Friday, August 30, 2013

The Journey - Family & Summer Fun

Families are messy. Sibling rivalry can linger into adulthood and there's plenty of that squabbling going on between youngsters. Brothers, sisters, mothers and daughters let one another down . . . sometimes. We worry and sometimes we argue. We may or may not agree on religion or politics. And the array of interests can be vast. But . . . I can't imagine life without my family. 

Family makes my life sweeter.

There was a lot of sibling rivaly in my home when I was growing up. There were five of us kids and we knew how to squabble. I'm glad to say we've grown out of that . . . mostly. We do let one another down from time to time, but always if one of us is facing something really tough we can count on each other. And yep, we worry about each other and we even argue, but not often. We have varied opinions about religion and politics and occasionally wander into emotional land mines. Mostly we've agreed to disagree and live in a comfortable truce. As to our passions, I see our wide variety of interests as a plus.

I'm feeling sad today because my sister, who has been visiting from Alaska, headed home. I miss her already. We spent lots of good time together. She even taught me how to make pickles. In all my sixty-one years I've never made them. Now I know how. Thanks Myrn. More pickles on the way! 

This summer has been extra special with lots of family time.

We had birthday parties and family gatherings.

Roamed the beach town of Bandon.

There was music in the house again.

And treasures discovered at garage sales.

A new puppy joined our family.

And a new baby!

We made a trip to the butterfly pavilion.

And the men fell some trees.

Greg and I celebrated our 42nd anniversary with friends.

And there's so much more, but there's not time or space here to share. Thankfully, my mind is filled with lots of new memories. Yay!

My family blesses me. Their love warms my heart.

Family's don't have to be perfect(perfect families don't exist anyway) to be beautiful. We cheer each other on in good times and bad. We pray together, laugh and cry together. We remember years gone by . . .together. For me, life is about family.

Whether your family is large or small or made up of people you've come to know along the way I pray the lives you share will be full of love, joy and laughter.

Do you have a precious moment from this summer that you shared with special people - something fun or funny or an experience that touched your heart? We want to know. I want to know! Please tell us about it.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Books & Writing - The Train Baby's Mother - A Must Read

I was honored to be included as a judge for the first ever OCW Cascade Writing Contest. I'll admit to being skeptical about contests, in general. They tend to be subjective, and therefore difficult to gauge. But they can also be fun, educational and encouraging. 

As it turns out, the awards banquet for the Cascade Writing Contest was amazing and fun. This year's winner in the category of the published fiction was Sharon Bernash Smith's book, The Train Baby's Mother. 

While reading, I was impressed with this writer and touched by the story.  I highly recommend The Train Baby's Mother.

A time of great evil.
Unfathomable betrayal.
A desperate act.

Hadassah Jensen, a Holocaust survivor of Ravensbruck has spent twenty years trying to forget her haunting memories. Worst of all is the dark day the train hurled through the snow-covered countryside of Nazi Germany, throwing her life into a tumult from which she has not recovered. But when a piece of the puzzle from her past returns, she's confronted with her deepest shame.

Professor Fritz Miller will always remember the fierce protectiveness he felt the day he, as a twelve-year-old German farm boy, found the Jewish baby lying in the snow, next to the train tracks . . . and then had to give her up. When a shocking revelation emerges, he wonders, Is it possible to change destiny? And, If so, will there even be time to do so?

Sharon calls what she writes Reality Fiction: Where life meets imagination. "I'm willing to tackle the tough subjects that relate to the human struggles we all face. There are no "pat" answers in life and you won't find them in my books."

Sharon loves spending time with friends and family, especially her four granddaughters, as well as land sailing in the beautiful Columbia River gorge. She and her husband attend a large, Evangelical Church in Vancouver, Washington.

She'd like you to know that she's a cowgirl at heart.

I chatted with Sharon Bernash Smith the night of the awards and asked, "Why this story?" Her answer is included on the introduction of her book - thought provoking  words.

Here is what she says.

It is impossible to summarize within the pages of one book the level of destruction perpetrated against humanity during the Holocaust when Europe became Adolph Hitler's hunting ground. Anyone possessing a minute drop of Jewish blood was meant to be wiped off the face of the earth, along with those who dared interfere with his diabolical plan. He meant to exterminate them all, in order, he said, to create a "pure" race, worthy of preserving his chosen species.

Though all the stories can never be told (there are over six million), I've written a fictional account of one woman's imprisonment, survival, and fulfillment of her personal destiny. I've called her Hadassah.

My introduction to the Holocaust came when I discovered a book, Adolf Eichmann, a high ranking officer in the German Army, in my high school library. Every page held the most hideous details of his evil involvement in the mass exterminations. This was only fifteen years after World War II had ended, yet not one of my history classes had mentioned this vast debased atrocity.

I never forgot the book or the impact of its contents. Through the years, more and more information came to the forefront, and I began to glean a deeper insight, though I've yet to comprehend the evil behind it. I wonder, can anyone?

As an adult I saw The Hiding Place, a movie based on Corrie ten Boom's experience while hiding Jewish refugees in Holland during the German occupation. Tragically, her family was betrayed and all were sent to prison. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, eventually ended up in Ravensbruck, a German prison camp for women. Betsy died there, but Corrie was miraculously released to become a world wide speaker, called to "tramp for the Lord", until her death in her nineties.

After becoming a Christian myself, I read every book she wrote, and every book written about her. She became my mentor and to this day I am grateful for the life she lived and so graciously shared with others.

In 2008 I wrote a story "The Train Baby", based on information from a friend (she is the real Elllie in this book) who grew up in Germany during the war.

More than once her brothers took babies from Jewish captives held in cattle cars on the way to extermination camps. Each infant had been hidden in her family's basement and fed the only substance 

available . . . water from soaked bread. When it was safe, and arrangements had been made, the infants were moved to the Jewish underground by their sympathizers.

Later, I realized I wanted to tell a story about the train baby's mother. How did she die or how did she live?

I'm excited to share this story of God's plan and intimate participation in human destiny. I'm hoping and praying that the reality of God's grace will cause people to love him with deep affection, honor him more openly and trust him with gratitude. For as the Jews have always been God's chosen people, so, dear reader are you.

After reading this book all I could think of was, who can I share it with first? It's so good. Not because it's a pretty story. It's not. It's real and gritty and surprising. It changes hearts and minds. 

As a fellow writer I was impressed with this authors style. She is courageous, inventive and introduces you to characters so real you feel you know them.

I encourage you to read this book. It is well worth your time.

You can connect with Sharon -

on her blog at sharonbernashsmith. 
Facebook at

Monday, August 19, 2013

Quiet Moments With God - Baking With God

Years ago my pastor taught me how to use God's recipe to find peace and joy. He explained that when reading or studying my Bible that I should watch for words like therefore, so and then. Words like these link themes and topics. They connect verses with the ones to follow. 

These connective words and phrases help us achieve a more complete understanding of scripture and what the results of following or not following God's instruction can mean to us and to those we love.

Today I saw a then in my scripture reading in Philippians 4:8 & 9.

     And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable, and right, and pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me - everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

I would guess that most all of us are seeking peace. Sometimes, life can feel like a maelstrom. 

The then in the portion of scripture in Philippians points us to the how of finding the peace of God. We need to keep our hearts and minds focused on the truth of God's Word, on those things that are not corrupted by the world. And we should be thinking about the beauty around us in nature and in the people we know. Also, we must contemplate on the things that are splendid and beautiful. And then to actually include what God has taught us in our lives, not just talk about it. We need to live like Christ lived and do the things He did. THEN we will know peace. It will become part of who we are.

     Fix your thoughts on what is . . .
          Worthy of praise

          Do . . .
          What we learned
          What Christ did

It's not easy. The world pulls at us. It keeps telling us how ugly life is. Television focuses on corruption and hopelessness. There are games, books and movies filled with violence and evil. 

But life is about more than all of that.

We get to choose what we include in our personal life. We choose how much of our time is spent in front of the television. We choose our entertainment. We choose what sites we visit on the internet - what blogs we read or don't read. We choose our friends. 

The world seems to be filled with hate. We can take part in all of that . . . or not. But we need to remember that what we put into our spirit is what will dominate who we are.

I'm not advocating ignorance. Knowledge is profitable. However, there is so much ugliness and evil swirling around us and we are the only ones who can choose our focus. 

If we have a friend who makes the most scrumptious chocolate chip cookies we've ever eaten it makes sense to use their recipe - right? Well, God gives us a recipe for discovering joy and peace. He has the only recipe that offers outstanding results every time. 

I want to bake with God, using His ingredients. How about you?

Grace and peace to you from God,



Friday, August 16, 2013

The Journey - Oregon Christian Writers Conference!

Why the exclamation point? Because Oregon Christian Writers deserve to be exclaimed over. Twenty years ago, OCW helped launch my writing career and propped me up many times along the way.

Writers need one another. All the writers who are part of OCW are part of an exclusive family, a fellowship of writers who love the Lord. 

God's Word says we are to fellowship with one another. My years of experience tell me that if God says something I need to listen. When God speaks He has something important to say. It's not just because He likes to hear himself talk.

Wednesday my husband and I checked into the Red Lion Inn at Jantzen Beach, Oregon and after getting settled in, we set out to find some of my OCW buddies. Almost immediately we ran into Karen Ball. In her usual gregarious way she welcomed us with hugs, a big smile and a story to tell.  We were immediately caught up in the exhilarating and sometimes turbulent world of the OCW summer conference.

I was swept into the loving, enthusiastic and encouraging arms of friends - Bobbie, Linda, Ann, Mary, Judy, Miriam, Christina, Hillary, Sam, Kristen, Bob, Pat, Mesu, Jeannie, Sherry and so many others that there isn't room on this page to hold them all. I had missed them all so much! 

It was fabulous to finally introduce these precious people to my dear husband. None of them had met him before. He got a kick out of meeting them all - these people he's been hearing about throughout the years. And though this was a world foreign to him, he had a great time chatting with new friends and people watching. He loved getting a glimpse into why I love OCW.

It had been three years since I'd seen most of them. And it was breathtaking to be reminded of the wealth I possess in these friends and writing comrades. We've worked together, laughed together, cried together and prayed together. Not to mention all the fun we've shared. 

Conferences are like a party that includes learning and lots of work. There's good food, time with friends, lots of fun, even games and entertainment.  And every year we have wonderful speakers. This year Liz Curtis Higgs was our Keynoter. All I can say is Wow!

I'm already thinking about next year. I will be there. I hope to see all my friends and make some new ones. If you've thought about taking that scary leap and jumping into a writing conference I encourage you to "just do it". You'll be happy you did.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Monday, August 05, 2013

Quiet Moments With God - Never Forget

When you rush you forget who you are
 and whose you are.

I  sat down this morning to spend time with the Lord, but my spirit was filled with frustration. There was so much to be done and I was behind schedule. Plus I couldn't hold back feelings of defeat over what I couldn't accomplish. Even so, God was there waiting to chat with me. First we met in prayer, then within the pages of one of my favorite devotionals, Jesus Calling. 

The opening words to this blog reached out to me from that devotional. I went to a suggested passage of scripture - 1 Peter 2:9, which says,

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

How often do we rush through our busy lives, feeling as if we can't do enough, never completing our list of tasks and in the melee lose sight of who we are - God's child. A child who is fully accepted and loved by Him. A child He longs to tarry with. 

A child who is a Royal Priest - royal because we are God's very own possession. We have been called out of darkness and into light.

And so, as we go about our days, we must never forget to whom we belong. We have been called to be a light in this dark world. However, do not strive to shine, simply belong to Him and it will happen.

Grace and peace to you from God,