Monday, March 31, 2014

The Most Fragrant Forgiveness

[caption id="attachment_306" align="alignleft" width="199"]Violet Diana Prusik, Photographer[/caption]

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

Mark Twain may or may not have penned those words, but he often receives credit for them.  Regardless of who created the metaphor, it is a lovely one. Yet forgiveness is not always so easily defined.

What if the violet is the one needing forgiveness, blaming itself for the crushing?

Years ago, I knew a teenage girl who, in a heated disagreement with her father, shouted, “I wish you were dead!” Of course, she didn’t mean those words, but with no apology, she stormed off to her bedroom and slammed her door shut.

She would never see her father again.

During the night, he suffered a fatal cardiac event. His grieving daughter held herself accountable for crushing his heart with her bitter words, both figuratively and literally. Dawn arrived with no opportunity for her to apologize. Her guilt was so great she couldn't bear to attend his funeral. She couldn't ask for his forgiveness, and she refused to forgive herself.

DeliveryWriters often draw upon real events to create fictional stories, and this tragedy made such an impression upon me that it gave birth to a scene in my novel Delivery.

Young Livi Wilson, opposed to the raging Vietnam War, feels inner tension mounting when her brother Buddy is drafted into the army. At his going away party, Buddy receives accolades from guests while Livi fumes. Finally, she lashes out at the crowd, funneling her disapproval of the war and her brother’s approaching involvement in it into her outburst.

“’Buddy is going off to spray innocent women and children with napalm, and you’re treating him like a god. I hate you. I hate all of you. I hate this war.’ Her chest heaved, and she faced her brother, muscles tense. “I hate you, Buddy.’”

She may hate the war, of course, but she doesn’t mean the rest of those words. Still, with no apology, she storms off to her bedroom and slams the door shut.

When Buddy is killed in action, Livi not only loses the opportunity to apologize, she also blames herself for his death. She fears her bitter words caused Buddy to hesitate, a fatal pause, on the battle field. She can’t ask Buddy’s forgiveness, and she won’t forgive herself. Her self-condemnation sends her life into a tailspin. This inner conflict clouds her judgment and affects her relationship with others for decades to come.

So where does an offender find forgiveness when she struggles to forgive herself? Who brings delivery from such a heavy burden?

[caption id="attachment_308" align="alignleft" width="200"]Christ.2 Diana Prusik, Photographer[/caption]

Ephesians 4:31-32 holds the answer.

“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Guilt can arrest our emotional growth. It can eat away at every aspect of our lives. It can deny us relationships with others and with God. But we can know something young Livi didn’t understand. Christ died for us even while we were sinning. His blood washes us clean. His love offers the most fragrant forgiveness of all.

But He doesn't force that upon us. We must first humble ourselves with changed hearts and ask for it.

Have you ever spoken angry words you didn't mean? Has self-condemnation affected your relationship with others? Has it kept you from growing your relationship with God? What advice would you give to someone whose life, weighted with guilt like that of my teenage acquaintance or the fictional Livi, has plunged into a downward spiral?

---

On another note, we at Faith-filled Friends are launching another book give-away! Same rules apply as last time. We will randomly select a winner from the comments left on each post published from now to May 1. (See prize list below and view details about May’s gift basket prizes here.)

Engage often and receive numerous contest entries.

Please note: Winners who live outside the continental U.S. will receive e-books only, when available. In that event, books without e-versions will return to the “gift pot,” and we will randomly select a runner-up who is a continental U.S. resident.

Our May gift basket includes:

Delivery by Diana Prusik, Jasmine by April McGowanHear No Evil by Mary Hamilton, Rodeo Hero and  Rodeo Song by Shannan Taylor VannatterAngel Falls by Connie MannThe Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie MyersMarriage Takes Three

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Heart Of Fear

storm

Back in February, I was up late one night writing a post for Elaine Stock’s blog Everyone’s Story. It was difficult to say the least, spilling my heart and fears onto the page. So much so I almost didn’t send it to Elaine, but I’m glad I did, and I want to share it with you.         ~ Tanya


From Fiction to Reality


Ever had those moments when you’re reading a novel and it’s as if the author wrote the story line, the characters, or included verses just for you? When your world turns from fiction to reality by a flip of the page?

At the beginning of December I took a novel from my book shelf, snuggled on the couch with a blanket, and began to read. The title of the novel is called The Rancher’s Reunion by Tina Radcliffe. The hero in the story is Will, and he has a hereditary disease that caused him to fear, not only his future, but in trusting God. And that’s when God used this story to speak to me.

“I’m scared, Annie.”

“I know, Will. I know.” She blinked back the moisture pricking her eyes.

“No, Annie. I don’t think you do. I’m not just scared. I’m terrified.”

And I understood Will’s fear. Weeks prior to reading this novel, my doctor told me I have cancer. It’s a single word that can change the course of your life, emotionally, physically, but not only yours, others around you. And though I knew God’s presence would be with me no matter what the future held, my desire to write or edit anything had vanished. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to write anymore with my future so uncertain. I wasn’t just scared, but terrified my time with my family would be shortened.

But as I continued to read Will’s story, God’s whispered words, Do not be afraid of things you cannot control, pray, and continue your call to write, took hold and draped around my heart.

I knew at that moment this book was meant to be read at this appointed time. That God was leading me to give Him every single fear, open my laptop, and begin to write again.

It’s been three weeks since I’ve been back to writing, and editing. It’s been slow going, but I’ve given my fears to God the only way I can. Like Will and Annie’s story, doing it God’s way. Day by day. Moment by moment. For the rest of my life.

~


Since this post was written, I’ve learned that if we share our hopes, dreams, and fears with others, God will bring people right alongside us to minister when we need it most. I can’t begin to describe the emotions or the tears of thanksgiving I shed for each of the comments, prayers, or well wishes I received from this post. But I pray I can encourage you to not let your fears stand in the way of what God has in store for your life. Sometimes the road is easy. Sometimes it’s hard. Just remember God’s words in Jeremiah 29:11 when it says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Is something in your life causing you to fear the future or the unknown, and possibly keeping you from what God has in store? If so, let me encourage you because you’re not alone. Give it to God. Second by Second. Minute by Minute. He’s always there for you with waiting arms.

~~~


We at Faith-filled Friends are launching another book give-away! One randomly chosen winner, selected from the comments left on all posts published from today to May 1st, will receive a copy of the following (some in print others in ebook form.) Please note, the following is applicable to readers living in the continental US only. If a selected winner lives outside the continental US, they will receive ebooks, when available. Books that do not have e-versions will be placed back in the “gift-pot” to be sent to a randomly chosen runner-up living in the continental US.

They will receive a copy of:

Delivery by Diana Prusik, Jasmine by April McGowan, Hear No Evil by Mary Hamilton, Rodeo Hero and  Rodeo Song by Shannan Taylor VannatterAngel Falls by Connie MannThe Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie MyersMarriage Takes Three by G. E. Hamlin, and Worth the Wait by Laura Jackson.

DSC_0904Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and writes for Christ to the World Ministries.

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Tan_eave

Website:  http://www.tanyaeavenson.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tanya Eavenson/129609683872033?ref=hl









 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Life After Kids by Eileen Rife

 Middleage womanBeauty sat across from me during a fund-raising dinner.  Dark eyes full of life. Slender hands illustrating her stories. Shoulder comfortably nestled into her husband. Seemingly confident in her own skin.


Yet as we conversed, I learned that this dear woman was entering mid-life, a soon-to-be empty nest mother of four, who shared a common bond with me along with concern for what lie ahead. We’d both homeschooled our children, having invested the bulk of our adult lives rearing the next generation.


And we both teetered on the precipice of a new day, suddenly aware of our imminent launch into the next season of our earthly journeys—life after kids.


What would this new day look like? What would life after kids really mean?


For the mid-life mom in my latest novel, Second Chance, life after her youngest daughter married feels bleak and blah. Concerned that her husband might be having an affair, she bends the ear of her longtime friend and neighbor, who’s shared everything from curriculum to chicken pox with Mave. Somehow neighbor Trish, who’s also an empty nest mom, appears to be dealing with this new stage of life with ease and grace, which both angers and intrigues Mave. When Trish suggests Mave get a life, at first she balks, but then she takes her up on the challenge. What follows is a series of humorous and dangerous mishaps that lead Mave into a world of drugs, gangs, and unwed teen moms, and in particular to a young man who needs her help. Interesting thing is, she also needs his.


Writing my fictional character’s empty nest journey helped me sort through my own. In hindsight, I now know a little R & R and R & R (indulge me, I’m obsessive-compulsive) would have better prepared me for the transition.


Whether your personal retreat is a day or a month, four Rs can help.


REFLECT on your journey thus far.


Psalm 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there iWoman with trees any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”


May I encourage you—get alone with the Lord.


 Ask yourself: What in my life needs God’s help, healing, and/or direction?


Pull out your Bible and journal. Pour out and put down your thoughts and feelings to Him, no matter what they might be. God can handle your honesty. He already knows you inside and out. But your confession before Him will ultimately set you free!


Perhaps an old wound’s been festering under the surface for many years, placed on the back burner in order to rear your children. Now’s a great time to take the trip inside. Ask God to reveal to you any areas of anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.


When I speak to women’s groups, I often encourage participants to build an altar out of the hard, cold, ugly rocks of their past. Based on Romans 12:1-2, you can do this, too. Tear up several pieces of paper. On each piece, write out a hurt or loss you’ve experienced. Tell the truth about the pain. Grieve the loss. Then in an act of release and forgiveness as applicable, wad each piece and then stack them in the form of an altar. Imagine yourself climbing on top, surrendering each hurt and loss to the Lord’s care.


In addition, examine yourself to see if you need to approach anyone whom you’ve hurt. Be willing to say, “I’m sorry; will you forgive me?” Then leave the results in God’s hands.


In short, take responsibility for your own healing. You don’t have to be a victim. You can determine to change and allow God to heal your heart.


REHEARSE God’s faithfulness.


Psalm 77: 11-12 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”


Ask yourself: What has God done to bring me this far? What about His character stands out to me?


The writers of the Old Testament often encourage us to remember what God has done. This vital rehearsal of His faithfulness reminds us of where He brought us from and gives us hope for the future.


If you haven’t already, now would be a good time to log the ways God has shown His faithfulness to you. Perhaps He provided money when you most needed provision. Write it down. Maybe He healed a physical ailment or answered a specific petition you offered up for a family member. Before long, your journal will be full of the many ways God has protected you and provided for you down through the years.


RENEW yourself in God’s love.


Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”


Ask yourself: Have any past wounds or relationships marred my concept of the heavenly Father? What can I do to restructure my vision of God the Father?


Renewing ourselves in God’s love requires mind renewal (Romans 12:2). Based on Scripture, we must tell ourselves the truth about who we are in Christ (Ephesians, chapter one).  As His daughters, we are redeemed, holy, chosen, beloved, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and adopted into God’s forever family.  We can safely curl up in the Father’s arms, because in Christ we are His children for all eternity.  I like to call myself, “a pauper turned princess”! That’s what we are, ladies. When we come to Christ in our poverty, He makes us brand new. Daughters of the King!


Now, doesn’t that make you feel loved?


RELEASE everyone and everything into God’s care. FamilyGroup


Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”


Ask yourself: Am I holding on to my time, talent, treasure, or significant others? What can I do to release each of these things for God’s use?


I was a teenager sitting in the woods at a Christian camp when the Lord gave me Psalm 46:10. Little did I know at the time that years later He would use my precious daughters to fulfill that verse in my life. Today, each one of them serves the Lord around the world along with their families in fulltime Christian service. The release of my children has not been easy, even though my husband and I trained them to go wherever God might lead.


Yet in my release, God showed me that He had a new platform for my life, fresh ways He wanted to use my time, talent, and treasure to express His love to the world. And if that wasn’t enough, He brought other sweet surprises my way. In answer to prayers offered from the time my children were tiny, God provided three sons-in-law, whose names all mean “Gift of God.” Then, over the course of four years, He gave us six grandchildren to love and nurture with the commitment to leave a godly legacy to the next generation.


Releasing my loved ones into God’s care has freed me to live life fully and use my time, talent, and treasure for His glory during this new season of life.


If you peeked into our living room window, most mornings you’d find my husband and I sitting in our prayer chairs with hands lifted toward heaven. Our motto: “Palms up in the PU!”


In the midst of adjusting to life after kids with its many challenges and heartaches, God has consistently bumped our focus back to Him, assuring us that this new stage of life is simply another step on the journey Home.


~~


If you are in the empty nest, what has helped you adjust?


If you are not currently in the empty nest, what can you do to prepare?


Leave a comment, and I will send you a bookmark with the FOUR Rs!


~~


On another note, we at Faith-filled Friends are launching another book give-away! Same rules apply as last time. The winner will be randomly selected from the comments left on each post published from now to May 1st. (View May’s gift basket prizes here.)


(Please note, the following is applicable to readers living in the continental US only. If a selected winner lives outside the continental US, they will receive ebooks, when available. Books that do not have e-versions will be placed back in the “gift-pot” to be sent to a randomly chosen runner-up living in the continental US.)

One randomly chosen winner, selected from the comments left on all posts published from today to May 1st, will receive a copy of the following (some in print others in ebook form.) They will receive a copy of:

Delivery by Diana Prusik, Jasmine by April McGowan, Hear No Evil by Mary Hamilton, Rodeo Hero and  Rodeo Song by Shannan Taylor VannatterAngel Falls by Connie MannThe Shepherd’s Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie MyersMarriage Takes Three by G. E. Hamlin, and Worth the Wait by Laura Jackson.

Engage often and receive numerous contest entries. :)

~~

EileenRifeEileen Rife, author of Laughing with Lily, speaks to women's groups, encouraging them to discover who they are in Christ and what part they play in His amazing story! When not writing or speaking, Eileen jumps on the trampoline, blows bubbles, bakes, runs barefoot in the yard, and plays ball with her six (almost seven) grandchildren. www.eileenrife.com, www.eileen-rife.blogspot.com.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Making of a Writer

It's no secret, I love books. In fact, this affinity could border on an obsession. Or an addiction. ATriptoBaumanRareBooksLikely both. Actually, I love words period. When I was a kid, my dad and I would go for walks. Skips, actually, which was probably quite comical, my father being the lean, muscular, over-dramatic wrestling coach he was. If I had a video, I'd show you. (Although he might put me in a headlock.)

Anyway, we'd go on "skips", and while we did, rather than singing "Dippity-do-da", we'd play rhyming games. I'd say something utterly serious and uber important to an eight year old mind, most likely asking when I'd next get chocolate.  My father would respond with a rhyming sentence that had nothing to do with my original statement. An effective diversion tactic, I'd say, as I'd immediately forget the chocolate and would pop off with a nonsensical line of my own. On and on we went, until we reached our destination.

imageAnd what childhood would be complete without a healthy dose of storytime? My father's favorite? The Muffin Man. He sang the refrain often, often enough I imagine he could recite it even now.

So, yes, words were a very pleasant part of my childhood.

Not unexpectedly, this odd fascination with words morphed into a love for writing. Now, when I say writing, I'm not referring to what I do now as a novelist and freelance journalist. No, I just liked to write words. Random, nonsensical, often repetitious, words. Maybe to give my hands something to do?

Or evidence of my future addiction? I assume the latter.

Then came journaling and essay writing and short stories until one day it hit me, rather writing-1209716-mlike a clunk to the head, "Hm... I really enjoy this." By this point, I was a strong believer actively involved in ministry and alert to God's sovereignty, so, a second thought followed, "Maybe God is up to something."

Well, He was, and I'm still writing, still reading, and still playing the occasional word game with my father. (You can witness an example of that here.)

But now, a new passion has emerged, one intricately twined with those games and pleasures of my past, but expanded to include...

YOU!

The more I fall in love with this writing thing and the purposes God has for it, the more I long to share that love with others. Whether that's lending out one of my favorite novels, writing a review, encouraging or training a fellow writer, or giving away baskets full of books, it all stems from one rather infectious condition.

I, Jennifer Slattery, have a rapidly accelerating addiction to words, and like all addicts do, I feel the need to project my addictions on to all my friends.

I suspect you won't mind. :)

Which leads me to my exciting announcement! We at Faith-filled Friends are launching another book give-away! Same rules apply as last time. The winner will be randomly selected from the comments left on each post published from now to May 1st. (View May's gift basket prizes here.)

(Please note, the following is applicable to readers living in the continental US only. If a selected winner lives outside the continental US, they will receive ebooks, when available. Books that do not have e-versions will be placed back in the “gift-pot” to be sent to a randomly chosen runner-up living in the continental US.)

One randomly chosen winner, selected from the comments left on all posts published from today to May 1st, will receive a copy of the following (some in print others in ebook form.) They will receive a copy of:

Delivery by Diana Prusik, Jasmine by April McGowan, Hear No Evil by Mary Hamilton, Rodeo Hero and  Rodeo Song by Shannan Taylor VannatterAngel Falls by Connie MannThe Shepherd's Song by Betsy Duffey and Laurie MyersMarriage Takes Three by G. E. Hamlin, and Worth the Wait by Laura Jackson.

Engage often and receive numerous contest entries. :)

If you're visiting this site, I assume you share our love for books. What are some of your favorites? Do you have a particular genre you lean toward? When did you first become aware of this affinity, and has it grown to addiction levels? ;)  How might winning our May gift basket help reduce the strain of feeding your unquenchable reading habit?

Before you leave, I encourage you to visit one of my other blogs, InspryRomance.com to enter the drawing for a free Kindle Fire! The give-away ends today, so hurry! :)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

What're you lookin' at?

by Carole Towriss

     My family and I recently returned from a visit to Disneyworld. We always stay at the Fort Wilderness campground in the cabins, mostly because that’s the only place where all six of us can stay in one room. Actually, its not really a room—it’s more like a tiny trailer with one bedroom, a murphy bed in the sitting room, and a kitchen, but anywhere else we have to get two rooms.
     One of our favorite things about Fort Wilderness is the boat ride from the campground to the Magic Kingdom. It’s about a twenty-minute ride and is usually full of other families. I love watching the little kids, probably because I am gratefully past the double stroller and backpacks-full-of-stuff stage. One afternoon there was a pair of little girls sitting a few rows in front of me with what I assume was their grandmother. The older of the two had mild Down’s syndrome, and was about a year older than her sister. What I noticed first, though, was how much alike they were. They shared the same blue-green eyes, the same slight build, and the same silky, dark blond hair as their grandma.
     Grandma was putting sunscreen on the face of the oldest and she reared her head back and batted her eyelashes, just like my kids did. She, however, did not fuss or push grandma’s hands away – unlike my kids.
     Many people would have focused on the girl’s differences—her almond eyes, short neck, small ears. While I did notice them, I was drawn to the similarities, both between her and her sister, her and her grandmother, and between her and my kids. Or even her and all kids.

[caption id="attachment_260" align="alignnone" width="640"]Carole's kids my kids[/caption]

Maybe it’s because I have four children who look so dissimilar. We adopted three of our four children from Kazakhstan. The two girls are Central Asian, and the boy, our youngest, is Russian. Kazaks were a Turkic people conquered by Genghis Khan and his Mongols, so even our two Kazakh girls look different—one looks more Turkic, one more Mongol. Most people say our youngest looks just like our college bio-daughter Emma, which is weird.

     Our four children share not a shred of DNA, and it makes our house a loud, chaotic, wonderful, loving mess. And even though they all look so different, they are all ours. And like any family—or church, or city, or country—we can focus on the differences or celebrate the similarities. 

What similarities do you celebrate in your family, church or town?

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV