What I’m Reading: The Sister Circle

womenI’m the youngest of three children and the only girl. It almost goes without saying that I was a little bit of a tomboy. I had a dollhouse, but the G.I. Joe’s would often invade the house during war time. Sure, I watched My Little Pony and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons. I also loved B.J. and the Bear, The A-Team, and Air Wolf. I liked to wear makeup occasionally, but I had no idea how to make my hair look good like the other girls in class. To be honest, that’s something I still don’t get!

I was always curious about what it would be like to have a sister. I’m not sure why. I had female friends, but I tended to get along better with the guys. I had little patience for the manipulation games that girls tend to play. Besides, it worked out just fine for me to have guy friends. At least it did until I hit the age that I wanted to be more than “one of the guys”. Then, I was stuck without hope of escape.

I never got a sister, and I was okay with that. I think I realized it would have been a disaster, especially if she’d been more girly than me. But God did bless me with girl friends throughout my life. I never had more than one at a time. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have handled more than that. And they were usually very different from me. One was very girly. One seemed to know how to talk to guys in ways I didn’t get that got them to see her as more than one of the guys. Some were definitely extroverts. I’ve rarely had girl friends similar to me, even in adulthood.  Of course, we had some things in common or we never would’ve become friends, but the similarities were more superficial like similar music tastes or favorite television shows.

These differences could cause issues, but they could also be exactly what I needed. It’s a lesson the women of The Sister Circle by Nancy Moser and Vonette Bright learned as they lived together in Peerbaugh Place. Some would say fate or fortune threw them together. Others in the group would say it was God at work. At first their differences seemed trivial, but it quickly became apparent that these ladies had extreme differences in personality, experience, and beliefs.

It’s the differences that threaten to tear the tenants of the boardinghouse apart. But it’s also the differences that open up the avenues God wants to use to bond these women together as a family. Together they learn about themselves and grow in faith and love. Despite their differences these women become sisters who would do anything for the others in the group.

Like the women of Peerbaugh Place, women, even Christian women, can hold at arm’s length those who are different from us. Instead of getting to know each other and trying to understand one another, we push others away. God didn’t intend this. While scripture is specific about not engaging in sinful behaviors and beliefs, God never wanted us to use this as a reason to segregate ourselves from the people in our lives.

Scripture tells us repeatedly to love one another. The story of the Good Samaritan was used to teach us we are to show practical love to everyone, even those who our differences would encourage us to walk past without a second thought.  We are to be the image of Christ to the world around us, not just in the church pews with like-minded people. We are to reach beyond the doors of the church, and there are great differences when we decide to step outside the circle of believers.

The women in The Sister Circle worked together despite their differences. They faced challenges for sure, and we will too. But the end result of learning to look past differences and care for the people we come in contact with is the world seeing God’s love in action. And experiencing God’s love will change the world for the better.

Mothers and More: Favorite Characters

Erin Davis (1)Mother’s Day is almost over. Tomorrow there will be no more breakfasts in bed. There will be no cards and gifts. The blatant expressions of love and attention shown on this day will become a distant memory to give us strength through the year as those we love try our patience.

Everything about today seemed to revolve around the women in our lives who have had a hand in making us who we are today. I’m doing an author challenge on Instagram, and even today’s assignment called attention to moms. Today participants were to post a picture about their favorite mom characters. I’d love to say I posted one about the mom in my own book, Faith’s Journey. I couldn’t do that.

Unlike my own relationship with my mom, Katie’s relationship with her mother is tempestuous. It’s been that way since Katie was a little girl, and the continued discord causes a great amount of frustration for Katie when she returns home to care for her injured mom. Sharon McGowan is not my favorite mom character.

No. My favorite mom character from my books isn’t the mom at all. Gigi B, introduced in Grasping Hope, is the grandmother of Katie’s best friend. She has the style of Helen Mirren and the sass of Flo from Mel’s Diner.  She is fun and outgoing, never hesitating to be herself. But she is more than just stylish fluff. She’s a godly woman who loves those around her in word and deed. Her wisdom is the kind that comes from walking with God faithfully through the years, and she doesn’t hesitate to share it with those who need to hear God’s truth.

She may not be the main character in my books, but she is a character that means a lot to me. I don’t write people in my life into my books. The characters are all their own, and they’re products of my imagination. However, Gigi B does have real life inspiration thought it’s not found in my grandmother. (My grandmother is wonderful, but she is not a Gigi B!) My aunt has been that kind of person in my life. She’s always been in my corner, and she’s a ton of fun to spend the day with. She is a loving, giving woman full of life who loves God. She’s always been stylish and outgoing, two things that will never be said about me. And I’ve learned a lot from her.

My aunt may not be Gigi B, but she is the type of person I wanted the character to be. Honestly, she is the type of person I’d like to be in my life too. Not the stylish or extroverted parts (though a little help in the style department couldn’t hurt). Those are great, but they don’t make my aunt who she is inside. And though it sounds cliché, it is what’s inside that counts.

What’s inside is a heart that loves God and loves others. My aunt is a woman who will hurt with you, laugh with you, and pray for you. If she can help, she will. She exemplifies living faith. And she’s not the only one. God has blessed me with a godly mom, grandmothers, and others throughout my life who have shown me what it means to live for God each day. They are the women who encourage me to be the type of woman God would have me to be. And I am thankful today and every day for their example that spurs me on to become more Christ-like each day.

Write Stuff Wednesday: An Interview

2f8c97e9-014e-4796-9373-22b108cebe0eUsually I post a quote on Wednesday, but today I had the opportunity to participate in an interview. This interview had some really great questions, and I thought I would share them with you.

I want to thank Elisabeth Trainor for thinking of me for her 5th grade research project on becoming an author. It was my pleasure to help out. I hope your project is a success!

What are some of the responsibilities you have at your job?

My main responsibility as an author is to write, whether it’s the next book I’m working on or something for my blog. I’m also responsible for promoting my books. This includes doing interviews, being a guest on other blogs, participating in book signings, speaking to groups, and creating images to post on social media that tell others about my books.

Is this the job you went to college for?

I know several writers who went to school to get degrees in English or creative writing. While I’ve taken several courses and attended workshops to help make me a better writer and increase my knowledge about the business aspects of writing, my course of study in college was psychology. But even that aids me as a writer by giving me additional insight into personalities to help me create more realistic characters.

What are some of the best things about your job?

I love creating new people and places for the readers to connect with. I have always loved stories, and now I get to create them for others. As a Christian author, I love that God has given me a way to encourage other believers through something that I am passionate about. Plus, I can work at the time of day that is best for me. And if I want I can do the writing part of my job in comfy clothes!

What are some of the worst things about your job?

I don’t know that there is any part of being an author that I don’t like. There are parts of it that are more difficult for me. I’m not a math person, but working for myself I have to be responsible for the tax information our state requires. That is definitely not fun. To help promote my book, I have to learn new computer programs or apps. I’m not proficient with a lot of these things, and that makes using them frustrating until I get used to them. I also have to talk about myself and my writing. As a fairly introverted person, this is very uncomfortable for me. But I’m getting better at it.

Why did you choose to be an author?

Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies. Each book introduced me to new friends and places I’d never visited. The stories I read would show me new perspectives and ideas I hadn’t thought about before. As I got older and read more faith based fiction, I found a lot of truth in the stories that I read. The people the authors created encouraged me and challenged me to grow as a person and as a Christian. I came away from the best books I read excited and wanting to create that same experience for others.

Where is the most comfortable spot you like to write at?

I have a comfy chair in my office. It faces a large window that looks out over the field behind my house and the woods beyond the field. It’s a very quiet, peaceful scene. When the weather is cool enough, I like to open the window, look out, and write with the fresh air coming into the room.

What inspires you to write?

Overall, I think the reason I wanted to be an author is what inspires me to do it. But there are people and things that continue to keep me focused and encouraged. I believe God gave me this ability and passion, and He inspires me to write in ways that will allow others to know Him more. I still find inspiration when I read a really good book. It leaves me anxious to get back to work on my own stories. When I’m feeling less motivated to write, I have a local writer’s group and friends that encourage me to get back to it. They help me work through what’s holding me back and cheer me on when things are going well.

Do you write non-fiction or fiction?

My books are fiction. They are set in the real town I grew up in, but the people and situations are all from my imagination. My blog posts are non-fiction. They are all about writing, reading, and living a life of faith. One day, I’d like to have devotional books that pair up with each fiction book I write. Those will be non-fiction as well.

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite non-fiction author is Sheila Walsh. Her books deal with the real issues that come up in living a life of faith, and she handles each one with honesty and openness. It’s nice to know someone isn’t just telling you something from theory but instead from a life that’s lived it out.

My favorite fiction author is Kristen Heitzmann. Her stories draw me in. She’s an amazing story-teller, and I come away feeling like I’ve been visiting with friends. The messages in her stories have helped me with things I’ve gone through in my own life. I got to meet her once, and she is also a very kind and encouraging individual.

How did your book get published?

After I completed the manuscript, I researched publishers and agents. A lot of publishers won’t take new authors without getting the material from an agent. So, I had to approach both. I sent out several query letters explaining the story and why I was qualified to write it. I also had to give them information on my writing training, accomplishments, and how I could help market my books.  I got rejection slips. Most authors do. But I kept sending it out. Authors need to learn how to persevere.

Mantle Rock Publishing accepted the manuscript, and I signed a contract with them. The book had to be sent to them for edits. As I completed them, I sent it back. Their cover designer worked on designing the perfect cover for my book while I was busy editing. Then, with the edits done and the cover design approved, the publisher sent it to the people who would make it into the actual book in time for the release date. I will never forget the first time I held my finished book in my hands. I’m blessed to have this job.

What I’m Reading: Blue Columbine

blue columbine flowerWe try to teach our children that actions have consequences, but society tells them otherwise. Actions have consequences if you’re not rich or famous. Actions have consequences unless you choose to get rid of that consequence. Actions have consequences unless you’re willing to strike a deal to get out of them. We make decisions every day, and whether we like it or not the natural order of things is for our actions to lead to reactions.  Nothing can be done or said without leaving its mark on the people and things around it, no matter what we tell ourselves.

When those choices are fueled by addictions, the consequences created are often devastating for those closest to us.  Jamie Carson and Andrew Harris learn this painful lesson in Blue Columbine by Jennifer Rodewald. Similar circumstances in their teenage years forced these best friends apart until they are well into adulthood. Though their circumstances mirrored each other, their reactions to the events in their lives couldn’t have been more different.

Jamie’s faith is deeply rooted in her life when a chance meeting puts Andrew back into her life. Andrew’s faith has been discarded for pursuits that allowed him to rebel without the guilt. Though Jamie sees the spark of the boy she loved deep inside, the man he has become is a stranger to her. With patience and love, she hopes to point him back to the God he walked away from.

Andrew knows his life is a mess, but he can’t see his part in it. His choices have been perfectly fine, and he should not have to face consequences for them. They’ve led him to an addiction he denies. They’ve put a wall between him and his family. And he keeps disappointing and hurting the one person who still seems to believe in him. As Andrew comes to accept there are things in his life that need to change, he believes Jamie is who he needs to help him do it. When his actions bring consequences she can’t stomach, he may lose her and his reason to be a better man.

Jamie knows what Andrew needs is God’s redemption. She simply doesn’t know how to help him see it. Even when things seem to get better, Jamie can’t escape the fear his actions have caused in her heart. Redemption or no, Andrew may have to live with losing Jamie for good as a consequence of his behaviors.

My thoughts on the book: Jennifer Rodewald is a new author to me. I found Blue Columbine while scrolling through Kindle Unlimited’s Christian Romance selections. The cover and title peaked my interest, and I began reading it immediately. I didn’t want to put it down. The ups and downs in Jamie and Andrew’s relationship kept me turning the pages. The author handles addiction in a real way. The addict isn’t treated as a monster. The author does a wonderful job of showing the struggle, the failures, and the successes of one dealing with addiction. She also does a great job of showing how the addiction affects those who love the addict. Helping and enabling, trusting and being realistic, loving them through and leaving for their best are all subjects the story doesn’t turn away from.  Jennifer Rodewald is now on my “keep reading” list. In fact, I downloaded two more of her books as soon as I finished this one.

By the Book: No matter what society tells us, our actions do have consequences. And we become known by the actions we make part of our lives on a regular basis. That’s where our character comes from. Proverbs 20:11 tells us, “Even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right.” You can’t lie habitually without becoming untrustworthy. You can’t steal without being known as a thief. An attitude of entitlement will label us as lazy and arrogant.

This isn’t God’s plan for His children. He tells us we are to have the mind of Christ. Our actions and their consequences should point others to Him. What do your actions say about you? Are the consequences of your actions a world that knows more of God’s truth and love?