists for my other WIPs, the songs I enjoyed while writing Realm, my first published novel, will always be special.

Let me know in the comments how music plays into your chosen art form, even if it’s music!


Realm Central – Braced for Impact

If you’re a writer, perhaps your initial reaction is to cringe at the thought of someone, possibly a total stranger, writing a review of your book. This individual probably has no idea who you are as a person or a writer, isn’t familiar with your artistic or personal struggles, and may not possess the qualifications to review what you’ve created.

Or maybe you’ll chill out about the thought of someone writing a review of your work because, after all, your mom gave you a five-star review, and who’s stupid enough to argue with your mom, right?

Or maybe reviews roll off your back because you’re truly confident that your work not only satisfies you and your goals but is really darn good, and you’re rightfully proud of it. You don’t live in fear of reviews and reading them doesn’t faze you.

What if the review is good? What if it’s bad? What if it’s mediocre, and you’d have appreciated a stronger loved it or loathed it reaction?

It wasn’t until I realized that readers could leave a review on BookBaby or Goodreads for my novel, Realm, that I began to think about reviews. Reviews are coming, and that’s great because it means people are reading Realm. Do I want readers to love my novel? Of course, I do. That’s why I wrote it. I’m hoping people will get the same experience when reading Realm that I had while writing it.

But do I want to use this post to influence reader reviews? Absolutely not. The critiques have already occurred, so I’m using the easy ones to soften the blow of the harder ones that may come. And I’m not living in fear of reviews.

In my experience of reading reviews for books, I have found that they fell heavily in the five-star or one-star ratings with a sprinkling of two-, three-, and four-star reviews in between. People who left five stars quite often made the mistake of writing a lengthy synopsis and one line stating they loved the book. One-star reviewers simply said they hated it.

Despite reviews, I always make up my own mind whether or not I’ll read a book, but I’m still curious what other people thought about it. Truer reviews seem to be found in the two-, three-, and four-star comments. These people explain the why behind their statements, and that’s where I find a connection with other readers because, quite frankly, I’d like to connect with someone else over a book even if we disagree!

This is also where people will explain things such as why they awarded the number of stars they did as well as admit that what they didn’t care for did not ruin the entire book for them. That’s honest reviewing.

Some reviewers apply their own stars in their comments, which I find extremely helpful. They rate characters and their arcs separately from dialog, prose, description, and overall storytelling. It takes a bit of time, but one can tell these readers really care about what they’ve read and what they provided in return. I find these reviews to be most sincere.

Often, I must scroll through a lot of bad reviews to find the ones written by people who understand the value of a well-written critique. Most importantly, I try very hard to be the type of person who writes the kind of reviews I enjoy reading.

So again, am I trying to influence your comments? No, I promise I’m not. Rather, let’s see if we can generate something akin to a real conversation within reviews for Realm.

%d bloggers like this: