Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Steadfast - Guest Blogger, Melody Carlson

It's Wednesday! Which means I have a guest blogger. It's an absolute treat to welcome the very prolific author, Melody Carlson. 

Melody and I met more than twenty years ago at a writing conference. We were both just setting off on our writing careers. She's a valued friend. And it is a special pleasure to have her here.

Make sure to read through this entire blog so you can find out about Melody's giveaway.

By the way, our winner from last week is - Brenda.


I'll make sure Ann Shorey gets your email address.

 About Melody. 

Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to political
activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write!

In the past few years, she has published over 200 books for children, teens, and adults--with total sales of over six million copies. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards. Melody is the recipient of a Romance Writers of America Lifetime
Achievement Award.

She and her husband have two grown sons and live in Sisters, Oregon with their lovely Labrador retriever, Audrey. They enjoy skiing, hiking and
biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.

How We Survived a Year of Downsizing...Just Barely

About a year ago, my husband and I made the decision to downsize. Sounded simple enough. Sell the home we’d been in nearly twenty years, get into something smaller, enjoy more freedom and less maintenance.

Easy-peasy, right? Ha! Twelve months later we’re still worn out, beat up, and I can’t even find the butter dish.

Although I had writing deadlines, I wasn't too concerned about this downsize. Staging our home, preparing for open houses, random showings (to people with no intention of purchasing) proved a challenge, but I could handle it.

In the middle of winter, we got the crazy buyer who wanted to purchase our house "with everything included" (my underwear drawer too?). Although her offer was far less than our asking price, we attempted to "negotiate". And she insisted on visiting our home for hours at a time (although we weren't allowed to see her face!). To our  relief, she changed her mind.

In early spring we lowered our price and got a serious buyer, but she wanted us to check on building permits. We'd never heard of anyone doing this before, but our nearly forty year old house  was solid and well built. Why wouldn't it be permitted? Because the offer was contingent on  this, and because our realtor encouraged us, we naively went to the county and inquired.

Talk about opening a can of worms—the county “opened a file” on us. And that’s where the real nightmare began.

Because we live in rural Oregon and because the county's old records were sketchy at best, we were forced to jump through a bunch of ridiculous (and expensive) hoops that made us both question the county's sensibilities as well as our own sanity. But there is no turning back--the county's "file was opened" on us, and they threatened "legal action" if it didn't get closed.

During this “permitting” period, which stretched on and on, I drew blueprints of all five buildings on our property, all while trying to maintain my writing schedule. My husband was forced to dig around foundations, open up walls, hire engineers, electricians, plumbers, etc.. All to prove that our home was sound and solid (something we already knew). And we even unearthed proof of county permits (records that the county had lost!).

The whole thing felt like pure craziness and the stress levels got higher and higher.

Just about the time I started wishing for a forest fire to end the madness (our home was in fire country) my husband lugged all the required letters, reports, photographs and blueprints to the
county—along with his checkbook to pay for permits. But when the clerk told him the total, he nearly had a heart attack. He came home and told me the amount, and I felt physically ill.

It was so upsetting that I did what any writer would do—I wrote a long letter to the head of the building division. I explicitly told him everything we’d been through, how much money we’d already spent (jumping through their endless list of hoops) and how shocked we were to discover the cost of permits. I also told him that I planned to write our story for the local newspapers—a cautionary tale to homeowners who might naively step into the building division and inquire on permits for
older homes like we’d done.

The head of the division emailed me back that same day. We exchanged several interesting emails and he finally invited us to return to the county for permits. My poor husband went back—hoping for a miracle—and was informed that the county had accidentally added an extra zero to our permit fees (a zero that equaled thousands of dollars!). But the best news was that the county had decided to waive most of our permits—and they closed our file that very week. We would’ve celebrated—except that we were too drained. Did I mention the gray hair and stress-weight gains?

But we were hugely relieved to close the sale on our house and move into our ‘new’ home in town. Never mind that temperatures were in triple digits or some moving “volunteers” didn’t show, we were just glad to be on our way. And even though this “fixer” house wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the one we’d sold, we were happy to get into it.

The plan was to rent from the sellers for a couple of weeks until closing. We used that time to hold a massive and exhausting garage sale (a half-size meant half our stuff had to go). And then we continued unpacking, organizing, and preparing for some major remodeling (stacks of hardwood flooring, appliances, etc. were crammed into the living

But at least we were downsized. Right?


Just one business day before we were to close the sale, our loan guy called to inform us we had no financing. Never mind that we’d been approved and locked-in, or that we’d paid for the appraisal, which passed. Our loan guy admitted that he’d overlooked something—his financial group didn’t grant “corporate” loans.

We'd told  him right from the get-go that because of my writing, we're a corporation. He'd said 'no problem.' Now he was saying 'no loan.' We were moved into a house that we'd promised to purchase - and now we had no financing? Talk about stress!

To make a long story short (and this one might inspire a novel someday) we closed our house sale (on our anniversary in August). the remodel is nearly finished now - and looks good. And I  might go out and buy a butter dish today. but if you think downsizing is easy ... you're either watching HGTV or reading fiction.

If you’ve read this far, you’re eligible to win a signed copy of my latest book, The Christmas Cat. One of the hardest things about this downsize biz was allowing our old neighbors to adopt our Maine Coon cat Harry (the book’s dedicated to him). But we knew he’d be happier in the old neighborhood—and we spared him the stress of relocating.

Garrison Brown inherits his grandmother's six cats and a mission. 
Find good homes for Gram's beloved pets. 
But some of the cats are elderly, and it's almost 
Christmastime, plus Garrison has cat allergies - and, 
oh yeah, there's a secret cash incentive. 

Melody, I can't imagine going through all that you did. I'm praying for lots of stress free days ahead. Enjoy your new home. 

Your book sounds like fun. I'm definitely getting a copy. I need a good for Christmas.

Readers, for an opportunity to win this book all you have to do is leave a comment and your email address. I will announce the winner next Wednesday.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Steadfast - Guest Blogger, Ann Shorey

It's Wednesday, guest blogger day. And today my guest is Ann Shorey, a dear friend and writing comrade. I'm so glad she could join us. Ann has a special giveaway offer so make sure to read to the bottom of the page.

ANN SHOREY has been a full-time writer for over twenty years. Her writing has appeared in Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul, and in the Adams Media Cup of Comfort series. She made her fiction debut with The Edge of Light, Book One in the At Home in Beldon Grove series for Revell. Her latest releases include Love’s Sweet Beginning, the third book in the Sisters at Heart series, and a novella in the Sincerely Yours collection, also from Revell. She’s tempted to thank Peet’s French roast coffee and Dove chocolates when she writes the acknowledgments for her books.
She may be contacted through her website, www.annshorey.com, or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/AnnShorey.

Words of wisdom from Ann Shorey:


In February of 2012, I started writing Love’s Sweet Beginning, the final novel in my Sisters at Heart series for Revell. The deadline for the novel was the end of January, 2013. Eleven months is a long time, and I started off with a bang and moved right along into the story.
Then my mother-in-law died on February 29. My husband comes from a large family, and our home is the place where everyone congregated for the week or so before, during, and after the funeral. But by mid-March I was back to writing.
In April, hubby had rotator cuff surgery. He’s a real estate broker, which necessitates spending a lot of time behind the wheel of a car. Of course, he couldn’t drive with his arm tied to his torso during the recovery phase, so I drove him to and from work and to and from appointments—for six weeks.
By now I was beginning to worry about making the deadline, but figured I could redeem the lost time by writing for longer hours during the fall when hubby went hunting and I had the house to myself.
He did go hunting, but while he was gone I got the flu and was very sick for a couple of weeks. He came home, left again, and unbelievably I got sick again. By now we were into the holiday season and I was in full panic mode. When January rolled around, I was 30,000 words short of my contracted word count, with less than 30 days to finish the book.
I rose in the middle of the night so panicked my brain was numb. I laid the problem before the Lord, like Hezekiah did in 2 Kings19:14-15. As I prayed and listened, ideas came and I’d jot them on a yellow legal pad. After further prayer the next morning, I’d go to my computer and continue the story using the prompts the Lord had provided. Night after night this continued as the ending of the novel took shape. The book was completed and ready to be turned in exactly on time, without a day to spare.
My editor’s reaction? She said it was her favorite book in the series.
  The Lord’s presence with me during those days kept me centered on Him, rather than on my own inadequacy. It’s a lesson that has stayed with me. He’s never far when we call on Him—in fact, He’s right there. We just have to reach up. He’s waiting.
In the acknowledgements at the back of Love’s Sweet Beginning, you’ll find these lines: “Speaking of prayer, the Lord should be listed as co-author of this book. As the greatest creator of all, He is my guide. All glory goes to Him.”

Thank you Ann. I needed to hear this.

And here's the book Ann was working on when she 
panicked and sought God's help.

I love this book!

It isn’t Cassie Haddon’s fault that she has reached the age of twenty-five without possessing any useful skills. Until the war, she always had servants to wait on her. Since then, she and her widowed mother have moved from place to place, relying on family to care for them. Now she’s forced to find work to support them both. What isn’t in her plans is falling for Jacob West, a local restaurateur and grocer. She needs a job and he needs help.

Love’s Sweet Beginning is a tale of two people from very different backgrounds finding common ground and the hopes of a bright future together.


All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment along with an email address and you will be added to the drawing.

Grace and peace to you from God,


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Steadfast - Guest Blogger Marlo Schalesky

Being steadfast and pushing forward in difficult times can feel like you're climbing a mountain. You're nearing the peak, but your lungs are starved for oxygen and every muscle is screaming. You want to quit. 

Sometimes my life seems to be all about mountain climbing. How about yours?

I got to thinking that maybe it's time to hear from others who have done some of that climbing. From now through December I'll be hosting a guest blogger every Wednesday who will share insights on their own journey's up mountain sides.

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome the illustrious Marlo Schalesky.

Marlo is the award winning author of nine books, including Wrestling with Wonder, a Transformational Journey through the Life of Mary, as well as Empty Womb, Aching Heart, Hope and Help for Those Struggling with Infertility. Her fiction includes RITA finalist Shades of Morning, the Christy Award winning Beyond the Night, and ACFW Book of the Year winner Veil of Fire. the author of nearly 1,000 articles, Marlo is also a small business owner and a graduate of Stanford University (with a B.S. in chemistry!). She has earned her Master's in Theology, with an emphasis in Biblical Studies, from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Marlo lives with her husband, six  young children, eight horses, six cats, two parakeets, one rabbit, one rat, two dogs, three chinchillas, five goldfish, and one lonely betta in a log home in Salinas, California. (Note: Critter numbers may change without notice, especially if Marlo attends yet another adoption event for rescue animals ... to her husband's chagrin.)

From Marlo:

I hold a book in my hands. It's called Wrestling with Wonder, a Transformational Journey through the Life of Mary. It released last week. I hold it and I shake my head because I know there's no logical reason that this book should be a book.
     But it is a book, and a story, a testimony, and a wonder. A thing somehow born when I was done ... when I was undone. It was born when I had just had it with writing, with life, with everything that made my days the crazy mess that they were.
     Wrestling with Wonder was born on the day when another rejection broke the proverbial camel's back, when I couldn't go on, when I crumbled like a sad little rag doll on the floor of my laundry room.
     I share this story in the book's introduction. Here's how it happened, when God saw me when I was done, and undone, and showed me the truth that kept me pressing on:

It happened like this:
     My palms press into the cold tile of the laundry room floor. Harsh, unyielding, the sound of my pain lost in the steady thumping of the dryer, the slosh of cleansing clothes, and the wicked whisper of words that for the moment, I believe.
     I am Esau. Unloved. Unchosen.
     I am Cain. Rejected. Cast away.
     What am I doing here, a broken mess on the laundry room floor? To my shame, it isn't even tragedy that has driven me to my knees. It's not my 20 years of infertility. Of discovering that despite all my prayers, all my hopes, all the long and painful procedures. I am not pregnant again. I've been there. But not today.
     It's not my six miscarriages. Not hoping beyond hope, cradling a belly that's supposed to hold new life, and losing. Again. I've been there too. But not today.
     It's not a dead father, a difficult childhood, a death, a divorce in the family. Those have brought me to my knees, made me wrestle, made me weep. But not today.
     Today, it's nothing, really. And it's everything. It's a hundred little things piled up on a day my husband is away on business, my baby just threw up, the toddler is crying, and I received another rejection. A small one, telling me I was unchosen. Unwanted. Passed by.
     I should be happy anyway. After all, life is good. It's good enough. But I'm not fine. And I'm not happy. Instead, I am on the floor, listening to the thump and slosh and crying out to a God who I'm sure doesn't care. And all the pain is back again. Of miscarriage and infertility, of death and disappointment. Of rejection, of hope lost. I feel it all again, and I am undone.
     Why? Why am I a ragged mess, a broken child? Why am I a woman weeping on the floor when I'm supposed to be writing a talk on the wonder of God's immeasurable love? When I'm supposed to know, supposed to believe, supposed to no longer doubt? But I do doubt. And wrestle. Again. Still.
     Who am I? Who is this God I say I believe, I say I trust?
     Slosh. I hear the sound. And in it, a whisper. Less than a whisper. Only a wisp. It is not easy to become clean. You must be tossed, spun. Beaten.
     Thump. It is a long process. Hot. Harsh. Unyielding.
     And I see. I understand. A bit. A glimpse. A tiny glimmer of who I am. Who God is.
     I shudder and push myself up from the hard tile. Cold on my fingertips. Chilling. God? I watch the clothes tumble and spin. I watch. And breathe.
     Then, I glance left to the changing table. The place where baby often squirms and shouts, cries, and struggles as I work to make her clean. The place where she has grown from a tiny bundle that knew me only as a blur and scent, to an almost-toddler who can hear the whisper of my voice from the other room and know that Mommy is near. 
     I step closer and run my hand over the terrycloth surface. I love her, but when she lies here, she doesn't understand. She knows she doesn't want to be here, she wants to get down and play. But I make her stay. I hold her still. I clean her. I do it because she is my loved one, my daughter, my favored child. But she doesn't understand my love.
     I don't understand His. But the glimmer widens.
     Perhaps I am not Esau. I am not Cain. Instead, I am like another woman who knelt in the darkness, waiting to be cleansed. A woman who wept and did not understand. A woman whom God called "highly favored" and yet who found herself at a cross, with all her dreams crushed, all her beliefs challenged.
     And that's when I see it. I am Mary. The favored one. Not the cute little figurine in my Precious Moments nativity set. Not the peaceful-looking statue holding the form of a baby in my childhood church. But the woman for whom God's favor looked like a stable, like rejection, like kneeling at the foot of that bloodstained cross.
     What if God's blessings don't look like good health, secure finances, and fulfilling relationships? What if His favor includes pain, poverty, sorrow, and even death? What if it's about a hundred little things that seem to go wrong? What if favor is found through shattered dreams and on cold tile floors. That was Mary's life. And it is mine.
     What if ...
     I am not Esau.
     I am not Cain.
     I am Mary.

     And that's how God broke through to me that day. That's how this book was born. That's how I pushed through being done and undone. I found truth in a laundry room. I found that God was not who I expected him to be, that he never had been, and perhaps that was okay.
     So I got up, I tried again. I walked forward one stumbling, unsteady step at a time. And I told God that I would write what he would show me about Mary's life. I would dig. I would search. I would be faithful to the journey of her life, and mine. 
     I would just be faithful. That's it.
     The rest would have to be up to him. If he wanted it to become a book, if he wanted that book to be published, if he wanted it in the hands of others who could benefit by joining the adventure of Mary's journey ... well then, that would take some kind of miracle.
     And today, I hold a book in my hands. I hold it and I shake my head because I know there's no logical reason that this book should be a book. But God has shown me that he is rarely who I expect him to be; he rarely does what I expect him to do.
     But all I have to do is be faithful, one shaky step at a time. The rest is his job.

     Maybe I like it that way.

You've never seen Mary, or her God like this!

Who is this God? Who is he who calls us to surrender and then leads us on a journey of twists and turns, ups and downs, unlike anything we could have ever expected? Who is this God who calls a young girl to birth a Savior and then watch him die on a Roman cross? Who is he who fulfills every promise and yet shatters every expectation?

Come, join Mary, Jesus' mother, on a journey of discovery. Hear the angel's call, walk the long road to Bethlehem, give birth in a barn, search for a lost son, kneel at the foot of a cross, and experience the wind of the Spirit. Come, walk with Mary, and find your own  journey in hers.

Because life rarely turns out the way we planned ...
Because we lose the wonder in the disappointments of life ...
Because being highly favored does not mean being highly pampered ... 

Because Mary shows us God -- Passionate, breath-taking, and unpredictable.

Thank you, Marlo. I can't wait to get a copy of this incredible book.

My friends, grace and peace to you from God,


Monday, October 13, 2014

Quiet Moments With God - Thankful?

I was not having a good start to my day when I sat down to read my Bible this morning. It was one of those days when my body felt like it had a giant toothache, plus life has been extra stressful recently. I'd started reading a devotion when my daughter sent me a text. Soon we were in a text conversation. We were both having a bad morning. So we got to talking about God and prayer ... and thankfulness.

By the time we said good-bye, I felt better. We'd both prayed for one another and decided that being thankful was a good way to begin our day. 

went to some scriptures about thankfulness.

Hebrews 12:26, 27 says, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." 

Wow. We get are part of God's kingdom!

I went on to Ephesians 5:20, which says, Always giving thans to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Everything? Really? 

If God is watching out for us and we have entrusted out lives to him, then we can thank him for everything. He sees the beginning and the end and always knows what's best for us all. And I don't see any scripture that says we should be thankful only when life is going exactly the way we want. Sometimes the most beautiful parts of life come wrapped in plain brown paper.

I decided to begin this morning with thanksgiving. 

My first thought was about church yesterday. It was so beautiful to be there with my family. Sarah and Kelly and their five children sat with my mother and my husband -- they took up nearly the entire front row. I am SO thankful that we were there together worshiping God.

This morning when I sat in my comfy chair in my bedroom, Bible in hand, I looked out on a green forest, spattered with the colors of autumn and with an azure blue sky as a background. I am SO thankful for God The Creator, the grandest of all artists.

And the best - time with my daughter. Time to pray for one another. I am SO thankful for her friendship and our shared faith.

As it turns out, all that thankfulness made me feel better. My pain is still present, but doesn't feel unbearable anymore, and I am looking forward to a day filled with surprises and blessings.

What are you thankful for?

Grace and peace to you from God,