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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Through the Eyes of a Child


A Christmas tune plays on the radio and the words draw me back to another time and place. I can almost taste Mom’s sugar cookies, with crushed peppermint candy sprinkled over the top, fresh from the oven. I can still see the blue color-coordinated decorations and lights twinkling on  my aunt’s white tree—I’m sure that’s why blue gives me so much pleasure to this day. And I can recall the joy of trying to guess what might be in a certain package.

For me it happens with “Silent Night” and blue lights and snow. Maybe everyone has a special place they travel back to when the fragrances are just right, when the sounds pull you in, or maybe, all it takes is seeing a child grinning from ear to ear, wishing for Christmas Eve to hurry up and get here, and suddenly, you remember . . .

And for a few moments you get caught away.

Can you see yourself as a child? For those of us with children, it’s easy to remember the times when they were little. But what about you? What makes you reminisce to a time in your youth when life was simple and fun and filled with anticipation over Christmas? When the joy of looking forward to Christmas morning—or Eve—consumed you. Not just about the gifts, although there was that. But, also, to hearing the Christmas story. To reliving the journey of the wisemen and angelic visitation to the shepherds. To the awe of the moment when the lights on the tree were first turned on in the dark. To lying on the floor and staring up at the glowing colors and tree decorations as if you’d never seen them before. Tasting candies you were only allowed to have at Christmastime. Hearing laughter in the house. Family. Presents. Candles. Twinkling stars. Watching. Waiting.

Close your eyes for a moment. Don’t think too hard. Just relax and smell the evergreen scents, hear the soft Christmas melodies playing, the jingling of a bell, packages being shaken and felt. Does a little anticipation race up your spine? When you were a kid, did you lay awake in bed trying to go to sleep on Christmas Eve, but you couldn’t? Did you think . . . Christmas is tomorrow? It’s coming. Somehow, I’ve got to go to sleep so I can wake up and then it will be . . .

!!!!!


Remember? Oh, let yourself feel. Think of the happiness. The laughter. Did you count down the twelve days before Christmas? Maybe, the twelve days before that? Then, before you knew it, tomorrow—the one perfect day of the year when dreams might come true—was almost here. Did you get so happy you felt like dancing? Or maybe you were wishing for a hula hoop to twirl in, and those thoughts were prancing in your mind. Or a doll. Or a new book. Did you hope for a Tonka truck or a new bow and arrow? Could you imagine yourself in buckskins like Davy Crockett?

In our busy adult world, with jobs and bills and responsibilities and stress and pain, sometimes we forget to love Christmas like we did as a kid. To see and smell and touch the beauty and traditions of celebrating Jesus’s birthday. When you closed your eyes a moment ago, what did you see? Did you remember something special?


I recall how one year, I shook a beautiful red-wrapped present, listening for any sound that might give away the contents. Was that briefest of clatters the sound of a miniature washing machine? Oh, I hoped so! I couldn't wait for morning to come so I could find out if my mom had gotten me the thing I longed for—a toy machine to wash all my doll clothes. Can you imagine a seven-year-old wanting that? Ha! After a lifetime of washing clothes, I wonder, what in the world was I thinking? Why would I want such a gift? But I did.

Another year, when I was older, we got a long wooden toboggan as a family gift. We spent days and days sliding down the hills in Ketchikan, Alaska. One time, a bunch of snow fell in the middle of the night, and one of my brothers woke me up, and the three of us and our cousins bundled up and went outside and played in the snow, building all kinds of sculptures—before it could melt away.


Oh, the treasures and memories we have inside of us. Have you thought of your childhood Christmases lately? What smells take you back to those carefree days? Cinnamon rolls? Fudge? Hot chocolate cooking on the stove?

“Silent Night” brings back warm feelings for me, because my mom and I used to sing that song while we washed dishes. It was the first song where I learned to hold the melody while someone else harmonized. Each time I hear the song, I remember her.

Of course, we can’t live in the past. We have the privilege of making new memories this year, and in the coming year. But, every now and then, it’s a blessing to go back and remember the special times we experienced in our youth. These memories are part of our story in the book of our lives.

We’re supposed to become like a child in faith. That brings to mind the verse . . . “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3) To me, that means being free and joy-filled and full of anticipation in what God can do. A child sees the moment and enjoys it. He’s open and full of belief. His joy hasn’t been diminished by disappointment. Nothing holds a child back from expressing happiness over the smallest things. A child who is belly-laughing isn’t a bit concerned over how he looks or sounds or who might care. In that moment, he’s absolutely free. And it’s beautiful. I love hearing a child’s laughter. It’s contagious and makes me laugh too.

We get caught up in too many “serious” things in this life. I know, there are plenty of serious things to consider. But, let’s take a few minutes and remember what it’s like to see Christmas through the eyes of a child. Let’s remember. Starting with Jesus. Loving those around you. Taking it all in. Truly feeling again.

A child really can lead us. In fact, He already did.


Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast: In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning by Dana Goodman

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In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning
By Dana Goodman

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About the Book:

Author and Counselor, Dana Goodman, shares her painful journey through heart breaking tragedy. After losing her 12-year-old son and 30-year-old husband to cancer, she must put back together the broken pieces of her life and her faith. Drawing hope from Christ, she describes how even the worst of tragedies can be rewritten into love stories so seeds of hope can be imparted to others. Ron Dart, Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the University of the Fraser Valley, says this about In the Cleft:
"I read the missive in a single sitting--was charmed and entranced, enthralled and captured by the poignant and evocative insights--- it's a burnished gold of a book---a real beauty---tragedy and hope, in an honest and raw way, jostling wisely and judiciously in your vulnerable soul--take heart---your well told and painful journey will bring healing and restore life to many---thanks for the sacrament and chalice of eternity so generously shared."


author photo graphic 48

Dana Goodman, author and counselor, Dana Goodman, lives in Kamloops British Columbia. She wrote In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning as a tribute to her son after he died of an aggressive brain tumor called Glioblastoma Multiforme. His unquenchable faith gave her the courage to visit grief layers and find healing and life after unbearable heartache. Dana's greatest joy in life is Jesus Christ, even on the topsy-turvy days when he is hidden. She loves simple things like hot coffee, deep talks with girlfriends, journaling and having wonderful adventures with her family.

Follow Dana Goodman


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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Storm is Coming!


Winter storms are coming. That's what happens in the Pacific Northwest—and many other places around the world—during winter. Harsh winds. Biting temperatures. A sudden dumping of snow. Sometimes Jason and I dream about moving to Arizona to enjoy wintertime sunshine and warmth. But as long as we live on the backside of Mt. Spokane, I know storms are coming.


Seasons bring different kinds of storms. I can remember a horrific rain and wind storm in Ketchikan, Alaska, on Thanksgiving Day when I was ten years old. The massive deluge sunk boats, knocked out power on the day people planned to spend the day cooking, and caused a lot of property damage. It was a storm to remember.

In life, as in seasons, we go through storms. I've known people who wouldn't admit anything was wrong in their lives. "The tongue has the power of life and death" Proverbs eighteen says, and some would contend by saying the words, they'll make it happen. And, there's truth in that. Others take this idea to an unrealistic degree. Once, I talked with a lady who denied ever having been sick, not even a cold. I disagreed with her, knowing she had to have been sick when she was a kid, but she adamantly held her ground. She wouldn't confess a negative word about her health, almost as if fearful of doing so. I believe in speaking life and love and faith in Jesus over every situation. But, if asked, I won't deny a problem happened.

Just like I know I will face a storm (or two or three) this winter, I know in life I will face storms. For some of us, it's a marriage crisis. Or a health issue. A financial struggle. A lack of a job, house, food. Maybe, there's friendship or family troubles. Or addictions. The rough patches we go through are storms. Sure, sometimes we bring problems on ourselves. Other times it's an onslaught from satan. He is, after all, out to destroy us.

One time I was listening to a radio talk-show host speaking on family and marriage. The guy said he'd never personally had rough times in his marriage. And at that moment, going through some struggles, I felt disappointed . . . and ashamed. Was something wrong with me because I was going through marital issues? Was I less of a follower of Christ because of it? Had that man said, "I haven't experienced that kind of problem in my life, BUT, I've experienced other troubles that make me realize how painful it can be," then I would have felt a bond with his struggles, even if it wasn't the same scenario.

Sometimes, we come across as if we've weathered life without a hitch. Perfect. Lily-white. But I can't go along with that. Yes, I'm alive and doing well today, thanks to God. Thanks to His love changing me. His protection. His peace . . . in the middle of my storms. Thanks to perseverance and learning through struggles. And thanks to a host of family and friends sharing life with me and giving me second chances.

One day, the disciples hopped in a boat—following Jesus—and they found themselves in the storm of their lives. These were fisherman! They made their living by working on the water. They knew the risks of turbulent winds. But this was a whopper of a storm, and they were petrified! Fisherman who'd been raised on the sea, and didn't get seasick, suddenly thought they were going to die. I can imagine their pinched faces as they cried out, fearful the next wave would knock them into the sea. Were they going to drown? They thought so.

But not Jesus. He was sleeping in the rocking, bouncing, water-sloshing-in boat.

When they woke him up, he scolded them—as if questioning why they even woke him up. "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" In that moment, Jesus must have felt a flood of compassion for his traveling companions. Even though he knew the boat wasn't going to sink. God had a plan for his life, and that job wasn't finished yet. He also knew the disciples didn't "get" that yet. So he commanded the wind and waves to stop doing what they were doing. Instantly, all was calm. I can imagine Jesus curling up again and going right back to sleep.

That was a real storm. A time of conflict, fear, thoughts that all was lost and death might be imminent. Yet—I love this—Jesus was calmly sleeping.

We will face storms, yet, we have the assurance Jesus is in our boat. In times of difficulties, we can be like the disciples and scream out in fear. Or be like Jesus: sleeping in peace and trusting God. AND, like Him, we can stand up and command the elements of the storm to stop. Let's tell satan (strongly) to back off. "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." And, we can pray. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb 4:16) I love the "with confidence" part. Not cowering, or whining, or begging. Approach God confidently! We know He hears us.

Last night, I went to sleep a little discouraged. But I woke up with these thoughts on my mind. We'd all like to avoid storms. I know I would. But each time we come out of one, we're stronger. We've learned perseverance. Our faith is built up. And we have a precious story to tell. A testimony of overcoming. And we will.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Oozing Thankfulness?



At this time of year, our thoughts turn toward thankfulness. And that's a good thing.

All month, friends have been posting on Facebook and Twitter about the things they're thankful for. It's cool to have a month to do that. To focus our attention on "being" thankful. But, really, thankfulness is far more than speaking the words "thank you," although the sentiment needs to be said. It's more than taking a month to list the things we're thankful for, and yet, it's great to acknowledge the people and blessings you appreciate. I believe thankfulness is a deeper expression of what's in our hearts. It's a pouring out of what we have inside. Someone mentioned the other day that thankfulness is our "faith in action." And, I like that.

God did so much for us by sending Jesus, for taking away our guilt and shame, for saving our families, for giving us the hope we have, that our hearts should overflow with an abundance of thankfulness. Like a cup of coffee when someone bumps into it and it sloshes on the counter, so our lives, if "bumped into," should ooze thankfulness, a bi-product of love. Hopefully, that's what others will see.

Too often we get filled to the brim with stuff. Chores. Work. Pressures. Our need to be right or have our wishes fulfilled. Entertainment. We get caught up in the "affairs of this life" way too easily. Oh, yes, those fingers are pointing at me too. I forget how fast this life is passing. A fog that will dissipate way too soon. I want my life to count for the good stuff. Is thankfulness a part of who I am?

Instead of being stressed over dinner plans and baking and cleaning the house this Thanksgiving, let's take time to consider the condition of our hearts and what's inside. Is it love? Goodness? Mercy? Thankfulness?

May genuine thankfulness be the new love shining from us. Not just during the days leading up to and including Thanksgiving. But every single day.

May "thanksgiving" be a year-round expression. And may your "Thanksgiving" be filled with an abundance of love and joy.

Blessings...
Mary

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Sophie Dawson

Seeing The Life

Seeing The Life By Sophie Dawson

About the Book


Seeing The Life is a look at the life of Yeshua the Christ in a way never used before. Dassa, the daughter of the innkeeper, is sent to fetch the midwife to help the young woman in the stable give birth. She and Mary become close friends as do Micah, her fiance then husband, and Joseph. Separated when the young family flees Bethlehem in the night, their friendship resumes several years later in Jerusalem. Dassa and Micah know Yeshua is special, but he is still a boy with a boy's interests and love of life. Through the years the families, though separated most of the year, spend time together in Jerusalem during the Jewish Festivals. Then Yeshua begins speaking and teaching. Micah, Joseph of Arimethea, their sons and others who follow and believe Yeshua's message. Yet do they really understand it? Is he the long awaited messiah who will free the Jews from the grip of Rome? What do the stories he tells really mean? Seeing The Life sees the life of Yeshua within the social and political culture of the time. Not only do we see his ministry but also his family and friendships as he grew. Yeshua was a normal baby who cried, spit up, wet and messed. He was a child who fell and skinned his knees. He lost his baby teeth. He had siblings. He had friends. My goal was to show the humanness of Yeshua's life. We see him as fully God but often miss that he was fully man, boy and baby also.


Sophie Dawson
Sophie Dawson is Midwestern born and bred and is the author of several novels, including the Cottonwood Series and Stone Creek Series. Her novel Healing Love has won three awards: AuthorStand 2012 Gold Medal, Indiebook 2012 Silver Medal, and Readers' Favorite 2013 Silver Medal. Giving Love was a finalist in Readers' Favorite 2013. Her books have also been #1 Best Sellers in their genre on Amazon. Seeing The Life is a finalist in Readers' Favorite Awards 2014. She is a member of Christian Independent Authors and Association of Independent Authors. An award-winning quilter with eclectic interests, Dawson posts to several blogs, including Little Bits Blog on her website, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Iowa Wesleyan College.

Follow Sophie Dawson Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Married Glances


In my WIP, April's Storm, April wishes her preacher-husband would glance across the wedding attendees and catch her eye, notice her, send her a silent message with a sizzling look. But she realizes, Chad, the twenty-four-hours-a-day-servant guy, would never do that. He's operating in his official capacity at a wedding—she knows this—yet she still longs for him to single her out.

Have you ever wanted that? Have you ever felt a need for your husband to take your hand or kiss your cheek or just let his gaze linger on you an extra moment?

I have. Even after thirty-nine years of marriage, the need for my husband's acknowledgement might come at a less-than-perfect time for him. Still, from across a crowded church or a busy store, if Jason glances my way, it changes the moment between us. It takes such a tiny chunk of time for a husband to remind his wife that he loves her. That he has eyes for her alone. To remind her that when he's done with all the busyness of work or service, he's looking forward to being alone with her. Remember how it was when you were dating? You could stir up all kinds of romantic sparks without saying a word. A glance is surely worth a couple hundred words. It says, "I'm still mad about you. I want you. Let's hold hands. When this meeting's over, I'm going to give you a kiss that'll make your toes curl. I can't wait to hold you in my arms. I'm glad I married you."

For me, that means so much. I can't speak for a guy, but I can guess he likes those special connections too. Let your eyes talk. Tell your husband or wife you're wild about him/her, even from a distance. 


Eyes sparkle, glow, shine. Let your eyes radiate love. And those little glances will take on a language of their own that can last a lifetime.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Favorite Christmas Dessert


Chocolate-Caramel Bars

Many years ago, I found this recipe on the back of a Betty Crocker cake mix, and I've made it lots of times since. But I've tweaked it a little as I do most recipes, and the glaze is mine. I have to say, I love chocolate!! I enjoy caramel, but I bet these would be great with melted chocolate instead of caramel. Mmm...

1 package BC German chocolate cake mix
½ cup margarine or butter, softened
1 egg
½ cup margarine or butter
½ cup evaporated milk
1 package (14 ounces) caramels
Glaze (below)

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Mix cake mix (dry),  ½ cup butter, and egg until crumbly—or for me, forms a big lump—set aside 1 ½ cups (or about ½ of mix). Press the rest of the mixture in ungreased rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches. Bake until crust appears dry, 10-12 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Heat ½ cup butter, milk, and caramels over low heat, stirring until caramels are melted. Pour over crust. Spread the reserved mix over the top of the caramel layer.  Bake until top layer appears dry and begins to brown, 25-30 minutes; cool. Drizzle with a chocolate-frosting glaze (below). Loosen edges with spatula, refrigerate until caramel mixture becomes firm, about 1 hour. Cut into bars.

Glaze: Mix powdered sugar (as much as desired, about a cup), a little hot chocolate mix (dry—a tsp, or to taste), and a teaspoon of peanut butter with a little hot water until desired consistency. Dribble over chocolate layer. Mm-good.





Tuesday, November 4, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast: The Name Quest by John Avery

Avery-NameQuest CVR

The Name Quest - explore the names of God to grow in faith and get to know Him better By John Avery


About the Book:

Take an insightful journey into deeper relationship with God through the biblical names of God. Beginning in Babel and ending with a burning Babylon, The Name Quest builds faith and encourages spiritual growth. The names of God are like a rainbow—each name expresses part of the spectrum of the character and attributes of God. God is a personality with a multifaceted character too integrated and dynamic to compartmentalize. God’s names are best examined in clusters, around common themes. So that is how the chapters are organized. Along the way, the author tenderly answers tough questions: Which of the Hebrew names of God is His personal name—Yahweh or Jehovah? What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? How can we relate to the Holy God and the Judge? Why is a God of love called the “Jealous God”? What does it mean to call Jesus the Messiah? The Name Quest mentions all the names of God in the Bible while explaining their significance in ordinary language. The author weaves together fifteen years of Bible study research with plentiful illustrations and humorous anecdotes. These include lessons learned as a pastor on a Caribbean island. A visit to a Welsh hill farm introduces a chapter about the Good Shepherd. The story of a Hungarian political prisoner illustrates the meaning of Immanuel (or is it Emmanuel?) A rescue from the slopes of an active volcano helps explain salvation and the meaning of Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yeshua. Even the clever advertisement on a packet of potato chips offers a lesson about how to grow in faith in God. Unlike chasing rainbows, the spiritual journey has an end. The Name Quest is a road map for every Christian’s spiritual journey and it points to the destination—being formed into the image of Jesus Christ. Start exploring!


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John Avery is the author of "The Name Quest – explore the names of God to grow in faith and get to know Him better" (Morgan James Publishing, 2014). He is a trained teacher with over thirty years experience as a Bible teaching pastor, small group leader, and missionary. He has lived in England, Israel, Africa, and the Caribbean, ministering with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and local churches. He and his wife, Janet, now make their home in Oregon. John likes to hike, snowshoe, and cross country ski. John writes a regular Bible devotional on www.BibleMaturity.com and maintains a comprehensive resource for all the names of God at www.NamesForGod.net.

Follow John Avery Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Writer's Life: Deadline Doubts

A deadline makes you work faster and crazier than ever. It adds stress and clarity to your job. And, it's exciting. You only have so many days, hours, or minutes to accomplish a thing, sort of a race against time. A real deadline keeps you on your toes, possibly till the last minute.

That's where I was at Friday night.

Could I finish everything? I still had many hours of work ahead of me. But being stubborn by nature, I knew I could do it if I stuck to the plan. I had to!

My deadline was November 1st. With twelve beta readers waiting to test April's Storm, (due to release in January) I needed to finish the editing I'd been working on and format it into e-book so I could send it out to them. For two weeks, I'd been staying up till one-ish in the morning, burning the proverbial midnight oil, working through edits, pushing myself. Getting up and starting at it again, day after day.

On that last night, October 31st, I determined to push through, no matter what it took. I'd hardly eaten. I forgot the 20/20/20 rule the optometrist told me to follow—every twenty minutes look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds. Instead, I stared at the computer hour after grueling hour. Maybe, next time, I'll follow his rule, but that day, nothing was going to hinder me. I was fighting deadline doubts and was determined to overcome.

Feeling the fires of adrenaline as I neared the finish line, I kept working. Formatting never turns out as cleanly as I'd like it to the first time, so I had fixings and re-uploads to accomplish. But, finally, at two in the morning, I'd finished almost everything I'd planned to do. Only sending the files remained. Something I could do when I woke up. Thinking I should get some sleep, or be super cranky the next day, I lay down to rest. But my eyes refused to stay closed. My mind whirred with that one last thing I should have done. Why didn't I just send those files? How could I sleep with such a big accomplishment—I've been working on this book for a year—hanging over my head? I couldn't. So . . . I hopped up, threw my sweatshirt back on, hobbled in the dark to my computer, and sent those large files one by one via email (over my very slow internet server.) But it was thrilling! Other than the editor and my critique partner, people were finally going to read my entire story.

I went back to bed at 3:30, exhausted, but happy.

Following five hours of sleep, I got up and felt a little blurry all day. But I was delirious with joy for having reached my goal. In a couple of months, I'll be right back there again, fighting the giant of doubt as I tackle formatting and publishing issues. But for now, I can cheer and pat myself on the back, and thank God for His help. I tackled a deadline and won!


Yippeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hope or not?


Jason and I were recently walking in the woods and talking about how thankful we are that we don't know all the things in advance that will happen in our lives. Everyone will go through some storms, right? But isn't it great that we don't know exactly what trials are ahead or when they'll happen?

I thank God for this "not" knowing. I mean, if I knew the exact hurts and struggles I'd have to endure, I'd do everything in my power to avoid those experiences—and shortchange myself in the long run. Let's take boating for example. If I'd known that horrendous storm was going to whip up, I wouldn't have gone on the skiff that day, maybe ever. I mean, a storm could come up at any time in open waters. We could spend our whole life worrying about what storm might hit next. And I would have feared my way through never enjoying the ocean again.

If we could see ahead to the pain of loss, physical ailments, broken dreams, financial struggles, whatever, that we might face, it would be overwhelming. We could get lost in worry and fear. Instead, one thing keeps us floating and anticipating the future:

~Hope~

Hope is a such a blessing in our lives. It's like a buoyant lifesaving ring carrying us through the difficulties.

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

Hope isn't just a wish that everything will turn out okay. "I hope it's going to be sunny tomorrow." Instead, it goes beyond that and morphs into a certainty that good is around the corner. Hope is a knowing in our hearts. "I know God is doing a beautiful thing in my life." That even though storms may come, God is working things out for my good. "God will see me through."

Hope is anticipating color in the midst of monochrome. Light in the darkness. Warmth in the cold. Spring after winter.

Job, while going through the biggest storms imaginable, said, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him." Wow! That's a huge kind of hope. It shows hope isn't based on anything happening around us. It's a rock-solid assurance for goodness and peace--and trusting God is in control of everything.

On the other side of the spectrum, when we lose hope, we really do feel sick. "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." (Proverbs 13:1) Sometimes we have to remind ourselves to be revived with hope. I found this good one in Psalm 42: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him."

I have so much richness in my life. Things I'm eternally thankful for. And one of those is hope. I look forward to miracles and abundance and promises for my family and friends and me. I want to speak the name of Jesus over storms that come my way. To trust completely in His love.

I'm reminded of another storm where Jesus was sleeping in a boat. The disciples would have made it fine to the other side, but they didn't know that. In the midst of wind and waves and fear, they temporarily lost hope.

Jesus being in my boat is hope . . . and peace.
Thank You, Lord, for hope.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Tony Yang

By Tony Yang

About the Book:


When we think about our love relationship with God, we tend to focus on His love for us: God created us in His image. God sent His only begotten son to die for our sins. God will send His son once again to take us home.
But what about our love for God?

What exactly does it mean to love God? Why is it so important? And how do we love Him? Tony Yang answers these questions through a Bible-centered approach, weaving in his personal testimony with his unique storytelling style. His conclusion is one that he least expected—the “O” word. In his highly anticipated debut book, Tony Yang presents key questions and answers them with such simplicity, using easy-to-follow practical applications. With a solid Biblical foundation, it also educates, encourages and inspires, leaving the reader to desire a deeper relationship with our God.


Tony Yang - Casual Portrait
Tony Yang is a storyteller. As a television news reporter, he discovered his passion for finding and telling good stories. After eight years as a journalist, he found himself on the administrative side of health care and higher education as a communication executive (but still a storyteller at heart.) His career has been recognized by industry organizations with nearly 20 professional awards, including two Emmys. Through God’s leading, Tony Yang hopes to use his love of writing and storytelling to share his experiences and encourage others in their love relationship with God.
 
Follow Tony Yang

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Write When it Hits


Inspiration comes to me at the strangest moments. In the shower. Brushing my teeth. Digging in the garden. During prayer. When I'm just waking up. When I'm about to go to sleep.

I might be busy, or not, doing something in particular, or not thinking about anything at all, and this idea suddenly pops into my head. It's a great idea. Fantastic. Something I would never forget! Like a new twist to the story I wouldn't have thought up myself, even if I'd been dwelling on the topic all morning. It's inspiration, plain and simple.

But if I don't write it down that very minute, nine times out of ten, I'm going to forget it. Wow. There went my inspiration out the window, out of my mind, probably, never to be replayed in my head again.

I have a friend whom the Lord prompted to keep a notebook by her bedside to write the things He was going to speak to her. And she did. Through the next season in her life, whenever she had a meaningful dream or a vision or a special word, she'd write it down. Years later, she was able to use all those experiences she'd taken note of to write an inspirational book. Isn't that awesome?

Another writer friend gave me a cute little notebook I carry around in my purse. If an idea hits me while I'm in the car or away from the house, I take out that cherished gift from a friend and jot down my thoughts. But the problem comes when I'm doing something active—like driving or working outdoors. I can't stop and write that very second. So I say to myself, No problem, it's such a great idea, I won't forget.

But I do forget. Ugh.

Maybe, it's my age, but now, I really must write my inspirational thoughts when they hit me. Whether it's on the computer or a notebook or a scrap of paper or a napkin, I need to get those words down. Even if they aren't coherent sentences. If I don't, you and I both know what will probably happen. Maybe, that means keeping notebooks in strategic places: the bathroom, the kitchen, in my wheelbarrow. I have a recording device, but I can't see myself carrying that around my ten acres. A whiteboard might work to jot ideas throughout the day, and then I could type them into the computer later. Perhaps, I should carry a miniature notebook in my back pocket at all times.

I've noticed bursts of inspiration happening to me a lot lately as I'm working through editing and tweaking details in my latest WIP, April's Storm. I feel so blessed and thankful when that special idea hits. But when I sit down to edit, sure enough, the brilliant thoughts are gone.

How about you? What do you do to capture those inspired thoughts immediately?


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Michelle Word Hollis

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It's in the House: Lessons from a Widow Woman - Getting What You Need & More!

By Michelle Word Hollis


About the Book:

In this book you will discover the powerful lessons, from the Biblical story of the Widow's Oil, that will help you overcome any difficulty you are currently facing. You will learn easy to implement strategies that will cause positive transformation in your thoughts and actions. The lessons are based upon Biblical principles that you can use daily for successful living. God has given us a blueprint in His Word that will help us build a grand life no matter where we are currently in life. The principles contained in these pages have withstood the test of time; they are universal truths! The lessons and principles are simple to understand, as well as, implement for those who would dare try and keep trying. Making a lasting permanent change does take time, practice, and patience, but you can do it!


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Michelle Word Hollis is a native of St. Louis, Mo. She is a wife and a mother. She received her undergraduate degree from SIUE and her MBA from UOP. Michelle is a life long learner and enjoys many other personal pursuits. Michelle is a new author, but she has been writing privately for many years. Michelle's Pearlable Woman book series will explore spirituality, family, life, and love. In the series, she will share lessons that have stood the test of time. These lessons are pearls of wisdom from the lives of Biblical women that can be applied to our contemporary lives.

Follow Michelle Word Hollis: Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Are You the Silent Type?


Sometimes people are silent for a reason.

Perhaps, through an emotional crisis or physical pain or loss, the woman holds it in, tackling hurts the way she knows best. Maybe the way her mother did. As her grandmother did before her.

On the opposite spectrum, some tell all. Are you ever surprised by the things people talk about publicly? Husband-wife woes. Children's failings. Financial matters. Some share information I wish I hadn't heard or read. TMI? For instance, in a sermon, the preacher doesn't have to tell every little thing about his wife and their relationship for me to get the picture. The parent doesn't have to describe the blood gushing everywhere from her son's injury (or post a picture of it) for me to understand. I have a vivid imagination.

Have you ever stood at the checkout counter at the grocery store and heard a deep conversation going on where you felt sorry for the clerk having to hear that kind of stuff all day? I have. Others rant about difficulties and personal issues on social media as if everyone wants to know every minuscule part of their lives.

But in the midst of a tell-all society, there are those who still remain silent. Taking life and troubles in, thinking about it, or not, they keep the hurt or stress or confusion to themselves. Maybe this is right, maybe it's wrong. Maybe it's the way we were raised. Does it boil down to our differing personalities? The quiet one versus the talkative one. The laugher vs the crier. The secret keeper vs the chatterbox.

While some friends and family members will tell everything, and perhaps even demand our attention to listen, let's remember those who are silent. When someone seems to fall off the grid, take note. There may very well be a reason for his or her silence. They can't talk about it, or choose not to. But they may need a hug or a kind word or an extra bit of understanding.

They say still waters run deep, and I believe it. Just because someone is quiet, never underestimate the struggle she might be going through. Encouraging words do have an effect. Love can change everything. Even, or maybe especially, for the person facing difficulties in silence.

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing;" Psalm 68:5 & 6

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Becca Fisher

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Amish Romance 40 Book Boxed Set By Becca Fisher

About the Book:

This collection features 40 Amish Romance stories by Becca Fisher including: The Amish Wedding Series Rebecca Lapp has her life back together after a tough break up. She's found a new man and is finally happy once again. But when her ex comes back into town wanting her back, Rebecca will be forced to make a decision that will change her life forever. The Chasing Heaven Series Hannah Bieler's wedding is more than just cause for celebration. It gets her sisters wondering when they will get married, who they'll fall in love with, or whether God has other plans for them entirely. But it becomes clear that although the Amish are simple people, their love lives are anything but. The Let Love In Series When Jenna loses her husband in a horrible accident, she never thinks she can love again. But she suddenly finds herself a single Amish mother and knows that her children need a father figure in their lives. So when a handsome stranger rides into town a year later and takes a liking to Jenna, she has to decide if she can ever let love in again, or risk losing a man that could bring her happiness. The If I Stayed Series Hannah and Sadie Miller have always been desperate to explore the world. So when rumspringa comes, they want to go to the big city. But are the sisters willing to risk losing everything that's important to them when their parents insist that they stay in Lancaster? The Amish Christmas Series Joshua Zook and Sadie Miller have been dancing around their feelings for months. But just as Joshua works up the nerve to admit how much he cares for Sadie, he realizes that he may be too late to win Sadie's heart.


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"I'm Becca Fisher and I write sweet Amish romances featuring simple people with complex love lives. I'm devout in my faith, relish time with my family, and seek to bring joy to as many lives as possible. I would love to have you as a reader. God bless. If you would like to be the first to know about my new books, join my mailing list here http://eepurl.com/s3WIT."

Follow Becca Fisher

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Where Did Time Go?


How softly the years go by. Like a swish of air skidding past my face. A few deep breaths and time tumbled by. Oh, where did it go?

Birth to kindergarten. First through eighth grade. High school. College. Careers.

Memories and life. Milestones made steps. Steps turned into stairways leading far from the safety of home. But always in our hearts. Still in our hearts.

Daniel's smile could dazzle us. Our firstborn would stand in the kitchen, while I made dinner, chatting a mile a minute about basketball stats and school happenings. He was so creative, could draw, imagine other worlds, loved to read. He had, has, a tender heart, and like his dad, tears could easily rush to his hazel eyes. Basketball was his great love, and when the three brothers and Dad got together, it was like they spoke a different language all their own.

But time flew by.

And as each child left the nest and moved on to capture his or her own day in the sun, a part of Mom's and Dad's hearts floated away with them. We watched. Observed. Prayed. Hoped for the very best.

It's their lives stepping up to the plate now, starting new families, just like we did when we were young. Sometimes Jason and I talk about how we were once our parents' "widdo kids", and we grew up, married, moved away. We didn't call as often as they wished we would. But they stood back and patiently watched the beauty of our family grow and change and become.

That's what we're doing now.

One by one, our kids left home to follow their own call, their own road, where life and God would lead them.

Today, Dan carries a chunk of family, of Mom and Dad, in his heart and life. Dad's looks, Mom's humor, Grandma's determination, Grandpa's work ethic. This blend of family, as far removed as we might get, is glue sticking us together, through good times and bad. We'll always be there for each other, even if we're a bazillion miles away.

In two days, something wonderful is about to happen to my family, thus today's sentimental blog. On August 9th, Jason's and my 39th anniversary, Dan is going to marry the love of his life, Traci, and the two of them will make a new life together. A family.  She brings pieces of her family's past, their blends, their hearts, their traditions, their hopes and dreams, to join with the hearts and pasts and blends and dreams Dan brings. Together, they'll become a new heart, beating as one.

Life changing. Going forward. Building a new stairway.

Perhaps, our hearts are kind of like the bread Jesus broke and passed around in that amazing miracle. We share ourselves, our love, our lives, with our children, and they go out and share their hearts, their lives, with others. Someday, their children will do the same thing. Each one changing, growing, becoming new.

Life is a journey to celebrate, to love, to relish, to delight in, to live. But watch closely. In the time it takes to snap that picture or store the memory safely in your heart, time will pass. As quick as a brush of air on your cheek.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

CrossReads Book Blast with Robin Merrill

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The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss

By Robin Merrill

About the Book:


In The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss, Author/Poet Robin Merrill shares her weight loss experiences through 30 Bible devotions designed to inspire others to join her on her journey toward improved spiritual, and physical, health.


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Robin Merrill is the author of several books, including The Jesus Diet: How the Holy Spirit Coached Me to a 50-Pound Weight Loss (30 Devotions), two collections of poetry from Moon Pie Press, and five Scholastic Book Fair books. Her poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared in hundreds of publications, including The Cafe Review, Ledge Magazine, Margie, Pearl, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Stolen Island Review. Three of her poems have been featured on The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. She is a 2013 recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from St. Botolph Club Foundation of Boston. Robin is also a performance/slam poet who has competed at the national level. She has her MFA from Stonecoast and frequently leads creative writing workshops for writers of all levels.

Follow Robin Merrill

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Enter below to enter a $50 amazon gift card, sponsored by author Robin Merrill! a Rafflecopter giveaway This book blast is hosted by Crossreads. We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Love Exercise—Corinthians 13 in Action


Love your neighbors.
Pray for enemies.
Honor others.
Do good.

All through the Bible, I see thoughts on relationships and how we interact with each other. If we never had problems in these areas, the words of caution and admonition wouldn't be there. But, being humans, we do err. Sadly, sometimes.

Have you ever had a problem with someone? If you have . . .

I shouldn't say "if". All of us have had a problem or two (or a bunch) relating to someone. Perhaps, a friend said something stupid. A coworker caused trouble (sometimes life-changing problems). A relative hurt us, accidentally or on purpose. Or there's that "irregular person" in our lives. The one we struggle to get along with on a weekly, or even daily, basis.

Love means we have to forgive and be kind—even if.
Even if what? Even if we struggle to get along.

If we don't like someone, (that sounds awful, doesn't it?) what are we going to do with Jesus' words to love our neighbors? First, I'd better pray for him (and me too). With the Holy Spirit inside, He's the one loving through me. Love begets love. True love goes beyond natural feelings. It's a spiritual happening based on the change God is doing. He can do such a work that we don't even understand why we're suddenly feeling more loving toward that person.

There's an exercise I like to do to also change how I'm thinking about someone. "Be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2) I need to change opinions about the person who's annoying me. Yes, I must confess, I'm sharing from experience, but I won't go into detail. Instead . . .

Let's say Jan and Clyde moved in next door with two teenage sons. Wild boys, it seems. Ever since then, the neighborhood has been different. So much so, you're considering moving. Parties in the yard until all hours. Loud music. Fireworks. Things have been stolen. Suspicions are high. You've talked with Clyde, but he's oblivious. Jan is away, working, most of the time. The boys broke your front window with a football yesterday. Their dog's been doing his number two on your lawn. Get the picture?

Where does love fit in?

Love does more than stew over the problem, although our nature wants to do that. Love is more than ignoring the noise. (Although, earplugs might help.) Love looks beyond the physical annoyances and realizes the person next door, his eternity, matters more than all our stuff, all our preferences, all our comfort. Pride is usually the bad guy in these situations, but true love kicks pride out of the picture, makes us more humble, caring, kinder, thoughtful, etc. It gets us thinking differently.

Here's something that has helped me. I turn to the love chapter, I Corinthians 13, and if you're like me, this chapter makes you squirm in your chair over how you've been thinking about Jan and Clyde. In the midst of my discomfort, I take this powerful section in Scripture a step deeper. I insert Jan's and Clyde's names following the love actions. When I do this (and sometimes redo it) it radically transforms how I'm thinking about my irregular person.
  • "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love" for Clyde and Jan's sons, "I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."
  • "If I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love" for Clyde, "I am nothing."
  • "Love" for Jan "is patient, love" for Clyde "is kind."
  • "It (love) is not rude" toward Jan.
  • "Love" for my next door neighbors "never fails."

In fact, the verse goes on to state if I don't have love for these folks . . . prophecies will cease, tongues will be stilled, knowledge will pass away. Wow. Not loving has huge consequences. After all, "God is love." He's in us. Love is in us. How can we not love?

Love from the heart is sincere, it's able to love enemies, it's able to put our neighbor's needs before our own. Love does remarkable things in the face of adversity.

To tap into that mindset, the next time anger—or hate—rises up inside over a friend's wrongdoing, a frustrating neighbor, or a spouse you aren't getting along with, after you've prayed for him, insert the person's name into Corinthians 13. It will change something inside of you. I know it did for me.

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" for Jan and Clyde.