By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

Category: Devotion (page 1 of 4)

Free Books and Feeling Frustrated

I’m essential. I’ve never seen that as a bad thing, but considering it in light of Corona virus, I’m beginning to wonder. Don’t get me wrong. I know how blessed I am. In a time when others are without their usual income, mine has stayed fairly steady. I’m beyond thankful for that.

But I’m an introverted author with another full-time job and a family. To me, staying home (which I do not get to do) sounds amazing. I have trouble understanding the issues for my more extroverted friends who take to Facebook to complain about their boredom. I’d love to be home working on my next book and keeping caught up on all the marketing and social networking aspects of writing without the countdown clock of the weekend ticking away in my ears.

Even without the added issues dealing with this virus brings to our lives, my week is busy. Because my hours are set at work, I feel like my writing life takes a back seat to my 8-5 work.

But we are dealing with the virus and social distancing and businesses being shut down and stores running out of essential items. Because of these things and the fear they often bring, my 8-5 job as a receptionist in a doctor’s office has become five days of hectic frustration a week. I’m sure it’s the same with any job dealing with people.

This makes my job as an author even more hectic and difficult. I have to take more downtime when I get home. I’ve had more migraines. I find myself trying to fit everything I have to do as an author into the two days I’m home for the weekend. Sometimes it feels like I’m an author who never gets to actually write!

But that’s okay for now. We’re all dealing with stuff. I’ve been blessed with the ability to work in a writing ministry that I love. I never want to forget that. Today, tomorrow, and maybe all of the month of April may be completely wonky. I may be able to write a little, or I may not be able to finish a paragraph on my next book. Whatever happens, it’s okay. I’m giving myself permission to take the time I need to keep myself strong physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I encourage you to do the same. If it’s crafting that sets you straight, then take that time. Dusting the mantle can wait. If you need to get out and take a walk, do it (maintaining social distancing as you do). The kitchen floor can be mopped tomorrow.

If you reset with a good book, I’ve got some help for you. From April 4-8, Faith’s Journey is available as an eBook on Amazon for free. In addition, I’ve got a thread started on my Facebook author page that includes ads for other free Christian fiction books you can get at this time. Fill up your eBook library, and enjoy your You Time. You can find me on Facebook by searching @AuthorHeatherGreer. The post you want to follow begins with this ad. Happy Reading!

It’s Becoming Real

In the middle of all the uncertain, unwanted, and unlikable changes going on in our lives at the moment, there is a lot of good we can focus on.

While we may not be able to hang out with out friends, it’s still spring. We can take a walk outside to get some fresh air. We can enjoy the beautiful colors of the flowers and trees that are beginning to bloom. We can have sun on our faces for the first time in what seems like forever.

We live in an age of technology. We can’t sit in the room with our friends, but we can do much better than a simple phone call (though that’s good too). We can video chat with them. In fact, if we want, a whole group can get together and chat together. Maybe you can even work out a way to play games like Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, or Charades using a video chat app.

Technology has even allowed us to have church when we can’t be there in person. It gives an easy way for people who have a need to find the help they need. And it can give us a way to lift other’s spirits during this time if we will determine to spread only what is beneficial or uplifting to others at this time when we need a laugh or smile most.

In the middle of all this change, I’ve gotten a couple pieces of great news. I mentioned the first in a previous post. But I’ll share it again.

Grasping Hope is a finalist in the Selah awards! The Blue Ridge Christian Writer’s Conference where the awards take place is scheduled for the end of May. I hope and pray this is all over by then, and the conference and awards ceremony will proceed as planned. But if not, it won’t change the honor of being a finalist.

My second piece of good news is about the third book in Katie’s series. A few days ago, I received the final cover! Even having gone through this process twice before, seeing your cover for the first time makes the whole thing seem real. You know in your head the book has a release date. You finished the manuscript. You have the contract. But your first view of the cover elicits a breathless, “This is actually happening.”

And now I get to share my good news with you. I love this cover. As perfect as the first two were, I think this one may be my favorite!

Write Stuff Wednesday with Hope Toler Dougherty

Today’s guest post comes from Hope Toler Dougherty, author of three (soon to be four) contemporary Christian romances. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Hope, and the quote she shares today is very pertinent for the times we live in.

“Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery.” Jane Austen

I saw that quotation painted on a bookstore wall in a Utah airport on my way to a mission trip in Montana. My fiction writing journey was in its infancy. My first novel consisted of several chapters in a word document, but I knew it was a love story. At the time, I didn’t admit to reading romance, and while only a handful of people knew I was writing a book, they didn’t know it was a love story.

 Not knowing where God was leading me, I wrote that quotation in my journal. It nudged me toward appreciating love stories. It suggested that everyone has different tastes—horror, science fiction, dystopian, fantasy, and, yes, romance—in reading and in writing.

At my first writing conference, I discovered I needed a tagline (I’m not sure that’s true now because about the only place I use mine is on my business cards.) Remembering Austen’s view, I considered it a bit before writing “Trading guilt and misery for God’s grace and mercy.”

The tagline is a good description of my stories to date. My main characters grow from a place of guilt or discontent or anger or fear and learn to enjoy God’s grace and mercy in new-found freedom of God’s love.

We can also adapt Austen’s quotation to our present age with the uncertainty and ever-changing status of the Coronavirus situation. I’m holding onto God’s peace because I’m sure He’s sovereign. I’m sure He isn’t in Heaven wringing His hands muttering, “Oh, no. What’s going to happen next?” He wasn’t surprised by this world-wide outbreak.

I’m not buying into the panic served up with every update flashing across my phone screen. I’m resting in the peace of my certain salvation.

Let other people dwell in misery and worry. I’ll hold on to God’s peace, and I’ll share it when I get the chance.

Hope’s bio: Hope Toler Dougherty holds a Master’s degree in English and taught at East Carolina University as well as York Technical College. She’s a member of ACFW and  RWA, and her novels are Irish EncounterMars…With Venus Rising, and Rescued Hearts. A native North Carolinian, she and her husband, Kevin, look forward to visits with their two daughters and twin sons. 

Social media links:

http://hopetolerdougherty.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AUTHORHOPETOLERDOUGHERTY/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/13941031.Hope_Doughertyhttps://www.pinterest.com/hopetdougherty/https://twitter.com/HopeTDougherty

https://www.instagram.com/hopetolerdougherty/

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hope+toler+dougherty

Purchasing links;https://www.amazon.com/Irish-Encounter-Hope-Dougherty-ebook/dp/B00XD3NMI8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=irish+encounter&qid=1585055339&s=digital-text&sr=1-1
https://www.amazon.com/Rescued-Hearts-Hope-Toler-Dougherty-ebook/dp/B074SXJLH4/ref=sr_1_11?dchild=1&keywords=rescued+hearts&qid=1585055383&s=digital-text&sr=1-11

Hope’s new novel, Forever Music, will release in May.  College professor Josie Daniels is good at nurturing. Attorney Ches Windham is good at keeping secrets. When their lives intersect, sparks fly, changing hearts and lives forever.

Full of Character Interview with Neena Gaynor

Today’s Full of Character author is Neena Gaynor.

Neena Gaynor is a former nurse who has spent much of the last decade traveling with her husband, Wade, a former professional baseball player. Throughout the 29 changes of address and the stresses of moving a young family, Neena learned to embrace the peace that only comes from the steady accompaniment of Christ in her heart.

Today, Neena is ecstatic to be back in her old Kentucky home, beekeeping, writing, and being Mom. But first, let’s get to know Neena a little more from her interview.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

Atticus Finch. The rational, principled lawyer and father from To Kill a Mockingbird models virtue. He’s a steadfast example of prudence, humility, and charity—a fictional example worthy of our aspiration.

It’s been a long time since I last read that one. I may have to check it out again. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

The Bird and the Bees is written from a first-person point of view, so having a main character that was a female nurse from Appalachia wasn’t a stretch for me. Going into Larkin’s wounds, exposing what made her calloused to love and grace, proved to be more difficult. The hardest character to write was probably Larkin’s aunt, Aster. She was also the most fun. Aster also struggles with a past, one that has left her tight-lipped, antsy, and with a hint of humor.

The past does have a way of influencing who we are in the future. And isn’t it interesting how a past can move a person one direction while it may move others in a completely different way? We see that all the time, even in scripture. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

Right now, I’m trying to relate more to Mary of Bethany. She’s the one who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Those who witnessed this were appalled at her actions, but Jesus praised her. “She has done a beautiful thing to me,” Jesus said. “She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body to prepare for my burial,” (Mark 14:6-8).

Those words, “she did what she could,” takes the weight of the world off of our shoulders. As a writer, sometimes we wonder if what we are doing is significant. We worry if typing words on a screen and imagining fictional scenarios is worth the effort or time. If we do it FOR HIM, then I believe He would praise us too. So, whether it is in the writing, the mothering, the beekeeping, or even in how I respond to others, I’m striving to do what I can… for Christ.

I don’t believe I’ve ever heard her story with that particular focus before, but that’s a powerful statement for all of us to strive for.

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

More than a backstory, I had a forward story in mind. I knew the place where I wanted the wounded nurse to get in her relationships with her family, friends, the world, and Jesus. Navigating the path with some glances in the rearview mirror was just a part of the journey.

If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Audrey Hepburn. She’d add some elegance and style to this Kentucky girl.

If you could only read from one genre for the rest of your life, which one would you choose (and it can’t be the genre you write in)?

Religious Nonfiction. I love learning about our faith and being inspired by other’s testimonies.

It’s amazing how one person’s journey put into writing can touch so many lives.

What is your go-to snack and drink combination when you’re writing?

It’s coffee. With more coffee. Hot and black. I blame (thank) my mother.

I want to thank Neena for joining me today. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little more about her and her writing. Stay connected with Neena through the following social media links.

www.wordslikehoney.com

www.facebook.com/neenagaynor/

www.instagram.com/neenagaynor/

You can check out and preorder Neena’s book, The Birds and the Bees, at the link below. And don’t forget, the book releases on April 1st!

What I’m Reading: Lane Steen

I admit I shed a few tears the first time I listened to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rock opera, Beethoven’s Last Night. When Mephistopheles strikes a bargain with Beethoven to give up one piece of the music he’s created in exchange for his soul, Beethoven rants at Fate for having left him with this awful choice after the lifetime of hurts he’s already faced. She allows him to revisit scenes from his past and erase their pain from his life. But the hurts, disappointments, and losses sprinkled throughout his memories aren’t what moved me.

After reliving each painful experience, Beethoven makes his choice. As he sings “This is Who You Are”, it becomes clear. Beethoven can’t erase any of his past without erasing the beautiful music created from the things he experienced. One event changed in his past would change everything else about his life. He chose to keep the pain so the world would not lose the beauty drawn out of it. It’s a choice that probably hits close to home for many of us as we consider the mistakes and hurts of our own lives.

I imagine it’s a theme that played throughout Lane’s life in Lane Steen by Candace West.  Before she was out of her teenage years, Lane Steen’s life held enough hurts to fill ten people with the ache to erase the past. Raised in a shack on the outskirts of town was enough to make Lane feel like an outcast without adding in her tattered clothes and father’s bad reputation. Even those paled in comparison to the horror of living with an alcoholic father who didn’t need the addition of alcohol to make him physically and verbally abusive to his wife and daughter. With her own mother being emotionally disconnected from her, the only bright spots in her life are school and her friendships with Tabitha, Guy, and the new teacher who encourages Lane to find what she’s good at and pursue it.

Even these gifts in her life don’t lessen the hurt she feels or take away the hate Lane has for her father. Her only thoughts are to escape the town and her family and never look back. As opportunities open up small windows of hope into Lane’s life, Lane begins to wrestle with the possibility that God is there and, despite her awful circumstances, He may care about her.  

Lane takes a journey of self and faith discovery through the story. Each secret revealed about herself and her family’s past gives her more understanding. Lane learns what brings her joy and purpose. She finds out how healing God’s forgiveness and love can be to receive, and she is confronted with the need to extend that forgiveness and love to others. Lane’s eyes and heart are opened to what it really means to love someone and let them love in return. And she struggles to define what forgiveness should look like on a daily basis as she tries to move forward from the damage caused by others in her life. Lane had to learn how to let the past shape her without allowing it to trap her in a world of hate and retribution.

Whether it’s in the fictional world of Lane Steen or in our sometimes all too real lives, the past plays its part in who people become. Good and bad circumstances influence our outlooks, decisions, and emotions. Left on our own, we often turn to unhealthy ways of dealing with the past. We, like Lane, attach ourselves to ideas of retribution, hate, or despair.

It doesn’t have to be this way. God’s word offers hope that as we’ve been forgiven, we can forgive others whether they deserve it or not.  They don’t even have to accept it. We find freedom in ourselves to move into a better place when we choose forgiveness.

Scripture promises us that while the hurts may not fall away, God can grow good things in us despite and even through the pain. God assures us He will never leave us. When we feel we are all alone, we can cling to this promise and know that feeling is not from Him. He’s there to provide strength, encouragement, and direction in the middle of our hurts.

Navigating our pasts to become God’s best for us in the present and future isn’t an easy path. And it’s relevance in our lives is what makes Lane Steen’s fictional story resonate even if your pains are very different from hers. But coming to the places of acceptance of our pasts, forgiveness for those who hurt us, and allowing God to work in us will bring us to the place where we can be everything we were created to be.

What I’m Reading: Calm and Bright

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Though none of us can say who actually said it first (some say Will Rogers, Oscar Wilde, or an advertisement for a suit from the 1960s), we tend to be well acquainted with its meaning. We consider it as we choose clothes for a first date or job interview. We practice our presentation for the hundredth time even though we know it backwards and forwards. We do it because we know the importance of that first impression.

My DNA is made up of every possible hindrance to a good first impression. I’m an introvert who needs well defined parameters for social situations to function at my best. I’m the proud recipient of the unrefined grace gene rendering me incapable of getting through events without awkward moments of embarrassment. Add to those my tendency to answer questions off the cuff incorrectly. Someone tells me thanks for shopping at their store, and without missing a beat I say something like “you too”. And after any conversational train wreck, I, of course, spend hours thinking about what I could have done differently.

All this wonderfully embarrassing DNA leaves me uncomfortable in many situations, but it’s also taught me something the quote failed to do. I may not have a second chance to make a first impression, but I can redeem a first impression with what comes next.

Changing a first impression isn’t easy. Depending on the situation it can take dedication and hard work. For Brad Hughes, the male main character in Autumn Macarthur’s book Calm and Bright, it may even take a Christmas miracle.

Brad’s life changed after Maddie divorced him and returned to her small hometown in Idaho. When he’s invited to spend Christmas with Maddie for the sake of their four year old, he jumps at the chance. It may be his opportunity to change her mind about him and their marriage. But her impression of him and their time together is harder to overcome than he first imagines.

Even with a few good memories, a son they both love, and one of Maddie’s relatives in his corner, Brad realizes there are a lot of things separating them. He quickly learns the patterns of behavior he adopted during their marriage meant one thing to him and felt completely different to Maddie. Besides, Maddie seems to thrive in the small community she returned to while he has done well with big city life and the demands of a high profile job.

The impressions Brad left Maddie with when they divorced are ingrained in Maddie’s mind. They leave her questioning and fighting every good feeling Brad’s arrival tries to bring. Brad learns words are not enough to undo the past. He’s got to listen to Maddie and show her how much he’s changed if he hopes to turn her heart to him by the end of Christmas.

What I’m Reading: Catching Christmas

Those who’ve been regular readers know my family has been dealing with my grandmother’s declining health. The last three weeks were particularly stressful with placing her in a memory care facility, her stroke and fall, and watching her decline. On Tuesday, November 19th, my grandmother saw her prayer to be free from the brokenness of her mind answered when God took her into her eternal home.

We miss her, but we are happy for her. She was always Grandma, but she wasn’t the grandmother of my childhood anymore. Watching her decline daily over the last five months as her day time caregiver I learned several things. First, dementia is a horrible disease. I knew that, but I didn’t KNOW that until I lived it beside one of my loved ones on a daily basis. Second, I would much rather loved ones die without warning than watch their slow decline. The third goes along with the second. I want to let my loved ones know that I love them every day so if they go without warning I have no regrets. And though these are only the highlights of things I learned, I have one more to share today.

Even in the hardest times, there are blessings to be found. Over the last five months I’ve collected memories with Grandma from her daily care. My extended family has found a new appreciation for each other, and family hurts have been healed. The power of prayer, scripture, and communion have been reinforced in my life. I’ve had the gift of seeing the spirit continue to thrive even as the body wastes away. With that has come the opportunity to see Grandma touch lives for Jesus even when she was incapable of normal interaction. I got to see her live with purpose, and when that purpose was complete I got to see God take her home to be with Him.

With all these blessings and lessons fresh in my mind, it was with a greater understanding that I read Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock. I’ll be completely honest, if I’d refreshed myself on the subject matter, I might have skipped reading this one this Christmas. I’m glad I didn’t.

Miss Callie’s granddaughter, Sydney, is a busy lawyer who loves her grandmother but is unable to give her the care she needs due to a demanding job as a lawyer. Not understanding how desperately Miss Callie needs daily care she’s content to arrange for cabs to take her grandmother wherever she needs to go.

Finn is the first to pick Miss Callie up for a doctor’s appointment, and he immediately becomes the only one she will call for a ride. His frustration at becoming not only a ride but a substitute caregiver is off-set by his guilt over leaving his mother to die alone because he couldn’t handle the emotional demands. Miss Callie is a chance to change that. he quickly grows to care for her even when her verbal filter doesn’t work as it should and when she leads him on a quest to find a date for Sydney in effort to make this the best Christmas ever.

Finn reaches out to Sydney in frustration but learns there’s more to her than a neglectful granddaughter. As Finn works to give Miss Callie the wonderful Christmas she desires, his friendship with Sydney grows through their continued interaction. It will take both Sydney and Finn to give Miss Callie a wonderful Christmas.

Miss Callie has dementia, a mission, and a soft spot for “that nice young man” who drives the cab. She loves the Lord, and even in her altered state it comes through changing both Finn and Sydney. She lives with purpose whether her mind is clear or not. It’s this purpose that keeps her and Finn on the go from page one to the very end of Catching Christmas.

While Catching Christmas was especially touching for me, the story will be sweet, funny, and meaningful for anyone reading it. Full of reminders to chase after what’s important, live with purpose, and find the blessings in life no matter what I hope it moves readers into action this Christmas season and throughout the coming years.

What I’m Reading: Spring of Thanksgiving

My family is experiencing first-hand how God works in what our very limited human perceptions label as good and bad events. Dealing with dementia, strokes, and a gradual decline leading to what we hope is soon to be my grandmother’s heavenly homecoming we are swimming in a sea of what feels like bad events. But God has given us so many good gifts during this time.

Through the years of dealing with her dementia, God has grown us and provided for us in ways we never expected. He’s brought beautiful things out of the experience and taken care of details we didn’t know would be necessary. Some of the good has been spiritual in nature, but He’s worked out just as many of our physical needs.

I gave up my job to help my mother care for my grandmother. I didn’t hesitate when she asked for help though I knew my position as a full-time caregiver could end at any time, and I have one large bill that my salary pays for each month. When my grandmother went into the memory care facility, I was left without a job. Within a week, I gained employment at my previous job. It’s very part-time, but it’s enough to pay my bill each month. As an added bonus, the limited hours leave me more room for writing and learning about the business side of writing. God provided when I couldn’t. I had to wait and trust until He did.

Waiting when the answer isn’t readily seen is hard. Ivy Cooke, the main character in Liz Tolsma’s book Spring of Thanksgiving, knows that from experience. Ivy and her father are facing tough times on their Texas ranch. A seemingly endless drought and the need to fence their land to protect their property and others due to the railroad has put them in a hard place. Deeply in debt, Ivy has no idea how they will come up with the money to get caught up on their loan.

Facing the loss of their property to the bank is hard enough, but problems seem to pile on. New neighbors claim the spring necessary for getting Ivy’s ranch through the drought is on their property, and there’s nothing they won’t do to prevent Ivy and her father from using it.

Dell Watson is determined to show his father his worth, and the spring in question is his way to do it. Dell’s plan to secure the rights means he has to entice his beautiful neighbor to marry him. Circumstances change when Dell discovers Ivy is far more to him than a tool to get what his family desires. But his family still needs the spring, and the only way he sees to get it is through Ivy.

Dell and Ivy both face difficult circumstances without easy answers. As with most people, their minds work to find solutions to their problems. With their minds and hearts giving conflicting answers, they have to choose whether or not they can trust God with their problems and wait for His solution.

Dell and Ivy may get what they want, or God could give them something entirely unexpected. No matter what the circumstances, they have the choice to trust God’s goodness no matter what happens. Like us, they can choose to let trust lead to praise for His work in the hard and unexpected situations of life. But you’ll have to read Spring of Thanksgiving to find out if they do and if the path God gives them leads them closer or further apart.

God is Still Good

I’ve been less than faithful to my blog lately. In recent weeks, I’ve only managed to blog once a week instead of the three I usually post. It’s been crazy busy around our house. And I know everyone is crazy busy, but this time, I had to give in to the pull of life outside my office.

I’m a full time caregiver for my grandmother with dementia. I was up until a week ago anyway. With the dementia progressing, my mother and I were no longer equipped to care for her at home. She had to be moved to a memory care facility. After giving up my full-time job five months ago to help her, I was now unemployed. We’ve spent the last week trying to clean out her house.

This week my father in law had knee replacement surgery. It went well, but he had a mild stroke before being released from the hospital. That was Tuesday night. Thursday morning I got a call from my mom. My grandmother fell and was taken to the ER. My job throughout the day was to keep everyone updated with information. We found out through the different tests they ran she also had a stroke.  

I say all this so when I write my next sentence, you know I do not take the sentiment lightly. I am thankful, and God is most definitely good.

When I left my full-time job five months ago, I had no back up plan for income. Losing my job right before Thanksgiving and Christmas was unexpected. But I did what I felt God was calling me to, and I believed He would provide for me now. I spoke to my old place of employment this week. They don’t need a full-time employee, but they can use me two days a week and as a fill-in. I’ll earn just enough to continue paying my son’s school bills. In addition to that financial burden being taken care of, God saw fit to limit my hours so I can give more time to the business and ministry of writing. It was my secret hope, but I didn’t believe it would happen.

My father in law has been a candidate for a stroke for a long time. His health and activity levels made him a candidate for it a long time ago. A stroke is not a good thing, but God is still good. He was in the hospital when the stroke happened. You can’t get quicker care than that. His stroke didn’t leave him disabled except for some mild issues with speech. We are hopeful that speech therapy will take care of that. Already we are seeing improvement. And he’s been given an early warning to adjust his habits in order to increase his chances of avoiding future health scares.

My grandmother’s stroke is another issue entirely. Without the ability to think clearly on a regular day, it’s hard to assess the actual damage caused by the stroke and subsequent fall. All signs point to a concussion or further strokes and stroke damage. There is concern that she has swelling that may cause her to have seizures. As of last night, she’d not eaten anything. Because of her age and health, further measures are not being taken. My mother and uncle brought her back to the nursing home with the understanding that she will either get better or get worse without any other course of action. But God is still good.

My grandmother’s fall was immediately noticed and attended to by a caring staff of nurses at the home. My uncle and mother are in agreement on tough decisions that have to be made. Hospice agreed to come in and provide the intensive care she needs while we see which direction things will go. Family members who haven’t seen my grandmother in ages blessed her brief moments of being awake by coming to see her. And I can say in all honesty, if God uses this to bring her into her heavenly home, He is good. She wants nothing more than to be released from the brokenness of her mind and body.

If He chooses to keep her here, the good won’t be as easy to find. Watching her decline isn’t easy for her or us. She’s expressed it many times in moments of clarity. But in the event of that outcome, I trust. I trust there is a reason. I trust good will come from it. I trust the nature and character of God. And I can say, though it hurts, God is still good.     

I think I’m going to leave it at that. Today was supposed to be a review of a book I recently read that goes along with this message, but I’ve taken enough of your time. I’m going to let the message of this one settle before going further. Thanks for taking the time to read this even though it ended up free of both books and writing.

My People

When I arrived at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference I felt out of my element. The idea of a large gathering of writers of all skill levels getting together to challenge and encourage each other to grow in the craft and business of writing was exciting. The reality of mixing and mingling with members of that group, complete strangers no less, was daunting to me as a card carrying introvert. I was never more thankful for our small local writers’ group that attended the event together. We would go our separate ways for classes, but they could be my lifeline during less structured times.

It didn’t take long for me to acclimate to my surroundings. Over the five days of the conference, I pushed myself to get out of my comfort zone and speak with people I didn’t know. At the end of the first full day I called my husband and announced, “I have found my people.”

It didn’t matter that we came from different walks of life. Our various theological beliefs didn’t drive a wedge between us. Our varying levels of skill and success as authors were inconsequential. We were connected by something more, by the God-given desire to minister to others through the creative art of writing and a love of God. Never did I feel this more clearly than the first worship service of the conference.

When the husband and wife praise team led us in the first song of the conference, the connection of everyone in the room became its most clear. Some raised their hands in praise. Some stood still while lifting their voices. Others were unfamiliar with the songs but joined in as they caught on. In that moment, our differences didn’t matter. We were joined in praise of the One who blessed us with salvation as well as the ability to use our passions to further the gospel and build up the body of Christ.

It was a beautiful sound. For a moment I closed my eyes and listened to hundreds of voices raised in praise together. Even small groups lifting their voices to God in song can be beautiful. But listening to that many voices, united in purpose and ministry, bringing praise to God left me feeling completely connected to God and His people. We were part of something real together.

This time of completely united worship came to mind today during my quiet time. Revelation 5:13 says, “And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Did you see it? “Every creature” is praising. I was moved by the beauty of a couple hundred people united in praise. I’ve had opportunity to hear a few thousand do the same at a Women of Faith conference. But these are going to pale in comparison to the connection and love and beauty of every creature in creation bringing praise to God in unity.

Can you imagine the sound? The power of that praise? And we will be part of it. The connection I felt as I found “my people” at the conference will seem slight in comparison to the connection of all creation joining in unified praise. I don’t doubt that in that moment we will feel the full realization of being joined together as God’s people for eternity.

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