Thursday, January 31, 2013

Books & Writing -- The Call


When I first started creating stories it was just a hobby. I never dreamed it would be anything more. But after being side-lined by an auto accident, God gave me a new vision, a new way to serve Him through the gift of writing. Though I didn’t fully understand what I was saying yes to, I was committed to the call. God threw open every door, and it was clear that writing novels was part of His plan for me. I vowed to remain faithful to the call until and if He led me elsewhere.

Recently, I’ve heard a lot of writers talk about weariness of spirit. The job of writing (which is huge) along with discouragement and the general difficulties of life are wringing the energy and joy from their lives. Writers work hard. Not only do we create stories, but there can be mountains of research to do before we can even begin. And the editing process can feel endless. Plus there’s marketing, which begins long before we’ve completed a book. It eats up huge chunks of our time.

For a lot of us what is required is more difficult than we’d imagined. I’ve heard many voice thoughts of walking away. I’ve been there myself a time or two. Each time the Holy Spirit calls me back, reminding me of what God asked me to do and of the vow I made to Him. Ultimately my spirit is refreshed and I continue this unpredictable adventure.

God has a purpose in choosing the paths He places us on. We each have a journey and commission chosen by Him. If we decide to walk away we lose something precious—God’s best.

 When we set out on this writing quest did we really believe it would be easy? If you’re new to the world of writing get ready to be surprised by its joys and its sorrows. And if you’ve been traveling this road for a while, I pray you’ll hold fast to the dream, remembering God has a bigger picture in mind—it’s not about sales numbers, awards won or achieving fame. It’s about doing what we love and doing it with intention. It can be a tough road, but it’s also full of fun, discovery and remarkable people. And I know no greater sense of accomplishment than writing “The End” when I’ve completed a novel.

Expect rough patches, dry places where we thirst and valleys so dark we fear passing through them. Troubles can throw us off track, but there is always a way back—reach out for God’s helping hand. He is close and will set us back on our feet.

I’m grateful that I get to write. Despite poor wages and long hours, it’s fantastic fun to create characters and leap into their stories. And what a blessing it is to do something with my life that makes a positive difference in the world. I’ve received many letters thanking me and my characters for being an encouragement or helping someone find their way—some who discover Jesus for the first time.

 When we find ourselves worn out or uncertain remember God is our Father.  Seek Him. Talk with Him. Rest in Him. Lay your troubles, your disillusionment, your fatigue and sorrow at His feet. He will reach out with love, mercy and wisdom. His strength will lift us up and once again help us see the path laid out for us and know the joy of serving others.

Sometimes we need rest. Don’t push forward when God says stop. Resting is not deserting our call. We must be wise stewards of the gifts we've been given. If we keep going when God says stop, we’re working in our strength not His, which is no strength at all.

May you find joy in service. Turn your hearts toward Christ. And remember that as writers we have the privilege of glorifying God through our gifts. No matter how difficult it may seem don’t miss God’s best.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Monday, January 28, 2013

Quiet Moments With God -- Only He Knows

During my quiet time this morning, the Lord spoke to me gently, leading me as he always does closer to Himself. Though I seek after Him, often times He's not the first one I go to when I'm in need or when I'm fearful--when I'm ill--when I'm confused. I am too quick to seek out the support and counsel of a friend or family member, and God becomes an afterthought. Seeing the truth here on the page makes me cringe. even though I believe it is a weakness common to mankind.

Years ago, while enduring a great hardship and bravely clinging to the Lord, my sister said, "Sometimes I just need someone with skin." 

That is a truth. Sometimes a person with a loving heart and open arms is just what we need. But people can't always be there for us. And no matter what the circumstance, we always need the Lord. And we need Him first.

He's the only one who truly knows our heart, our suffering, our need. No  man can know absolutely. Psalm 139:1-4 says, "O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord."

And Psalm 6:7-9 says, "My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies. Go away, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer."

And so knowing that God speaks only truth I am left with this question -- "Why do we go to men when we have God?" 

He knows us completely. He is the only one who is always there for us. He's the only one who listens and hears our every word. He is the only one who will never let us down.

If we seek God first, our life will be better. In Him there is wisdom, knowledge and peace.

Why do you think we stumble along on our own, leaving God out? Is it unbelief? Could it be rebellion? Maybe we don't really want to know the answer? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Thoughts For Today -- Beauty

What is beauty?

We exclaim over a panoramic mountain view, a blazing orange sunset or a river blasting its way through a mountain ravine. We have nothing at stake, we either love what we see or we don't.

All that changes when we measure human beauty. Then it becomes personal.

We each have our own idea of what a beautiful person looks like. However, there are some general societal guidelines. We admire symmetrical faces, large eyes and we consider a slender body to be more appealing than one that is fluffy. 

We know there are no perfect human beings, yet we are quick to find fault in ourselves or in others. What happens to those who are born with what society deems to be unattractive features?

Because we set dispassionate standards there are children, teens and adults who look in the mirror each day and see something they don't like, something they fear will make them unacceptable to society. Their nose is too big, eyes too small, hair too thin. And there are so many teens and pre-teens who are afraid to eat because they might get fat.

My family is no different. We struggle with the same issues.

Yesterday, my oldest daughter, Kristi, was about to knock down one of those issues. She stepped into the oral surgeons office with some trepidation even though the surgery was something she'd looked forward to for many months with anticipation. It would be the day she got her smile back.

When Kristi was a baby she contracted spinal meningitis and waged a ferocious battle for her life. She was the victor, but she went on with some long-lasting damage to her body. One issue we were unaware of was her teeth.  Due to the damage done when she was an infant, she's been losing teeth over the last couple of years. Her "imperfection" became severe enough that going out in public became a painful experience. She was embarrassed and though she's one who smiles easily, she worked hard to keep her smile in check out of embarrassment.

Kristina with her new smile.
Yesterday, she got her smile back. We're all thankful and it's wonderful to see her smile with confidence once more.

I'm rejoicing. I know what it feels like to be different. I lived with a severe speech impediment as a child, and we all know how cruel children can be. As an adult, I've struggled with my weight. Several years ago, I lost a good deal of my extra poundage and was startled at how differently people treated me--they were kinder and more respectful. They listened more attentively. I was seen as being more "acceptable".

That's not okay.

People (myself included) make judgments about others every day. It's not right. But it's life.  We make decisions about a person because of the way he is dressed, or how he looks. We even  make assessments according to what kind of car someone drives. It's time we changed our thinking. One look tells us nothing, really. We don't know the person's story. We don't know who they are. And the truth is, that no matter what the story may be, who are we to judge? God created each of us. And He loves us equally.

Let's try to withhold judgements. Let's try to be kind and respectful. And let's love one another. Let's contribute to making the world a safe place so we can each step out into our communities without feeling embarrassed or fearful.

After all, only God knows a man's heart. He is the only one with the right to judge.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Books & Writing -- We Have a Winner!

It was fun to have my writing cohort Sarah Sundin here on Books & Writing last week. I love her books! Thanks to all who stopped in and left comments.  

Congratulations to Maxie! You've won a copy of With Every Letter! Sarah will be contacting you soon.

Be watching for my next guest and the next book giveaway.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Monday, January 21, 2013

Quiet Moments With God -- Listening & Waiting

Good morning.

My day started early. Uncharacteristically, I woke at 4:30 AM. With my mind and heart full. I finally climbed out of bed at 5:15. Some days are just meant to begin early.

God was speaking to me. That's why I'm up. I tried to shut out His voice. I wanted to sleep. That sounds awful, I know, but I am SO human. But here I am, working out what God had to say to me. Often times, working on my blog posts is a place where I wrestle with God or try to get whatever it is that He's saying to me.

This morning when I woke up, my mind went directly to some new and exciting plans that I have. But as I thought on them I realized that I really hadn't spent much time talking to God about MY plans. The joy and anticipation of them had swept over me before He and I could talk about whether or not they were something He wanted. Again, I had decided to step out on my own.

I have a familiar sense that I may be going off half-cocked, which was brought home to me when I went to God's Word for direction and my Bible "just happened" to be open to Proverbs 2, which says, "My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasure. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God."

And so I am doing my best to "tune in". The ideas I have are not necessarily bad ones, but the question is are they what God wants for me, right now? I can't know that for sure until I've taken some time . . . to listen. So now, I'm taking a deep breath, stepping back, rethinking and praying. And then I will wait . . . on Him.

There are things that I can do in preparation, steps that can be taken. But I'm not going to dash off down the path I've set, not until I know that its the same path God has chosen for me.

I do know that no matter where He leads I can count on surprises and adventure.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Friday, January 18, 2013

Thoughts For Today -- Purpose

Me, first thing in the morning.

I took this photo to make a point. I'm no one special. I'm just a round, sixty-one-year-old woman who takes a long time to wake up and begin her day. However, like most people, I crave purpose. I need a reason for living. Where do I find it? How do I know if I even have a purpose?

God tells me He had a reason to create me, a path that is mine alone to walk. I trust Him. But, there are days when I feel pretty close to worthless. Times when I'm weary and in pain and I mostly just try to make it through the day--times when I don't feel motivated to do much of anything. And I know that as I grow older the weariness will become more intense and very likely so will my pain. When I can do little more than sit and chat, what will my purpose be then?

And then I remember my life. I have had an incredible time, filled with family and friends and service to my Lord. There has been music, joy and worship. Laughter, tears and troubles. But . . .





I've been given a beautiful calling. I'm valuable, for God has given me purpose. When I am old and feeble and my vision becomes dim, I am still me and the meaning of life will continue to embrace me. Memories will warm my heart and I will delight in the heritage I received and then . . . gave to others.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Books & Writing -- A Chat With Sarah Sundin

Welcome Sarah Sundin!

I'm thrilled to have the tenacious and talented Sarah Sundin with us today. It has been my privilege to work with Sarah, the last few years, as one of her critique partners. It is my pleasure to introduce her to you.

Sarah is the author of With Every Letter, as well as the Wings of Glory series--A Distant Melody, A Memory Between Us, and Blue Skies Tomorrow. She lives in northern California with her husband and three children, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school.

Goodness, Sarah, you are busy. I marvel at you.

Can you tell us a little about how you became a writer?

I didn't plan to become a writer. Although I always loved reading, I majored in chemistry and became a pharmacist. But in 2000, I woke up one morning from a dream with such compelling characters that I had to write their story. And I did--very badly. I wrote one more bad novel, then joined a writers group and started attending writers conferences. The third book I wrote became my first published novel, A Distant Melody.

A chemistry major turned author -- amazing transformation. I love the unexpected turns of life.

Thus far the books you've written take place during World War II. How did you came to write about this era?

I've always been drawn to that era. My grandfather served as a Navy medic in the Pacific, and my great-uncle was a B-17 pilot. Their stories--plus those from my grandmothers on the Home Front--always intrigued me. I love how ordinary men learned they could do extraordinary things, and how women explored new roles--while remaining ladies.

I see that in your novels--the truth and reality of real life and the people who fought for our country during the time period come through with clarity. And the scenes that take place in the B-17's are among the best I've ever read. You always plant me right there in the midst of battle.

What a stunning cover. Can you share a little about your most recent release, With Every Letter?

With Every Letter is the first book in the Wings of the Nightingale series, which follows three World War II flight nurses who discover love, friendship, and peril in the skies and on the shores of the Mediterranean. In With Every Letter, shy nurse Mellie Blake begins an anonymous correspondence (like in You've Got Mail) with Army engineer Lt. Tom MacGilliver, who longs to escape the legacy of his infamous father. When they're both transferred to Algeria, will their future be held hostage by the past--or will they reveal their identities?

     Here's a peek at the back cover: 

Lt. Mellie Blake is looking forward to beginning her training as a flight nurse. She is not looking forward writing a letter to a man she's never met--even if it is anonymous and part of a morale-building program. Lt. Tom MacGillliver , an officer stationed in North Africa, welcomes the idea of an anonymous correspondence--he's been trying to escape his infamous name for years. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship, despite not knowing the other's true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face-to-face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage by their pasts?   

 I loved this story. Well done, Sarah! 

What do you love most about writing? Least?

I love writing dialogue, and I really love getting to know my characters. But plotting is difficult for me--it often feels like a smackdown wrestling match.

I can relate. I've had a few of those smackdown matches myself.  : )

When you have time to play, what is your favorite thing to do?

I like to explore and see new things. I've always loved to travel, but a hike at the local regional park is lovely too.

I know you made a trip to Europe in 2011, can you share some of the highlights?

The Sundins at the Colosseum in Rome
It was a wonderful trip. We spent one week in southern France and one week in Italy. We had days at the beach and saw the tourist spots--Rome, Pompeii, Florence , the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But I also did research for the Wings of the Nightingale series. We walked through Greek ruins at Paestum, where the Americans landed for the invasion at Salerno. We spent a day at Anzio and found a delightful little museum about Anzio in World War II that wasn't in any of the guidebooks. We also got remarkably close to the airfield at Istres-le-Tube' near Marseille where the flight nurses were based--and is an active airbase today.

Your time in France and Italy was an asset to the book, making the scenes come to life.

So, what are you working on now? And do you have a project that is waiting in the wings?

On Distant Shores, the second book in the Wings of the Nightingale series, is going through the publisher's edits and will be released in August 2013. I'm currently writing the rough draft of the third book, which is a lot of fun. I'm also working on a proposal for another potential series.

I'm waiting expectantly for Wings of the Nightingale. August seems so far away.

Where can readers find you on the web?


Sarah is offering a free copy of her new book, With Every Letter. For a chance to win all you need to do is leave a comment along with your email address. I will be drawing a winner one week from today.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Quiet Moments With God -- Discipleship

I love church. I love gathering with other believers. I love corporate worship. And I love being uplifted and challenged by God's Word.

While  listening to yesterday's Sunday sermon, the Holy Spirit spoke to my spirit. Quickly I scribbled down notes so I wouldn't forget.

I was strongly convicted about discipleship, specifically what my role should be as a disciple. What am I supposed to be doing for the Lord? Am I already doing it? Should I do more?

I don't have all the answers, but I do know that I am to be a disciple. Christ made it clear in Matthew 28:18-20 that being a disciples is NOT optional.

Jesus came and told his disciples, "I have been given all authority in 
heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, 
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. and be sure of this
I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Matthew 28: 18-20

These were Jesus final words to his followers before he ascended into heaven. If I were leaving my loved ones for a very long time I would speak of what was most crucial. My final words would be of great import.

And so . . . I ponder. When Christ gave the Great Commission that we are to make disciples, what did He mean for me to do? I wrestle with this. Am I living in a way that makes a difference for Christ? Am I leading others to Him and helping them grow in knowledge and wisdom? I do a lot through my writing, but is that all I'm called to do?

During the election season I felt convicted to do more as a conservative--speak out politically. But when I look back, though it may be just what I was supposed to do, it's not really discipleship. A good cause is good, but if it doesn't help others grow in the Lord, then it is simply a good deed and hopefully helpful.

How can true change that is long-lasting be brought about by arguing issues? Transformation begins in the heart, brought about by the spirit of truth. I'm not against practicality. I believe God is practical. But, I'm also convinced that unless we get to the root of a problem there can be no true change, no restoration. 

I am not saying that we shouldn't be practical, and involved wherever we feel called--after all, what good is Godly words to a man starving for bread. Feed him, but do it with God's love and grace. And don't move on to the next project too quickly. Tarry a while, long enough to lay down foundations that will help uphold a new-found faith and launch a disciple on his journey with the Lord.

The world is filled with all sorts of opportunities for discipleship. What can you do that will make a difference in this world?

I would love to hear what you're doing for God.. Hearing your stories may well give me new ideas and they will certainly uplift my spirits.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Books and Writing -- We have a winner.

AND THE WINNER IS . . . Wendy Newcomb.  

Thank you all for stopping in. And thank you Rosslyn for being a part of Books and Writing.

Wendy, you'll be hearing from Rosslyn soon. Congratulations!

Readers, be watching for more book giveaways and fun interviews with more spectacular authors. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Books & Writing -- Rosslyn Elliott

Rosslyn Elliott is one of my favorite authors. Her books are stunning works of art. If you haven't read one, now is a good time to start. You can begin with her new release, Lovelier Than Daylight, which is the third book in The Saddler's Legacy series. You might want to begin at the beginning with book one, Fairer Than Morning, an exquisite debut novel.

Rosslyn has graciously agreed to share an excerpt from Lovelier Than Daylight.


Chapter One

Ohio, 1875

Tall grass and wildflowers blocked her view and stranded her in the middle of the meadow. Susanna’s arms prickled as if someone watched her—but surely no one else was out here in the country, on this June morning already hot and breathless.
     Scores of fleabane daisies studded the wall of grass like flat yellow eyes, unblinking. The heavy air pressed from all sides, its stillness broken only by the hum of a wasp that circled above her head.
     Her sister needed her. She must get to the farmhouse as soon as she could. She gripped the handle of her heavy valise with both hands and pushed through the grass, peering for marks of passage to keep her on the overgrown path. Her back grew warm under her bustled polonaise and corset, and her petticoat dampened beneath her skirt. She wanted to lift her curls away from her neck and fan herself, but she trudged on. At least her straw hat kept the sun out of her eyes.
     This summer refused to relent, with its constant liquid heat, harsh as the burn of whiskey on the tongue. Susanna had tasted a sip of whiskey once, at her father’s request. He wanted her to know its flavor so curiosity could never tempt her, even though she promised him drink held no allure for her. Whiskey had done more than enough harm already.
     She would not think of that. She was here to bring companionship and merriment to her sister and her children before she headed off to college in Westerville.
     In her valise she had a surprise that would entertain them for hours—layers and layers of thin paper in seven colors. With it she would show her nieces and nephews how to make something wondrous, exact replicas of the flowers in her botany book. She could not wait to see the joy of creation ease their cares, at least for the few days she was with them. A smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. The children would crowd around and ask with bright eyes what was in her valise—they knew there would always be a surprise. She only wished she could give them more.
     A brick chimney poked above the grass, which finally opened to a clearing. Her sister’s house squatted ahead with its familiar, peeling white planks. Rusted farm tools lay by its walls, and the fields beyond bore only a sparse cover of wilting corn. But any neglect was not Rachel’s fault. With a lazy husband and six little ones to feed, Rachel could not go out in the fields and do everything herself.
     Susanna hurried forward, her shoulders aching from the pull of the valise.
     Why hadn’t the children come out to greet her? Clara or Wesley should be out doing their chores, even if the little ones stayed inside.
     She stopped. Something had happened to the flowerbeds. The blooms lay crushed and browned along the foundation of the house. Her throat knotted—Rachel must be so sad. The only color and luxury at the home had come from the flowers she had so patiently watered and weeded. All dead now.
     She set her luggage at the bottom of the stoop, climbed up and knocked. No answer. She laid a tentative hand on the knob and pushed the door open a crack. “Rachel?” Her call sank into eerie silence. Her stomach hollowed and she gripped the knob tighter. She eased the door open. The small parlor with its threadbare furniture was empty.
     A few steps took her into the dim hallway and back to the bedroom. No one was there. The sheets were rumpled, the quilt hung on the floor, and the baby’s cradle was empty. Something was wrong—her breathing quickened.
     No, she must not panic. Perhaps her nieces and nephews were upstairs, caring for Rachel there. In her most recent letter, she’d mentioned having a mild fever. If she were still feverish, Clara and Wesley would be caring for her, as their father would be of little help.
The motionless, musty heat of the house gave her a queasy feeling, but she climbed the narrow stairs in the hall anyway. There were two bedrooms upstairs, one for the two older boys and one for the three girls.
     “Clara?” she said into the stillness. Both bedroom doors were open, and an unpleasant odor seeped out. A cold flutter started in her chest. She pulled her handkerchief from her skirt pocket and steeled herself to step up to the doorway. It was too quiet. Clutching the handkerchief to her nose, she edged forward.
     The room was in shambles, and vacant. The odor came from a few soiled diapers strewn across the floor with flies creeping over them. An old quilt lay in a heap on the bed, as if the children had been playing with it. This was not like Rachel at all. Difficult as her circumstances might be, she had always kept her home clean and orderly. Susanna tried to swallow but her mouth was paper dry.

What a fabulous beginning! I can't wait to read the rest of the book. How about you? Rosslyn is offering a FREE COPY to one reader. All you have to do is leave a comment along with your email address and I'll draw the winner's name one week from today. 

Rosslyn Elliott is the child of a career military man. She lived in four states and two foreign countries before she graduated from high school. She attended Yale University, where she earned her BA in English and Theater Studies. Five years later, after a stint as a high school teacher, she entered the Ph D program at Emory University and finished her dissertation in 2006. Her study of American literature spurred her to pursue her lifelong dream of writing fiction.

Rosslyn lives with her husband and daughter in the southern United States, where they all enjoy playing with their dogs and working with their horses.

If you'd like to learn more about Rosslyn and her books please stop in at her website at