Monday, September 30, 2013

Quiet Moments With God - Today

Breathe. That's right. Take a slow, deep breath. Do it now before you read ahead.

Don't think about yesterday. Don't worry about tomorrow. Simply enjoy the pleasure and beauty of this moment.

Do you waste time thinking or worrying about the troubles of tomorrow or the mistakes of yesterday?

I do.

I chronically have difficulty spending my days in the here and now. I spend way too much time thinking about what I should have or could have done differently or I worry about how I'm going to manage something that feels terrifying and is rushing at me from the future.

Something I did last night is a perfect example. I have a sweet puppy, called Misty. She's six months old and well house trained, but she decided she doesn't like the rain and no matter how much we coaxed her, she refused to go outdoors. So, instead of finding an outside place to do her duty she chose what she thought was a perfect place indoors. I knew immediately - you can't conceal that smell. In my haste to teach her and to get her outside I partially picked her up. I should never do that. My back does not like it when I lift anything over ten pounds, especially when I'm bent over.

Ouch! I went to bed worrying about what today would bring.

This morning I awoke, still fearful and wondering what would happen when I moved or tried to stand up. Would I face a day with excess pain? I could feel my heart rate increase and my muscles tense at the thought.

At that moment, I needed to stop my fearful imaginings. So . . . what if I had extra pain today? It's not something new. I've been through it lots of times . . . and lived. And I have medication that helps. And I will get better. 

As it turns out, I do have more pain today, but I'm getting along just fine. I'm going to be fine. Worrying and being fearful is not helpful. In fact it makes things worse because stress makes my muscles more tense.

So this day is one more day of learning . . . from experience. And it's okay. But to harangue myself over a mistake I made yesterday is not okay. And worrying about what the future and what it holds for me is also not okay. When I do that I miss out on the beauty and pleasure of today. God has been teaching me this lesson over and over, only because I can't seem to get it.

John 10:10 says, "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them (that's us) a rich and satisfying life."

If I take into account another verse from Matthew 6:34, which says, So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today," I can see that I'm a thief. I'm robbing myself of the rich and satisfying life God wants to give me.

I'm shaking my head (once more). When will I learn?

I'm still a work in progress, but progress is the key word. I am making headway. That is a good thing. 

Today is gorgeous. Sunshine is peeking through the clouds. The earth is damp and smells delicious from the weekend's rain. I am surrounded by a loving family. And I'm pushing forward on a new book. Plus . . . well there's lots more blessings in my life, things to be thankful for and to enjoy right here, right now.

So, I've decided I'm not going to spend any more time worrying about my back. I'm just going to enjoy the day God has given me. How about you? What's precious about today? About this moment?

Grace and peace to you from God,


Friday, September 20, 2013

The Journey - Adventures In Writing

In 1989 I was thrown into the world of writing. At that time, I had an interest but never really thought it was possible that someone like me could become a full-time author. I was one of those "trouble-makers" in school and didn't do well, but I always loved to read and actually enjoyed my literature classes.

The adventure began when I was bitten by the writing bug in 1989. My mind came alive with personal experiences, poems and short stories. And I filled up legal pads with my thoughts. It was fun! 

In 1991 friend knew about my hobby and encouraged me to attend a one day writing conference. I went with great trepidation, but left feeling uplifted and ready to write . . . for real. My dream still seemed to be an impossibility but at least I was willing to admit that I had a dream of one day becoming a published author.

A month later I was seriously side-tracked when a log truck came barreling around a corner and slammed into my van. My life changed. I was left with injuries that meant my life would never be the same, and I needed to find something to do with the person I was, a way to contribute to the world. God challenged me to write. 

My injuries lingered and through bitterness and tears God led me down a new path. Unbelievably, two years after the accident I sold my first novel, The Journey of Eleven Moons, to Thomas Nelson Publishing. It was a startling turn of events. I'd never really believed it could happen.

I remember the day the advance copy of my book arrived via Federal Express. I tore open the envelope and held  it in my hands and for the longest time I just stared at it. I don't even think I breathed. The book was beautiful! Incredible! And my name was on the cover!

That was the beginning. Several years later I was still writing and also teaching and mentoring new writers. I loved that - still do. One day at the OCW Summer Conference I sat across from a mother/daughter writing team - Sherrie Ashcraft and Christina Tarabochia. They were working on a book together and hoping to find direction from another writer.

I immediately fell in love with these two ladies. They were full of energy, grace, joy and fun. And they were good writers. We've been friends ever since.

Life is interesting, offering up surprising turns and unexpected adventures.

After that first meeting, Christina went on to write an award winning novel and the mother/daughter team recently released their first co-written book. I am, once again, working with these two women only the roles are reversed. They are helping me. Sherrie and Christina are co-owners of Ashberry Lane Publishing. 

Here we are today.

About a year ago, I decided to rework my first book, The Journey of Eleven Moons. I've always loved the story, but as a newbie author I had a lot to learn about writing and always wished I could reel it back in and make it better. And so I have. 

Guess who's helping me publish the new version. I'm now part of the Ashberry Lane family! And the new and improved Journey of Eleven Moons will release in mid-November! It has a few new plot twists, better writing and a new cover.

I think re-releasing this book is the perfect way to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of The Journey of Eleven Moons. If you haven't read it I hope you'll give it a try and if you have read it . . . you might want to have another look.

I'll have more details along with the new cover here for you soon. If you want to make sure not to miss out there are two places you can sign up for newsletters - or you can go to my home page and sign up for my Table Talk newsletter.

Life is truly an adventure - enjoy every moment.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Quiet Moments With God - Path To Peace

My weekly blog Quiet Moments With God is supposed to focus on things the Lord is speaking to me about or teaching me. So, this morning when I was reading from my devotional Jesus Calling I felt the last words in the devotion like an arrow that had been shot straight into my spirit. But I felt no inclination to write about it. Why when I knew they were meant for me today? 

When I realized that I'd skipped over the idea of using the lesson, I got to wondering about the why and I'm not certain, but it could have something to do with living transparently publicly. I had vowed to do that, but there are things I'd rather people not know about me and my faith. But as I mulled all of this over I came to the conclusion of what good is transparency if we pick and choose what we're transparent about?

So, the closing words  to the devotion were these. Turn from the path of planning to the path of peace. 

As far back as I can remember I've been a planner. If I can just come up with a better plan everything will work out. And if that plan doesn't accomplish what I want, then there must be something else I can do. And I go to work trying to cook up a solution, all the while worrying and wringing my hands. 

The devotion says in its opening paragraph that planning and trying to control is a way people practice unbelief. Ouch!

I don't like hearing that, but it's true. I know it . . . in my spirit where the quiet voice of God whispers truth to me. And God's Word says in 1 Peter 5:6-7 "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."

In my line of work, waiting is part of the every day. Writers wait to hear back from their critique partners - will they like what I've written? They wait to hear from agents - what do they think about the book idea, will it fly? Editors - will I have major restructuring to do? Publishing houses - do they want to publish my work, the project I sank months into? 

The process is almost never rapid. It can drag out for months . . . sometimes many months. And even when a book is accepted it's not uncommon to have a publishing date that is eighteen months out. And so I've learned to wait, but that doesn't mean I'm comfortable with it. And it doesn't mean I am always in a peaceful place while I wait. I'm there now and my mind is full of what if's, which are not helpful. There is no peace in a worrying place.

That's where trusting God and having faith in His greater plan comes in. He really does know what he's doing. When I think I know the right way and right time I am NOT being humble. I am NOT believing in God's greater wisdom. 

I can trust Him. Really. But if I do, why don't I feel it? I need time with Him, not in my mind and unbelieving heart that wants to come up with a plan. 

And so, I seek out a quiet place to spend time with my Lord. We talk. And when I listen I find the peace that only God can offer. After all, he knows how and when to do all things. I, on the other hand, do not.

If you are waiting or if you're in a hard and hurting place remember God has not taken His eyes off you. He hasn't forgotten you. Trust in Him and in His plan. For there you will find peace.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Friday, September 13, 2013

The Journey - First Dates

We were just kids.

Along the path of life there are moments that change our future. We often don't recognize them as being significant, at least not until we look back. I remember one of those moments. It was the day I met a handsome young sailor named Gregory Leon. 

My brother Bruce was in the navy during the Viet Nam War and in 1969 he brought a fellow shipmate home to dinner. I was seventeen and on my way out with friends, but I managed to get myself introduced to this amazingly good-looking sailor. We chatted for only a minute or two, but that's all it took. I was hooked. That evening all I could think about was Gregory and his beautiful eyes. I wasn't interested in anything going on at the party. I just wanted to go home and spend more time with that very cool guy.

I never dated another man after that evening. Greg was it for me. He started coming to the house regularly and my family loved him. So did I. Our first date was nothing much, an evening at a drive-in movie. Greg set a standard that night that I didn't realize would be part of my life and still is. I made us a big bag of popcorn to take along. We snuggled down together in the dark and shared the movie and popcorn and then . . . he fell asleep. 

Our first date was not romantic, but that's okay because sleeping during a movie really doesn't matter. What does is the kind of man you date. And I got a good one. To his credit, Greg doesn't sleep during movies at the theater . . . unless it's really a lousy one. 

That first date was forty-four years ago and last month Greg and I celebrated our forty-second anniversary. I had no idea that the young sailor I met at seventeen would become my life partner, but I'm sure grateful we met. And even though he slept through part of our first date I cherish the memory of that night. 

Our 42nd Anniversary

Since that time, we've shared lots of dates, lived through all sorts of joys and sorrows and we have three children and seven grandchildren. We've lived life together. There will be more good days and bad days, but even if this is our last day I'm grateful for that first meeting and for all the days we've already shared. 

Do you have a first meeting or first date story? I so want to hear about it. Just click on comment (if you don't have a website or blog, just sign in as anonymous) and share your story.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Quiet Moments With God - The Cross

Today is 9/11. 

Images of the enemy's attack are etched into my mind. My heart aches for those who lost loved ones on that terrible day. I'm familiar with sorrow, but I can't truly comprehend the heartache of losing a father or mother, son or daughter, sister or brother, husband or wife . . . when the Twin Towers came down.

Like the rest of America I watched the footage, again and again. I wept and ranted and I prayed. How does one go on? How can you take another breath, another step? And how do you douse the flames of rage?

Righteous anger is not sin. But hanging onto our fury hurts - it doesn't help. However, there is one who takes up our cause.

Isiah 61: 1-3 says this, "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord's favor has come, and with it, the day of God's anger against their enemies. To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes.   

The brokenhearted are set free . . . 
to trust again, to love again and to live again,
 for the Lord God comforts those whose hearts have been broken. 
The enemy was destroyed at the cross of Christ. 
And even in the midst of rubble the cross rises up. 

God offers beauty for ashes. He is The One who makes us - stronger, wiser and more determined to stand against evil. Reach out and take His hand. He will lift you up.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Journey - Teen Mama

Some of the best and most promising moments of our lives come when we least expect them. And often we don't recognize how precious they are, not right off at least. There are times when we need to pause and wait and to reflect before we understand that something shocking or even frightening may be a gift.

That was us nearly fifteen years ago . . . the day our seventeen-year-old daughter said, "Mom. Dad. I'm pregnant."

It was a Fall evening when Sarah drove down our driveway. Her boyfriend's car followed. And next our pastor's. I knew something was up and it couldn't be good.

Our daughter and her boyfriend barely looked at us as my husband and I greeted our pastor. We all sat in the front room and waited, I didn't know for what. 

I'm sure the pastor began our time with a prayer - to be honest I can't remember. I was scared about what was coming. My memory begins when Sarah said the words parents never want to hear from their teenagers.

"I'm pregnant."

She could have told us something worse, like she had AIDS, but at that moment being pregnant was bad enough. I looked at my husband. What did we say? We didn't say anything at first. We were trying to process. Now what would her life look like? And what about ours? What would our friends think?

I felt as if I'd been caught unprepared, but that wasn't true. God had prepared me for this time. And the Holy Spirit was with us and made Himself known that night. Although we were faced with a heart-wrenching and difficult situation, God was faithful.

The pastor helped get us started talking. The 'kids" of course were very sorry for what had happened, but we didn't tarry there long. We needed to move forward and figure out what to do next. 

First off we recognized that the "kids" had made a good choice by going to our pastor. It revealed wisdom and maturity. Thank you, Lord!

By the grace of God my husband and I did not go off on a tirade against the "kids".  Although I'll admit there was a sorrowful storm going on inside my heart. My daughter's childhood had been snatched away. I knew what was ahead would be difficult and painful, no matter what path she chose.

We listened while our daughter and her fellow talked. They asked for forgiveness and guidance. And told us that they'd already decided they wanted to keep the baby. We did discuss adoption, but that was an absolute, no. They were determined they could be good parents, although at that time they didn't really have a clue what that meant. 

They were about to learn.

That night was one of the most disappointing of my life. It was one of great heartache. I went to bed reeling from what I'd just learned, trying to grasp what it would mean to us all. And I wondered what I had done wrong. Why had my child strayed? My husband and I had strived to be good parents. We'd provided a stable and loving home - a place where truth and love were shared openly. It was a home filled with grace and we lived out our faith in the open without pretense.

What had gone wrong?

I have no answers, except to say that every one of us is tempted by sin. And as it turns out, we are all sinners and there are consequences for our sins. But our loving Father has a way of redeeming and creating something beautiful out of our messes.

Although that "awful" night was filled with disappointment and heartache it also brimmed over with love and grace. 

What could have been one of the worst nights of our life was transformed - it became beautiful and precious. We shared tears and prayers. We found peace and better understood the depth of God's love for us and our love for one another.

That night our seventeen-year-old daughter climbed into my husbands lap and he held her close as they wept together. I've never forgotten the gentleness and love my husband offered our daughter nor her need to be loved and forgiven. To this day, it is one of my most cherished memories.

I'm sure there are those who believe that abortion would have been a good solution to Sarah's dilemma. And that it would have been better if she could have quickly resolved the issue of her pregnancy and moved on. We don't agree. 

We heard from a few who thought we were unwise not to force Sarah to give up the baby for adoption. Certainly a seventeen-year-old was not mature enough to be a mother. Adoption is a good answer for some, but our daughter chose another way. She chose to grow up early, to become a mother. 

Her choice meant she would lose her youthful freedom and Greg and I would have obligations we hadn't counted on, but I'm so thankful she made the choice she did. We got a little fellow named Corey who has blessed our lives.

It's been nearly fifteen years and Sarah grew up. She was and is a good Mom. She did have to let go of all the fun of high school and college, though she did manage to finish her education later. And I know she would never recommend becoming a teen-age parent, but she shares a special relationship with her first son and even trying to imagine life without him in it would be impossible for her. She found joy and fulfillment in the role of mother . . . even at seventeen.

My husband and I have been blessed with seven grandchildren . . . so far. We love them all, but we know that it's possible we might never have known our first. That would have been a tragedy.

We've never regretted having Corey in our lives, not even for one moment. He's always been bright and fun and full of love. He's made our lives better. 

Sarah & Corey now.

Life is precious. Our children are precious. They are gifts from God. 

Our family has had its share of sorrows and sometimes life has handed us things we felt we couldn't bear, but it's still been good. And it's been made richer because of people like Corey and our daughter Sarah.

Love each other.


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Books & Writing - Changing My Mind

I haven't entered a writing contest in many years, not since a fellow author, who also happened to be a good friend, and I were entered in the same contest. I didn't know how to feel about competing with friends and colleagues. It didn't feel right and so I decided not to enter contests. Besides, I told myself, they are "so subjective".

And then a funny thing happened this summer. I was asked to be a judge for the OCW Cascade Writing Contest.  I'm not sure what convinced me to do it, but I decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did.

I read each book on my list and did my best to be objective. It's not easy. When I completed the reading and had filled out the forms with my scores I felt conflicted. All the books were good - each had their perfections as well as their flaws. I wished I hadn't agreed to be a judge. It was too difficult. Trying to be objective rather than subjective was no easy task. After all, I have my own preferred writing styles and genres. I was determined to remain objective, however.

When I'd completed my score sheets and turned them in, I'd decided I had been right not to enter contests. They can't present a complete picture of a book and its story. As a judge I could only offer a snapshot. 

Maybe all my hesitancy has good reasoning behind it, but all that went out the window when I attended the awards ceremony. 

I've changed my mind about contests. I like them . . . even with their flaws. 

It was such fun to see so many writers given credit for their hard work. The top three in each category were celebrated for their literary creations. They were brought up on stage and given an award certificate and credited for fine writing. After that, a winner in each category was selected and honored for their entry. 

The room seemed to spill over with joy as we linked arms (metaphorically) as comrades in an industry that asks much of its craftsmen. While I sat there clapping and smiling - thrilled for the winners - I remembered something similar that happened to me years before. It may well have changed my life. Though small in scale, the acknowledgement gave me the boldness to move forward and write my very first book.

From here on out, I'm going to support writing contests. I may even judge one here and there. It's a privilege and offers an opportunity to read some great books. I might even enter one now and again.

Bravo to all the winners this year at the OCW Cascade Writers Contest. And hooray to everyone who entered. May you all continue to work at your craft. I can't wait to read more of your books, stories, articles and poems. Good job!

Grace and peace to you from God,


Monday, September 02, 2013

Quiet Moments With God - The Light of Truth

It is September already. Fall is nearly here. 

I can barely believe summer is coming to a close. It seems to have swept by in a blur. I had lots of plans, things I wanted and intended to do. A lot of them didn't happen. And to be honest, I'm kind of grumpy about  that. However, if I take my mind off myself I can see more clearly that God placed lots of blessings into this summer season that I hadn't planned on, lots of special moments. 

I'm faced with a choice.  I can focus on what I missed out on or I can be grateful for what I received. There's an easy way to find the right choice. Just ask, "What would Jesus do?"

Okay that's become cliche, but I don't care. I love it because . . .

Asking this simple question is like shining a light into a dark place. 

It reveals the truth. 

Sometimes what I see in the light is not pretty. I personally fall so short of Jesus' example. He would never have his heart and mind on what mattered most to Him, but would always be thinking about what mattered to His Father. And He would be thankful for every blessed moment and every season, no matter what it brought. He would find ways to share the love of His Father with those he met and would search for opportunities to love people. He'd never be afraid to speak the truth.

Being like Jesus puts a whole different light on how we live and the way we plan out our days. Even our hopes and dreams change when they are ignited by the light of Christ.

We are stepping into a new season. I don't know what it will hold, but my prayer is that I will become more like Christ, embracing the truth and unafraid to tell others what I've learned. 

It's going to be great! 

Grace and peace to you from God,