Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Just wanted to wish you all a Happy, Happy New Year! May this coming year be one in which you discover God's love for you in new and amazing ways. May His presence guide you and comfort you. May you grow in wisdom, increase in gratefulness, and know Jesus in deeper ways.
And along those lines, I offer you a prayer poem for the New Year:
by Marlo Schalesky
As a moth is drawn to light,
So am I drawn to You, my God.
Though the darkness presses in around me,
And my wings have wearied in the night,
Though I beat against unrelenting glass,
Still my heart longs for Your light.
I will keep flying, fluttering, straining
To be closer, closer, closer yet
To You, my desire, my life, my love,
Closer to Jesus, my Light.
Blessings and Wonder to you, my friends!
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
So, this year, I’m thinking about the memories I’m making now, for my kids, and for myself. I don’t want those memories to be ones of a Mom who’s running around with too much to do and too little time to do it. I don’t want them to be of hustle, bustle, shopping, wrapping, cooking, cards, and gifts thrown under the tree. I don’t even want them to be of the cool big-play-horse sets that my twins will unwrap on Christmas morning. Or the cheap baby "piano" for my youngest (who just turned one), or the horse "paint-by-number" sets for the older girls.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Merry Christmas! Below is a holiday home tour Christmas greeting I recorded just for you. Please click and enjoy a glimpse of my all-decorated-for-Christmas log home, and a greeting from my kids. Then see the note beneath for more holiday home greetings from other authors!
If you want to see holiday home greetings from more Christian authors, just click on the link below. I'm linking to author Amy Wallace at:
So, keep on clickin' to see Amy's greeting and get the link for the next author in the circle. Enjoy, and a very Merry Christmas to you!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
But her first charges test her resolve. One child is a thief, suspicious of her kindness. The other is the local judge's traumatized daughter. Broken by war, Judge Tyrone Hawkins is devastated when his little girl runs from him to Felicity. But Felicity's courage despite the town's scorn for her orphanage and her caring way with his daughter restore his lost faith. Now he wonders if they all can find the family they seek…just in time for Christmas.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
But, since I'm a writer, no experience is wasted. I know because Bethany was a year old at Christmastime too. Below is what I gleaned from that experience, and what I'm reminding myself of this year as we unpack the Christmas bulbs.
Here's how it happened all those years ago:
“Waaaaa!” came her frustrated cry. She pointed to the bulb, looked at me, then let out another indignant shriek.
“No, Bethany, you can’t have that,” I explained.
Her lower lip trembled. Great tears welled in her eyes and tumbled down her cheeks.
She pointed at the bulb again. “Ma-ma-ma-ma-maaaa…” she yelled.
“No,” I repeated. “It’s not for you.”
She pushed herself to a standing position, stomped her feet, and cried all the louder.
As I put Bethany on the floor to play with the stuffed reindeer, I wondered if God was also saying to me, “You’re not ready yet. Wait.” What if He was simply letting me “grow up” a bit before he gave me the good things that I wanted? If so, I needed to focus on growing in him, and trusting him to know what’s best for me in this particular place in my life.
These are sweet, easy to read stories that make great read-before-bed stories. I'm looking forward to giving my copies to the twins for Christmas. They'll love them. I highly recommend these two books great read-aloud stories that underscore God's love. (P.S. God Gave Us Love would be a great gift for a grandchild!)
In God Gave Us Love, Little Cub and Grampa Bear’s fishing adventure is interrupted by mischievous otters, and the young polar bear begins to ask questions like why must we love others . . . even the seemingly unlovable? Why is it easier to love those we like? Where does love come from? And why does God love her so much? Grampa Bear patiently addresses each one of Little Cub’s curiosities by explaining the different kinds of love we can share: the love between friends, the love between families, the love between moms and dads, and the love for God. He also assured Little Cub that because of the love God has given her through his Son, there’s nothing she can do to make God love her any more or any less. Through Grampa Bear’s encouraging Little Cub to love others with a “God-sized love,” children will be inspired to love others and to be patient, gentle and kind, so that in every way, they too can demonstrate God’s love.
The third book is Treasured by Leigh McLeroy. This one would also be a great grift, especially for anyone you know who's a collector. Here's more about it:
In Treasured, Leigh McLeroy considers tangible reminders of God’s active presence and guides readers in discovering evidence in their own lives of his attentive love.
“The idea for the book came from a cigar box filled with odds and ends of my grandfather’s life that arrived a few months after his death. Sifting through the objects in the box, I experienced him in a fresh new way. This made me wonder what treasures might be tucked away in Scripture that could frame God for me in an equally intimate, tangible way. This process also helped me uncover my own “treasures” of my walk with the Lord: objects that remind me of my history with him and his faithfulness to me,” says McLeroy.
Drawn from the pages of Scripture, the author considers twelve such treasures and personalizes their meaning for readers, such as a green olive branch that offers proof of God’s “new every morning” mercy and a scarlet cord that demonstrates his willingness to adopt “strays” of every sort.
Weaving these treasures together with scenes from her personal history, Leigh McLeroy invites readers to discover God’s heart for them and embrace their unique role in his redemptive story. Treasured offers readers a guided experience of God’s love and character and invites them to consider their own treasures that point to their part in God’s ongoing story.
Leigh McLeroy is the author of The Beautiful Ache and The Sacred Ordinary. An avid collector and recorder of everyday moments, words, and wonders, Leigh’s keen eye for God’s presence in ordinary life infuses her writing and living with a deep, insistent joy. A frequent conference and event speaker, the author makes her home in Houston, Texas, and posts often on http://www.leighmcleroy.com/ and http://www.wednesdaywords.com/.
Lisa Tawn Bergren is the award-winning author of nearly thirty titles, totaling more than 1.5 million books in print. She writes in a broad range of genres, from adult fiction to devotional. God Gave Us Love follows in Lisa’s classic tradition of the best-selling God Gave Us You. She lives in Colorado, with her husband, Tim, and their children, Olivia, Emma, and Jack.
Purchase these books at RandomHouse.com: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074815http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400074471http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400071753
Walk the streets and countryside of Monterey, California, with three couples who are surprised by love in the midst of their busy lives. Chad helps Felisa when she goes into labor in his lettuce field. Juli meets Alan while volunteering at a soup kitchen. Ross takes an overdue vacation at Alissa’s bed-and-breakfast. Can busy people slow down enough to realize the love God has brought into their lives?
Multi-award-winning novelist, Gail Gaymer Martin is the author of forty-three novels with three million books in print. Her novels have received seven national awards and was presented the Favorite Heartsong Presents Author Award for 2008. She writes for Steeple Hill, Barbour Publishing, and is the author of Writing the Christian Romance from Writers Digest. Gail is a co-founder of American Christian Fiction Writers and a popular keynote speaker and workshop presenter at conferences across the U.S. www.gailmartin.com.
Purchase the novel is bookstores everywhere or click this link to purchase on Amazon
from Steeple Hill Love Inspired
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Here's a little story that I like to share at Thanksgiving time. It comes from my husband, Bryan. Enjoy, and a very Wonder-Filled Thanksgiving to you!
Here ya go:
"Yum!" It was Thanksgiving day and I was in the kitchen, sneaking bits of turkey while no one was looking. To my ten-year-old mind, nothing could compare to Mom’s perfectly cooked turkey. I stuck my fingers into the warm juice and pulled off another piece. "Ahhh," I sighed and smiled. It was delicious. I glanced around then snatched another bite.
This is my favorite part of Thanksgiving, I thought, licking my fingers as the turkey juices dripped down my hand. I loved to sample the little pieces of turkey that fell to the bottom of the pan during cooking. It was like a special, tasty prize that made my mouth water just to think about it. I jammed a fourth piece of turkey into my mouth and rubbed my belly, enjoying the dual pleasures of taste and smell.
At my Sunday School three days later, Pastor Ron visited our class. He sat down on the stool in front and straightened his collar. His eyes swept over the students. "Let me tell you a story," he began. "There was a man named Joe. Joe spent his life doing stuff that was very bad. He drank. He gambled. He lived a wild life. He swore all the time and never went to church. When he ran out of money, he robbed a store and then continued his bad living. On his death bed, Joe knew he was going to die, so he begged God for forgiveness and decided to trust in Jesus. That night, Joe died and went to Heaven, the same as if he had loved and served God all his life. What do you think of that?"
"Hey, that's not fair!," I burst forth. My cheeks grew red with annoyance.
"No, it's not fair," he agreed. "Not fair to Joe.”
“To Joe?” I questioned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean it's not fair because Joe missed the greatest joys in life."
"But he was bad!” I exclaimed, sputtering in confusion. “If he could get into heaven, why should I bother to do what I’m told? I may as well go out and rob a store too!”
My Pastor smiled. “Do you really think so?”
I lowered my head and stared at my feet. Then, I shrugged my shoulders.
Pastor Ron cleared his throat.
I looked up at him again. His mouth was quirked in a strange half-grin.
"Tell me," he continued, "have you ever sneaked into the kitchen to taste a little bit of turkey before the Thanksgiving meal?"
I drew a quick breath and nodded my head. My eyes grew wide in shock. How had he known? I remembered back to my time in the kitchen just three days before. Yes, I knew very well what it was like to taste the turkey. It was great!
"Well," he said, glancing at the rest of the class, "that's just what it's like for you and me. All the time we spend serving God in this life is just like sneaking into the kitchen to taste the turkey. We get a little taste of heaven before the great banquet. Joe, on the other hand, doesn't get to taste the turkey in this life. He has to wait. Just think of all the fun he missed out on here in this life."
"Wow," I whispered, "I never thought of it like that.
Pastor Ron chuckled. "Now, every time you sneak a bit of turkey, you can think about the fact that every day you spend serving God is a little taste of heaven here on earth."
To this day, I still sneak my little bit of turkey before the Thanksgiving meal, and every time I thank God for another day spent in His love, tasting the turkey of Heaven.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Well, crazy week around here. Besides Jayna's broken arm and my substantive edits that are coming due, the whole family came down with some kind of awful flu bug. Being cooped up in the house with five sick kids with edits due hasn't been so much fun. But this morning as the twins were coughing and putting together a puzzle on the living room floor, I was reminded of a story when Joelle was putting together the same puzzle a few years ago. And that story reminded me that this piece of my life's puzzle (the one full of whiny kids and tissues and bottles of medicine) may not look so great, but even it fits into God's plan for the whole.
Anyway, I found the story encouraging and hope you will too. It went goes like this:
“No, Sweetie, that doesn’t go there.” I pointed my finger at the puzzle piece in my two-year-old daughter’s hand.
Joelle studied the bright piece and frowned. Vivid reds and pinks splashed over the cardboard surface. “Flower. Go dere.” She again pushed it into the open space along one side of the puzzle.
“It won’t fit. You’re not ready for that piece yet.”
“Fit. Go dere.” Her brows furrowed as she turned the piece sideways and tried again. Push, turn, shove, turn, stare, frown. And still the piece wouldn’t slide into place.
I tapped my fingers on the table and reached for the puzzle piece.
Joelle hid it against her chest.
I had to admit, it was a beautiful piece. Rose petals shone against the deep green background and created an enticing image of color. But no matter how hard Joelle tried, it wouldn’t fit into spot she had chosen for it.
I watched her struggle for a few more minutes, then searched through the pile for the right piece. I finally found it – a piece covered in shades of ugly brown with dark knobs for the tree trunk. “Here, love, try this one.” I handed her the picture of the brown trunk.
She looked at the piece in my hand, then at the pretty flowers in hers. She pushed my hand away. “No.”
I wiggled my fingers. “This is the one you need.”
“No.” She pointed at my hand. “Yucky.”
I looked down at the piece. She was right. It was yucky compared to the flowers. But it was the piece she needed at this time. The only one that would fit in order to make the picture complete.
The difference was that I had the whole picture in mind, the whole puzzle. She, only the piece in her hand. It took Joelle five full minutes to finally put down the flowered piece and try the one I was holding out to her.
Not that I blamed her. I prefer flowered pieces too. In the picture of my life, I’ve often tried to shove in the pretty piece – something that looks good, seems appealing. I want success in my career now. I want my relationships to be easy and comfortable. I want my children to always choose what’s right, and my health to be excellent.
But sometimes God holds out a piece that isn’t nearly so attractive. He calls me to a difficult task, to face failure or fear, to endure a painful situation, or to invest in a relationship that seems to bring only heartache. At those times, the piece He’s giving me looks brown, gnarled, and ugly when I want bright and beautiful.
And sometimes, I, too, want to hang on to my idea of how my life should be right now. Sometimes I want to force a pretty piece, one I like better, when God’s giving me the less attractive piece because in the end that’s the one that will make the picture of my life right.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” God tells the people of Israel in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV), “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And the same holds true for me. He knows the plans He has for me. His plans, not mine. Plans that take into account the whole picture of my life, the picture He is creating especially for me.
So today, as I watched my girls put puzzle pieces together, I was reminded that God knows all the pieces of my life, where they fit, and in what order they must be placed.
And when he hands me a piece that isn’t all flowers, I need to trust that He sees the whole picture, and one day that picture will be beautiful.
Monday, November 9, 2009
When she was 2 ½ years old she invited Jesus into her heart. I don’t think she really understood what that meant at the time. But I believe God honored her little prayer. He gave her a desire to know Jesus.
Over the next four years Joelle learned much more about God at home, at Sunday School, and Awana. We counted that she has memorized about 200 different Bible verses while she was a Cubbie and Sparkie.
When Joelle was 4 she started asking really interesting questions about God. Daddy had to get some wisdom to answer some of those questions.
In the last year I believe that Joelle began to claim her faith for her own. She really began to take ownership of her faith. It wasn’t just the faith of Mom and Dad anymore. It was Joelle’s faith. It wasn’t just Mom & Dad’s love for Jesus—it was Joelle’s love.
Over the last couple of months Joelle has been very excited about being baptized. She really wants to be able to share with all of you her love for Jesus and her commitment to follow him.
Questions he asked her, to which she answered with a resounding "YES!":
Do you believe he died for your sins and rose from the grave?
For those who haven't heard, one of my four-year-old twins, Jayna, broke her arm up near the shoulder on Friday night (by falling off a chair - not a very interesting way to break an arm, huh?). Here she is with it in a sling, and wrapped. She's feeling fairly good in the daytime, though nights are tough.
We were hoping to see the orthopedic doc today, but he's in surgery all day so we have to wait until tomorrow. We'll know a lot more, we hope, after we get in to the doc.
Yes, this is the same kid who cut her own hair ... twice, fell down the steps, splatted into a coat rack and got a black tooth, fell off her bike, and probably about ten other things just this year. Not the most careful pea in the pod! Very good natured little girl, though.
Anyway, all prayers welcome! I'll have to get another magazine article out of this experience, somehow (one good thing about being a writer - nothing's wasted!).
Meanwhile, I'm supposed to be doing my substantive edits on my next novel - ack!
Here's the new novel I have to tell you about this week. It's FIT TO BE TIED by Robin Lee Hatcher.
Here's a bit about it:
Who says a woman can’t do a man’s job?
Cleo Arlington dresses like a cowboy, is fearless and fun-loving, and can ride, rope, and wrangle a horse as well as any man. In 1916, however, those talents aren’t what most young women aspire to. But Cleo isn’t most women. Twenty-nine years old and single, Cleo loves life on her father’s Idaho ranch. Still, she hopes someday to marry and have children.
Enter Sherwood Statham, an English aristocrat whose father has sentenced him to a year of work in America to “straighten him out.” Sherwood, who expected a desk job at a posh spa, isn’t happy to be stuck on an Idaho ranch. And he has no idea how to handle Cleo, who’s been challenged with transforming this uptight playboy into a down-home cowboy.
Just about everything either of them says or does leaves the other, well, fit to be tied. And though Cleo believes God’s plan for her includes a husband, it couldn’t possibly be Sherwood Statham. Could it?
Best-selling novelist Robin Lee Hatcher is known for her heartwarming and emotionally charged stories of faith, courage, and love. She makes her home in Idaho where she enjoys spending time with her family and her high-maintenance Papillon, Poppet.
About FIT TO BE TIED, the Library Journal said: "A master of lively historical romances, Hatcher demonstrates an expert ability to craft spunky, unlikely heroines who go against the tide of the times in which they live, making for fun, exciting stories. She also pays close attention to historical detail. This second series entry (after A Vote of Confidence) is highly recommended for readers of inspirational and historical romances and women's fiction."
A Note from Robin
The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs series sprang from the question: Who says a woman can't do a man's job? And I can't fully express just how much fun I've had looking for the answer through the eyes of my heroines in this series. Although I have no favorites among the novels I've written (each were special to me at the time I wrote them), I do have some favorite characters. Cleo Arlington is one of them. I love her for her strong faith, for her quirky turns of phrase, for her confidence with horses and her lack of confidence with men, even for her impatience with Sherwood, the English aristocrat that she's supposed to turn into a cowboy. I've been so delighted that readers have taken her into their hearts the way they have. I hope you'll feel the same way about her.
Here is the trailer:
Here is the Amazon link:
Here is the Christianbook link:
And here is a link to an excerpt of FIT TO BE TIED:
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Ever wonder how your favorite novelist lives? Well, maybe you can find out this Christmas. I'm participating in a fun blog event where you can visit the homes of different novelists through short videos. Get a Christmas greeting, see how their homes are decorated, get an inside glimpse into the life of authors whose books you read (and discover some new authors). My house and video will be included. It all starts December 15th, right here on my blog. I can't wait - this will be lots of fun!
Here's a promo video which will tell you a bit about it:
And in the meantime, may God bless your week with His breathtaking wonder!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
2. Don't tell the person they're wrong. Being adversarial only causes resentment.
Finally, remember that Jesus, too, was criticized and condemned. But, "when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23 NIV). Criticism, and even injustice, are an opportunity to reflect the character of Christ.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Synopsis for The Sound of Sleigh Bells:
Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store, and serving as contact of sorts between Amish craftsmen and Englischers who want to sell the Plain people’s wares. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart everyday as she still wears the dark garb, indicating mourning of her fiancé. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children playing in the snow, something deep inside Beth’s soul responds and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work–including Lizzy’s dry goods store. But she doesn’t know if her bishop will approve of the gorgeous carving or deem it idolatry. Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after Lizzy hunts down Jonah, the artist, she is all the more determined that Beth meets this man with the hands that create healing art. But it’s not that simple–will Lizzy’s elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth the sleigh ride she’s always dreamed of and a second chance at real love–or just more heartbreak?
The Sound of Sleigh Bells is a heartwarming Christmas novella where lack and abundance inside an Amish community has power for good when it’s tucked inside love. Romantic Times gave The Sound of Sleigh Bells 4 ½ stars, saying ~ This is a wonderfully written, transformative story of two Amish families at Christmastime. It will bring sleigh-riding memories to life as readers vicariously join in this jolly and exciting holiday tradition.
To read the first chapter of The Sound of Sleigh Bells, go to: http://www.cindywoodsmall.com/books/sound-of-sleigh-bells_excerpt.php
To purchase through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Sound-Sleigh-Bells-Cindy-Woodsmall/dp/0307446530/ref=pd_ts_b_5?ie=UTF8&s=books
To purchase through CBD.com: http://www.christianbook.com/sound-sleigh-bells-cindy-woodsmall/9780307446534/pd/446534?event=HPF2
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week. It's White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner, and here's a bit about it, including an interview with the author:
Readers of emotional dramas that are willing to explore the lies that families tell each other for protection and comfort will enjoy White Picket Fences. The novel is ideal for those who appreciate exploring questions like: what type of honesty do children need from their parents, or how can one move beyond a past that isn’t acknowledged or understood? Is there hope and forgiveness for the tragedies of our past and a way to abundant grace?
The story in a nutshell:
When her black sheep brother disappears, Amanda Janvier eagerly takes in her sixteen year-old niece. Tally is practically an orphan: motherless, and living with a father who raises Tally wherever he lands– in a Buick, a pizza joint, a horse farm–and regularly takes off on wild schemes. Amanda envisions that she and her family can offer the girl stability and a shot at a “normal” life, even though their own storybook lives are about to crumble.
An Interview with Susan:
What led you to write White Picket Fences?
Several years ago I was a court-appointed advocate for children involved in protective services. There were times when I saw that despite the outward appearance of a less-than-perfect home, a child could be loved there. Just because a parent is unconventional or unsuccessful career-wise or makes choices that buck societal norms, it doesn’t mean that he or she is by default a “bad” parent. Likewise, parents who we would traditionally call “good” -meaning they provide, they protect, they don’t hit, they don’t ridicule - can nevertheless make decisions regarding their children that have hugely negative effects and yet their outward appearance would never lead anyone to suspect it. Even if you live behind a white picket fence, you still have to deal with the fallout of a living in a broken world. You can’t hide from it. The perfect, idyllic life is an illusion. Life is a weave of both delight and disappointment and it’s precisely these things that give it definition and depth. To ignore what is ugly is to cheapen what is beautiful.
You dovetailed a current day family drama with the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto. Why the connection?
I think it’s fair to say that the depth of the atrocities inflicted during the Holocaust wasn’t fully appreciated until after the war. There was ugliness happening, if you will, and much of the West failed to see it — for whatever reason. Within the horror, though, people made brave choices, selfless choices. And there were survivors who had to choose what they would take with them from the ashes of their suffering. I wanted to explore how a person makes that decision. Even the decision to pretend it never happened is a decision regarding those ashes.
What do you think interests you about the intersection of personal relationships and perceptions – a theme you wove into both The Shape of Mercy and White Picket Fences?
I see every great work of fiction being about human relationships. Gone With the Wind is so much more than just an epic story with the Civil War as a backdrop. It’s a story of human relationships. Scarlett and Ashley, Scarlett and Rhett, Scarlett and Melanie, Scarlett and her father. It’s within our closest relationships that our brightest virtues and worst flaws are exposed. That’s why there is such tremendous story value within intimate human relationships. We are at our best and our worst when we are responding and reacting to the people who shape who we are. Human history is the story of relationships and what they teach us about what we value. And what we don’t.
White Picket Fences is a different kind of novel than your acclaimed book, The Shape of Mercy, but there are some similarities too. Can you explain those?
As with The Shape of Mercy, there is a historical thread in White Picket Fences, though it is not as dominant. The invasion of Poland by the Nazis is woven into the story, and provides the backdrop for Chase’s and Tally’s discoveries about hope, dreams, and redemption. This thread is enhanced by visits to a nursing home where Chase and Tally meet a man blind from birth who survived the occupation of Poland. It is also a story that draws its pathos from family dynamics and the near-universal desire we have to make straight what is crooked. There are two young protagonists in White Picket Fences, like there was in The Shape of Mercy, as well as a third character, who, along with the two men in the nursing home, provide a similar multi-generational story thread.
What do you hope readers come away with after reading White Picket Fences?
The pivotal moment in the story for me is when Josef says to Chase: “[This] is what all survivors must decide. We have to decide how much we will choose to remember, how much courage we are willing to expend to do so.” It takes courage to acknowledge and remember what drove you to your knees or nearly killed you. If you choose to forget – and that’s assuming you actually can – then it seems to me you suffered for nothing. You are different but you don’t spend any time contemplating – or celebrating – how. I’d be happy if there was a takeaway for someone out there who needs to consider that.
Susan Meissner is the multi-published author of The Shape of Mercy, named one of the Best Books in 2008 by Publishers Weekly the ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year. She is also a speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. A devotee of purposeful pre-writing, Susan encourages workshop audiences to maximize writing time by mapping the writing journey and beginning from a place of intimate knowledge. She is the leader/moderator of a local writer's group, a pastor’s wife and the mother of four young adults. A native San Diegan, Susan attended Point Loma Nazarene University. When she's not writing, Susan directs the Small Groups and Connection Ministries program at The Church at Rancho Bernardo.
You can purchase White Picket Fences here:
And read an excerpt here:
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Yesterday it didn't just rain around here, the sky dumped buckets of water. I think we got about 5 inches. And with the rain we got leaks, pools, rivers, streams, ponds, and a lot of wet everywhere. Bryan spent the afternoon siphoning off a pool of water that was threatening the basement, while trying to keep the horses dry, their pens from flooding, and the temporary shelter we had made for one of them from collapsing. It was a crazy day.
But this morning, the sun is peeking through white clouds, the rain has stopped, and it's a new day. So, as I sat down at my computer this morning, in my rain-stained chair (yes, I had a leak in my skylight yesterday - right over my chair!), I remembered a story from back in my early days of infertility before we had any children. And as I recalled the story I was struck by the wonder of God's grace and mercy.
Back in those years, I wrote about infertility like this:
Infertility, I have found, is a journey, a monthly journey that swings between hope and disappointment, and rarely leaves me unchanged. It always starts the same, with that insidious whisper of hope. Could this be the month? Could I be pregnant? I feel a little pain and wonder if it means something. My stomach flutters, and I think that perhaps it’s morning sickness. I know I shouldn’t get my hopes up again, but I can’t help it. I count the days. Twenty-six, twenty-seven, twenty-eight. I hold my breath. Twenty-nine, I release it. Thirty. Two days late. Thirty-one. This is it! Thirty-two. The bleeding starts. My heart breaks. Again.
This month was no different. I sat on the edge of my bed and told myself not to cry. But I cried anyway. Great, raindrop-sized tears. I wrapped my arms around myself and looked out the window. Storm clouds gathered in the sky. I shivered, hating the weather, hating the tightness in my throat, the wetness on my cheeks. Every month it was the same, hope and disappointment chasing each other in countless loops along the path of my life.
The sound of a chair scraping against linoleum penetrated my senses. A dish clattered in the sink. I grabbed a tissue and tried to stifle my tears.
Footsteps echoed in the hallway. I sighed and opened the door. In a moment, my husband Bryan reached the bedroom. For a full minute, he stood in the doorway, not knowing if he should come in and try to comfort me, or just turn around and walk away. Our eyes met. He shook his head. “Not this month either, huh?”
I didn’t answer.
Slowly, he left the bedroom and ambled back to the kitchen. I returned to the bed and sat on the edge. My hand moved over the rough patchwork quilt made by my grandmother. An heirloom, something to be passed down from generation to generation. I frowned and reached for the sweater that was tossed across my pillow.
Then, something unusual happened. Something that didn’t happen the previous month, or the month before. A shaft of light, bright and warm, sliced through the clouds to illuminate a patchwork rose. I watched the light, then glanced up and out the window. There, in the distance, beyond the storm, a rainbow arched through the sky. Purple, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red, the colors stood in brilliant contrast to the grayness of the day.
I caught my breath and remembered a promise given thousands of years ago. A vow from Genesis 9:12-17 that it would not rain forever. God’s assurance of love, His guarantee that the sun will shine again.
I stood and rested my elbows on the windowsill. Outside it was still dark, still dreary. But in the distance, I saw a break in the clouds. There, the sun flickered through. And in that moment, I got a glimpse of the path of my life. As I live through the storm of infertility, the way is dark and full of tears. But somewhere out there, the rains will cease. Someday, all this will be behind me. God has promised me that much. God has promised that He will not leave me nor forsake me. He has promised me the rainbow.
So, I look to the future and learn to see this month’s disappointment against the backdrop of eternity. I tell myself to keep my eye, not on today’s pain, but on the goal of a life lived in a way worthy of Christ, who calls me His own. For I know that someday I will bask in the Son.
Today, as I look outside after yesterday's big rain and remember all the long years of infertility, I realize that the storm has passed at last. No more infertility treatments, no more months of checking, hoping, waiting. After twenty years, that's behind me. The rains really did end, the rainbow really did come.
So, I encourage you today, if you're in the midst of a storm, hang in there! The rain doesn't last forever. The sun will shine again.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Where do you worship? I was reading Psalm 100 this morning in my (too brief) personal time, and remembered some reflections I'd written a while ago. I'm considering these thoughts again this morning, thinking about the question: Where do you worship?
When I ask Christians that question, I always get the same answer – the church they attend on Sundays. And no wonder. On Sunday mornings we go to worship services, are called to worship by worship leaders, sing songs led by worship teams. In our culture, worship is what we do on Sunday mornings. Work is what we do the rest of the week.
But a closer look at Psalm 100 shows us that maybe that answer has it all wrong. Psalm 100:2-3 says:
2 Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his….
At first glance, these verses don’t seem to have anything to do with our work week. That is, until we realize the Hebrew word used for “worship” in verse two is the same word (abad) used in Exodus 20:9: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work …” It’s also often translated “serve.”
Consider the difference when we read Exodus 20:9 in that way: “Six days you shall worship, you shall serve, and do all your business . . .” Worship, then, is not just that thing we do in the church building on Sunday mornings. Worship is what we do in our business; it’s what we do the other six days of the week.
If worshipping God, serving Him, is for our workday, then how does that change how we go about doing our regular work? Again, Psalm 100 helps us to understand.
Verse two calls us to worship the Lord with gladness. What attitude do we bring to our work? Do we complain about it as if it’s a burden? Is our work something we just get through to make a few bucks? Or do we engage in our business with an attitude of joy and thankfulness? If work is worship, then our attitude needs to be one of gladness to serve.
Psalm 100 also calls us to come before His presence with singing. While our actual work situation may not allow us to literally sing, we can, at least, pay attention to what’s coming out of our mouths at work. If work is worship, then things like grumbling and gossip are out of place. Instead, our speech needs to be more like a song – filled with light and grace.
Verse three reminds us to know that the Lord is God and we are His. We are not the “god” of our workplace. When we manage others, interact with customers, deal with fellow workers in the workplace, we do it with humility knowing that God is the “big boss” and we are not.
In the end, Psalm 100 tells us that the Biblical view of worship is for everyday, for our work days. It’s not just a Sunday event. We do it with gladness, grace, and humility, knowing that we are worshipping our real boss in heaven.
And that is something I need to be reminded of in the busy-ness of today, and everyday!
Friday, October 2, 2009
"No! I don't wanna go!" Katy pushed out her lower lip and drew her eyebrows into a dark scowl. "I want Splash Mountain!" Her face wrinkled into a mask of stubborn fury.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Here's a fun Love Inspired book I wanted to tell you about this week. It's Soldier Daddy by Cheryl Wyatt. Here's a bit about it:
About the book
U.S. Air Force commander Aaron Petrowski leads pararescue teams, yet can't find one nanny for his three-year-old twins? The widowed father is returning to duty, but not without the best care for his beloved boys. So when Sarah Graham applies, the young woman surprises everyone by passing inspection. Until Aaron discovers Sarah has a secret tied to a tragedy in his past. He can't keep her in his employ—or in his heart. Until his brave little soldier boys teach him a thing or two about love.
About the Author
Born Valentine’s Day on a naval base, Cheryl Wyatt writes military romance. Her Steeple Hill debuts earned RT Top Picks plus #1 and #4 on eHarlequin's Top 10 Most-Blogged-About-Books, lists including NYT Bestsellers.
Soldier Daddy on Amazon
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Author: Randy Alcorn
Every one of us will experience suffering. Many of us are experiencing it now. As we have seen in recent years, evil is real in our world, present and close to each one of us.
In such difficult times, suffering and evil beg questions about God--Why would an all-good and all-powerful God create a world full of evil and suffering? And then, how can there be a God if suffering and evil exist?
These are ancient questions, but also modern ones as well. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and even former believers like Bart Ehrman answer the question simply: The existence of suffering and evil proves there is no God.
In this captivating new book, best-selling author Randy Alcorn challenges the logic of disbelief, and brings a fresh, realistic, and thoroughly biblical insight to the issues these important questions raise.
Alcorn offers insights from his conversations with men and women whose lives have been torn apart by suffering, and yet whose faith in God burns brighter than ever. He reveals the big picture of who God is and what God is doing in the world–now and forever. And he equips you to share your faith more clearly and genuinely in this world of pain and fear.
As he did in his best-selling book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn delves deep into a profound subject, and through compelling stories, provocative questions and answers, and keen biblical understanding, he brings assurance and hope to all.
Randy Alcorn is the founder and director of Eternal Perspectives Ministries and a bestselling author. His novels include Deadline, Dominion, Edge of Eternity, Lord Foulgrin’s Letters, The Ishbane Conspiracy, and the Gold Medallion winner, Safely Home. He has written eighteen nonfiction books as well, including Heaven, The Treasure Principle, The Purity Principle, and The Grace and Truth Paradox. Randy and his wife, Nanci, live in Oregon and have two married daughters and four grandsons.
Over the past few years, Terri's family has been in a tornado of relapses and rehabs, with one emergency after another, and grace upon grace. But through all this, God has taught her to pray as never before, and he's shown her how many other families are experiencing the same thing. He's also shown her that many blessings can come from crises such as this. Terri has tried to fold all of those experiences into this suspense novel of desperation and hope. She's also added a page to her web site: "Hope for Families of Addicts," (http://www.terriblackstock.com/hope-for-families-of-addicts/ ) which has tips on dealing with a loved one who has addictions.
Though the book is fiction, Terri poured much of herself into Barbara, the mother who's desperate to save her daughter. And Terri's own daughter has given her blessings for Terri to talk about this, in hopes of helping other hurting families and raise awareness about the perils of addiction. To see/hear Terri share her personal story about Intervention, don't miss her interviews on American Family Radio's "Today's Issues" on September 24, Moody Radio's "Chris Fabry Live on September 25, and "The 700 Club" on September 29.
In Stores Everywhere September 22nd--
It was her last hope—and the beginning of a new nightmare.
Barbara Covington has one more chance to save her daughter from a devastating addiction, by staging an intervention. But when eighteen-year-old Emily disappears on the way to drug treatment—and her interventionist is found dead at the airport—Barbara enters her darkest nightmare of all.
Barbara and her son set out to find Emily before Detective Kent Harlan arrests her for a crime he is sure she committed. Fearing for Emily’s life, Barbara maintains her daughter’s innocence. But does she really know her anymore? Meanwhile, Kent has questions of his own. His gut tells him that this is a case of an addict killing for drugs, but as he gets to know Barbara, he begins to hope he’s wrong about Emily.
The mysteries intensify as everyone’s panic grows: Did Emily’s obsession with drugs lead her to commit murder—or is she another victim of a cold-blooded killer?
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I've been thinking this week about how easy it is to be annoyed with people, to dislike, to criticize, to accuse. But God calls us to love. So, how do we love the irritating? In pondering that question, I was reminded of an story I shared a few years ago, and the things I learned from it. It was a good reminder for me, and I hope you'll find it interesting too. Here's what happened and what I learned:
"Love one another" -- it sounds so simple! So, why is it so hard? Let's face it. People are difficult to love. They whine, complain, they rarely listen. And what about all those annoying little habits? No matter how much of a "people person" we may be, there are still those who really get under our skin. For me, Pam was just such a person.
She sat across from me on the trolley at the company outing. A harmless honeybee buzzed down the aisle, and she screamed. I barely stopped myself from rolling my eyes in disgust. Back at work, another person disagreed with her, and she pouted for the rest of the day. Later she complained loudly about the temperature in the office, even though the rest of us were comfortable. In short, everything about her rubbed me the wrong way.
Yet, no matter how much she annoyed me, God kept thrusting us together. And all the time His words nagged at the back of my mind, "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." (1 John 4:20 NIV)
Yikes! Hard words. It wasn't that I hated Pam, but I certainly didn't love her either. How did Jesus love the less than loveable? During His earthly ministry, He was surrounded with annoying people, not the least of which was Peter. Impulsive, emotional, always speaking at the wrong time, Peter would have been a challenge for anyone. Peter was not so different from Pam. Yet Jesus saw more in Peter than his actions warranted. Could I see Pam the way Jesus saw Peter?
STEP ONE: FIND A GOOD NAME
What's in a name? In the gospels, Simon Peter resembles more the shifting sand than a firm, immovable rock. Yet, early in their relationship, Jesus renames Simon, saying "And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18 NIV) Somehow, Jesus saw past Peter's present faults and shortcomings and found the seed of who Peter would become under the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Then, Jesus chose to address Peter as if he had already become the rock.
What would I call Pam if I saw what she could become under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit? In my mind, I had been calling her "annoyer" and "petty complainer," but what did God see? As I prayed for God to show me one good quality, I began to see that her bothersome habits were partially the result of a sensitive spirit. With God's grace, that sensitivity could be transformed into a Christ-like compassion. So, every time I saw her I began to silently call her "compassion" and think of her as such. With her new 'name' firmly in my mind, I started watching for the glimmer of compassion I knew was in her. Soon, I found myself seeking out her company, and even beginning a real friendship.
STEP TWO: GET BEYOND FAULTS
As I schooled myself to see Pam as ‘compassion,’ my next task was to learn to see beyond her faults and affirm her potential. Again, I thought of Peter.
I can almost see the scene as they reclined around the table, still scattered with bits of the Passover meal. Twelve disciples, grasping for their fair share, arguing about who was the greatest. And there was Peter, fiercely asserting that he was greater than all the others. But Jesus knew better. Everything that was wrong with Peter would soon come to the forefront when he would deny Jesus three times. But even in the acknowledgement of Peter's imminent failure, Jesus still saw the future "rock" in Peter. In Luke 22:32 (NIV), He says, "But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." Jesus didn't say, "Simon, you are such a wishy-washing, impulsive, emotional disciple that you won't even have the backbone to stand by me when I need you the most," (even though that may have been true!). Instead, Jesus prayed that Peter's faith, despite his failure, would become strong and rock-like. Then, Jesus looked beyond Peter's faults and affirmed his potential -- 'Peter, despite your failure, you'll turn back. Then, be a rock to your brothers.'
Could I look beyond Pam's faults and affirm her potential too? For me, it was so natural to dwell on what was wrong with Pam, to constantly ask, "What's the matter with her?," or "Why does she have to act like that?," until I could see nothing else. Even one such thought would poison my interaction with her, dispelling God's love just as surely as if I decided to hate her after all.
I needed to control my thoughts about Pam. As Paul says, "we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV) To control my thoughts, especially when she was the most irritating, I began to pray for her to become "compassion," just as Jesus prayed for Peter. For example, when she started to whine about another employee, I tried to squelch my exasperation and instead pray that God would give her understanding. Then, when she was kind to another employee, I tried to make sure that I commented on it. When she was helpful, I took the time to express my appreciation.
Choosing affirmation rather than criticizing began to cause small changes in Pam. Soon, she was complaining less and spending more time trying to be helpful. One day, she stopped me in the hall and asked, "What do you see in me, anyway?"
It was the opportunity I had been waiting for. "I see someone who God loves," I said, "And I see the neat qualities He's placed in you. I wonder, will you let Him make you into the person that both He and I see you could be?"
STEP THREE: FOCUS ON THE FUTURE
In Luke 22:31-38 (NIV), after Jesus' resurrection, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. When Peter says yes, Jesus says "Feed my sheep." In this scene, Jesus forgives Peter's past failure and commissions him to become the man that He has seen all along.
Like Jesus, I needed to focus on Pam’s future and help her to become God's vision of her. Instead of saying, "Why don't you do this or that?," I began saying things like, "Mary's having a hard day, let's sit with her at lunch and try to make her feel better," and, "Thank you for telling me about Mike's troubles. How do you think we can help him?" When she complained about the temperature, I would say, "I'm glad you brought that up, let's see how others feel." I was asking her, in a subtle way, and with my help, to be compassionate to others.
These days, Pam sometimes still screams at honeybees, and she still likes the thermostat turned too high. But, she's learning to see herself through God's eyes, and to trust Him to make her into His dream for her. Perhaps someday she'll be like Peter, with a solid, rock-like faith, and the compassion of Christ Himself. And in the meantime, I am learning, little by little, to love her like Jesus loves her.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Here's the new book I have to tell you about this week. It's FINAL EXPOSURE by Roxanne Rustand. Here's a bit about it:
Safety. Serenity. That’s what Jack Matthews wants, and what he seeks in Lost Falls, Montana. A quiet retreat is just what Jack and his orphaned nephew, Max, need—especially with gentle, beautiful Erin Cole as their host. But when sirens in the night leave Max screaming, Jack’s faced with the harsh truth. They’re not safe—not him, not Max and especially not Erin. What is she hiding? What does the shadowy figure stalking her want? And how much will Jack have to risk to keep her safe?
Something new for Roxanne is her blog: ”All Creatures Great and Small Place.”
The name came from the lyrics of “All Things Bright and Beautiful,”
a Cecil Alexander hymn written in 1848. If you love animals, this is the place to visit–where authors and writers can share stories (both poignant and fun) about their pets. Roxanne lives on acreage in Iowa and has horses, dogs, cats, and welcomes strays too often!
You’ll also find periodic additions to “The Old Horse Trader Tales”–true stories about the adventures (and misadventures!) of a horse trader during the 1930’s -1980’s. She wrote them as feature articles for a magazine about fifteen years ago, and looks forward to sharing all of the nostalgic stories about this charming old man.
Find her at: http://www.roxannerustand.com/
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Bryan and I stood at the edge of the community pool and watched the water lap into the gutters. Two teenagers splashed at the far end while an old man slowly made his way back and forth in the far lane.