Cover to Cover – Part One

Usually you find a book review/devotion or a writer’s life/devotion on By the Book each Wednesday and Saturday. For the Cover to Cover series, we’re going a deeper into the process that takes an author’s manuscript and turns it into the book you purchase. Of course, we aren’t going to neglect the spiritual either. So, you’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the publishing world and some spiritual encouragement too.


Today we welcome Diane Turpin.

Diane Turpin is the cover designer for Mantle Rock Publishing and her own company, Diane Turpin Designs. Since 2014, she has created book covers in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, suspense and most recently, fantasy. She is the wife of a professional Boy Scout and mom of a musical daughter. In her spare time, she sharpens her crafty skills with watercolor painting and sewing.


  1. What prompted you to get involved in designing book covers?

My mother. Doesn’t it always start with your mother? Mom formed Mantle Rock Publishing and had published a couple of books before asking me to design covers for her. I was very active in the digital scrapbook world and had all the skills needed to create covers. I had used Photoshop extensively with digital scrapbooking and also at a previous job in a printing shop.

  1. How do you decide the best way to portray a book in its cover design?

Actually, it comes mostly from questions I ask the author. I want the author to have a cover they are proud of, so I ask them what book covers they are most attracted to. I match those responses to what genre they have written in and start from there.

  1. What do you feel a well-designed cover does for a book? How important is the cover to the book?

A well-designed cover says, “This book is worth your time investment to read it.” It should look intriguing enough to make the reader want to read it without telling the whole story. It sets up the framework for the reader to know what they are reading, whether it’s location, mood, era, romance, mystery, and so on. I think, next to a well-written book, it’s the most important thing…wink!

  1. Writers get writer’s block. Do you get cover designer’s block? How do you get over it?

YES! Especially when it’s the first cover I’ve done for an author. It’s hard for me to judge you from a questionnaire and a few emails. So, I worry that the direction I’m headed may not suit your style. After all, I want the cover to portray your writing, not necessarily my design style. Sometimes I get stumped. What do I do to get over it…usually, I do watercolor painting. It helps me get my creative juices flowing in a different direction to get the spark I need to finish up a cover.

  1. Authors have compared writing to childbirth and the finished product to their children. Do you feel that kind of connection to the books you’ve designed for?

Sure, but it’s more like kids I’m adopting out. LOL. I do have covers that I’m prouder of than others, mostly first covers or covers where I really stepped it up a notch.

  1. Is there one cover that stands out to you as a favorite?

Irish Encounter by Hope Dougherty is one that stands out because I worried about it so much. I don’t remember if she wanted her main character featured or not, but I couldn’t find anything that resembled her character in clothing that was appropriate – she’s a middle-aged lady traveling in Ireland. I stepped out and went with my gut and the cover turned out great. It was one of my first covers, and I’m still proud of it.

Not What He Ordered by Laurean Brooks for a totally different reason. I met Laurean in person before I did her cover. In fact, we were at two retreats together, so I knew how funny and silly she was. We had so much fun creating her cover just because of our friendship. I also went out and photographed a historic train depot or two to add to her cover. After I got the depot on the cover, I realized I had to remove all the electrical conduit and light fixtures from the building. I had thought about the light fixtures when I took the picture, but the conduit was painted to match the siding and didn’t really jump out at me until I started working with the picture in Photoshop. All that hard work really endeared that cover to me.

When people ask, what my favorite cover is, it’s usually the last one I created. And just like your kids, I love them all.

  1. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your designing process?

I work primarily from stock photographs. I enjoy hunting for the perfect images to combine into a cover. Some covers, like the cover of Faith’s Journey, only take a couple of images to portray the right mood. Other covers, like Aimee by Pam Harris or Keeper of the Flame by Mary Kay Tuberty, take multiple photos in layers to get the perfect final image. My goal is for it to look so natural that you have a hard time picking out the individual photos that created the image. A Light At Bailey’s Harbor by Bethany Baker has clothing from one model, face from a second model and hair from a third. Not to mention that I created the sign for the title. It truly is more than just finding the right photo and adding some text. It’s setting a mood or evoking a feeling that gets you ready to read the story.

Special thanks to Diane Turpin for taking time out of her busy schedule to give us insight into the process of designing book covers. You can find out more about Diane at

By the Book: I love what Diane said, “It’s setting a mood or evoking a feeling that gets you ready to read the story.” Comment below on some of your favorite cover designs. While you’re at it, I’ve included some of my favorite Diane Turpin designs and pictures of the two she mentioned. Which of these are your favorites?My Favorite

Diane's Favorites

Main Character Monday #9

carolina dream


Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!

Today’s Guest is Sarah Jane Crawford from Carolina Dream by Regina Rudd Merrick. Thank you for joining me.

Thanks for having me, and welcome to the beaches of South Carolina! It’s been an exciting year for me!

A life verse is a scripture that has spoken to you deeply, impacted the way you live your life, or become like a theme verse for your life. What would you say is your life verse?

That’s easy! My life verse is Psalm 37:4 – Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. That has certainly been true for me. I used to think that made God kind of a “genie in a bottle,” granting wishes and desires, but now? Now I know that when my heart is in tune with God, HIS desires become MY desires. What a wonderful promise He fulfills every day!

What person from scripture do you most relate to?

I guess that depends on the situation. Many times I feel like Martha – always trying to do the right thing, making sure everyone is taken care of, and not enjoying sitting at the feet of Jesus. This year, I’ve felt a little like Esther. She was placed in the right place, at the right time, and that’s how I feel about my broken engagement and the inheritance that brought me to South Carolina. I wanted to be away from home because I was hurting, and this was the perfect excuse for me – and in the process found that BEST that God had for me!

The New Testament says that all the law and prophets can be summed up in two commands: love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. Which of these two commands do you feel you have the most trouble following?

That’s a very interesting question. I would say my biggest difficulty lies with loving God with all my heart, soul, and mind. My biggest struggle is in trusting Him implicitly, because I try to solve my problems on my own. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a “fixer” and a “planner,” and I’m much more confident when I have a schedule in front of me and know what’s going to happen. I love Him, but I try to take over for Him quite frequently. I’m learning, though! Moving to a new state? Meeting a new love? Considering a new job? Without God, I would be a total wreck!

Solomon asked God for wisdom. If God gave you the same opportunity, what would you ask Him for?

I would ask God for inner peace. By nature a worrier, I’m working toward letting the past stay in the past, and realize that it’s just a part of my life from which I needed to learn more about God and my relationship with Him.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Do your best to “delight yourself in the Lord.” He delights in you, and wants nothing more from us than to love Him and glorify Him in all we do!

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? BOTH! I never met a flavor of chocolate I didn’t like.

Autumn or Spring? Both, but Spring has the benefit of coming after dreary late Winter! At the beach, they’re all perfect!

Coffee or Hot Cocoa? Coffee. I like Hot Cocoa, but given the choice, I’d pick a Mocha Latte! The best of both worlds!

If you could describe Regina Rudd Merrick in three words, what would those words be? Smart, funny, and a little self-conscious.

Thank you to Sarah Jane Crawford for joining me for this interview. And special thanks to Regina Rudd Merrick for allowing her to be part of Main Character Monday. If you’d like to know more about Sarah Jane, you can pick up Carolina Dream on Amazon in e-book and paperback formats. 

Nature Speaks

For my husband, I believe it was the first time he saw the ocean. Our family went to South Carolina on a rare family vacation, and I can remember his face the first time we went to the beach. Being from southern Illinois, he hadn’t known what to expect. The beauty of the beach, the size of the ocean, and the sound of the waves were beyond what he’d imagined.

After listening to her describe them, I believe it would have to be the Rocky Mountains for my mom. When I tell her I don’t understand her fascination with them, she tells me it is only because I have never seen them. She may have a point, but I’m not wavering in my choice.

If I were to choose that one place that caught me unprepared for what I was going to see, it would be the Smoky Mountains. I know it isn’t the rugged grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, but there is a beauty that cannot be denied in the Smoky Mountains. We passed through them on the way to Charleston, South Carolina for that family vacation to the beach. We have hills, trees, and cliffs in southern Illinois. They’re beautiful, and I love them. But seeing the Smoky Mountains rise up in front of me, covered in vibrant greens took my breath away. I’ve gone back through the area a couple times since then, and it still amazes me. One day, I intend to visit in the fall. I love fall. And I feel at peace even imagining myself wrapped up in a blanket on the front porch of one of the cabins nestled high in the mountains, drinking hot cocoa and looking out over a riot of colors for inspiration as I write. I can’t imagine anything better.

That feeling of contentment and awe was instantaneous for Sarah Crawford as she set eyes on the beaches of South Carolina in Regina Rudd Merrick’s novel, Carolina Dream. Being one to call Kentucky home, she first experienced that feeling on a family vacation. Returning years later to get more information about an unexpected inheritance, those feelings only intensified. As she spent her days walking the beaches and enjoying nature in the area surrounding the southern mansion her family inherited, Sarah was amazed time and again by the beauty she saw and the contentment she felt.

Even in the midst of difficult decisions about how the family should proceed with the inheritance of the mansion and a portion of a real estate business, Sarah could find peace in her surroundings as she met with the One who created the landscape she enjoyed. As partnership grows to friendship and friendship teases the possibility of a more personal relationship with the real estate firm’s other partner, Jared Benton, time spent together on the beach and mansion grounds helps draw them together. No matter what is going on or what questions Sarah wrestles with, God uses the serenity of His creation to encourage her to not only seek Him but to also listen to what He wants her to hear.

It doesn’t matter where we are, God can use His creation to bring us closer to Him. I don’t have to be in the Smoky Mountains to feel His presence, though I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to experience that feeling of complete amazement at what He’s created. Right here, in southern Illinois, even in my own backyard, I can enjoy the presence of God and get to know Him better through His creation. There is a single tree, apart from the woods behind our home, that brings out that feeling of peace and contentment in me every time I pull up in my driveway or look out my kitchen window. I’m not sure why that tree is so special. Nothing happened there. It’s just a regular walnut tree, but I can’t deny there is something about it that speaks to me.

God’s creation was meant for that. Job 12:7-10 tells us nature knows exactly who its creator is. And we think we’re the smart ones! There are several scriptures about nature praising God. I think it’s this unheard song of praise that we respond to whether we realize it or not. One of my favorite nature scriptures is from Romans 1:20. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When we look at the world around us, we see the kind of God we serve. We get to know Him better. We see more of what He values. We can stand in amazement at His awesome creativity, provision, and power.

Knowing the One who created everything our world, it’s no wonder we often stand in awe as we drink in the natural world around us. It’s not surprising that we feel contentment and peace. And when we take the time to acknowledge His hand in each of these amazing scenes of beauty, we will also begin to feel His presence right where we are.

By the Book: Where have you found yourself in awe of God’s creation? Thank Him for those experiences, but don’t limit yourself to times when you can travel to new places. Take time to get to know God through His creation in the place where you live.

Together in the Journey

In less than a month, I’m going to the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference. I’ve been to other conferences, but this will be my first one as a published author. In some ways, it feels different. But if previous conferences have taught me anything, it doesn’t change as much as you might expect.

I remember my first conference. I had passion for writing and a manuscript ready to go. What I didn’t have was a published book. I struggled with feeling like I might not belong. Could I stand up and say, “I’m a writer”? Whether they had books or articles in their writing resumes, other attendees were published. Would I feel unworthy of being there with them?

I didn’t need to worry. From the first session of the first day, the speakers made it clear we were all there because, published or not, we were writers. In fact, the main speaker made us own it out loud. And it wasn’t just the speakers. Other attendees were friendly and open, sharing their experiences and encouragement. They didn’t parade their publishing successes in front of the newbies. They never hinted at being real writers while the rest of us were wannabees. They accepted all the new comers into the fold. We were all writers. Some were just a little further along in the journey than others. That acceptance meant a lot to me.

I know I’m not at the end of my writing journey. I’ve just taken another step forward. As next month’s conference nears, I look forward to continuing to learn from those further along the writing path. I’m eager to find encouragement in speaking with those who have more than one credit to their name. And maybe, I will have the opportunity to make others feel as welcome as I was at my first conferences. Maybe I’ll get to be the one to help them own the fact that, published or not, they are writers.

These lessons that mean so much to me in my writing ministry mean even more in my spiritual life. Hebrews 10 impresses on believers the need to gather together in order to encourage each other and grow in our faith walks. Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Ephesians all speak about each believer being gifted to grow and encourage other believers and to work together to reach out to those who aren’t in relationship with God. The book of Acts tells multiple stories of believers coming together with one purpose and God accomplishing great things through their unity and willingness to work together. The message is that we are meant to work together under the single banner of faith in Jesus. Like the conferences I’ve attended, our churches are filled with a variety of people at different stages of the journey. Each of them is in a different place. Some have been living lives of faith for a long time. They’ve experienced things the rest of us are only starting to discover. Others are just starting out. They don’t know much more than the basics that sin separates us from God, Jesus died to take our sin’s punishment, and believing this is the way to find forgiveness and begin a relationship with God. Some don’t even know where to start.

And just like I was at the first conference I attended, there will be people in our churches who doubt they belong. They will look at the spiritual superstars and feel like they simply don’t measure up. They will fear others seeing them as less Christian and less worthy of being there. Some may even let that fear or a misguided word keep them from being part of the group of believers.

Let’s protect what God has given us. None of us is “there” yet. We need to keep the correct perspective. There are others further along the journey we can learn from. There are others just starting out that can find acceptance, encouragement, and greater understanding from us.

Being accepted into the writing world solely on the basis of having a passion to write meant a lot to me. It gave me the confidence I needed to keep trying, even when I failed. Acceptance by other believers in our spiritual lives, based on faith in Jesus instead of how proficient we are at living the way we should, can be even more powerful. It can give us the confidence and tools to keep living out our faith. And when we fail, it can give us the strength we need to start again.

By the Book: Thank someone who helped you in your walk of faith. Give God praise for putting that person in your life. Ask God to show you how to encourage someone else in their walk.

Main Character Monday #8

Faiths Journey

Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!


Today’s Guest is Katie McGowan from Faith’s Journey by Heather Greer. Thank you for joining me.

What is your favorite book of the Bible from both the Old and New Testament?

I like Genesis. It’s all about real people who are doing their best to follow God, but they mess up, constantly. I think it gives people like me hope when we see the list of the faithful in Hebrews and can go back and see they aren’t included because they’re perfect.

If you could meet anyone from scripture, not including Jesus, who would it be?

Jacob and David are definitely out. They each took turns as a betrayer in their individual stories, and that hits a little too close to home for me. Maybe I’d like to meet Paul. Yeah, I’d definitely like to meet him. Talk about a redemption story. That man messed up so much before he gave his life to God. And we’re not just talking everyday mess ups. The man was murdering Christians. I’ve done a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have, but I’ve never killed anyone. If God can use a man like Paul, there’s hope for me too.

Jesus had twelve disciples. Which one do you feel you are most like?

I hate to admit it, but I’d have to say Thomas. Thomas had doubts. I don’t think scripture ever says why he doubted, but I guess it doesn’t really matter. He doubted. His faith waivered. For a long time, so did mine. I watched too many people who claimed to be people of faith living like everyone else. Their lives weren’t changed at all. I couldn’t help wondering if God was really who He says He is, wouldn’t it make a difference?  It took Austin to put me on the path to understanding I’d been putting my faith in God’s people and not God himself.  And of course, people fail.

Jesus says we are to be His light in the world. What does this mean to you?

Used to I would have said it means we need to share the truth about who Jesus is with those who don’t know Him. Now, I believe it’s more than that. God wants us to live like Jesus did, love the things Jesus loved, and desire the things Jesus desired. When we let God into every part of how we live and think, it shows. I think this is how we become His light in the world.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

Don’t let your past keep you from living God’s future for you. Chase after a relationship with Him, and He will show you His purpose for you.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? Dark, if I have to choose one, but I prefer the white chocolate in Austin’s white chocolate, cranberry and macadamia nut scones!

Roses or Daisies? Daisies. Roses are too pretentious.

Salad or Soup? There’s nothing better than taco soup on a cool evening.

If you could describe Heather Greer in three words, what would those words be? Messy, honest, geeky. Don’t get her started on Doctor Who or Lord of the Rings. You’ll be there all night. 

If you would like to get to know Katie better, you can purchase Faith’s Journey on Amazon in both e-book and paperback formats.

Praising God

I’m not going to post one of my usual blogs tonight. Today was a crazy busy day with the book launch party for Faith’s Journey. With snow and rain in the morning, we wondered what the day would bring, but God took care of it. The yucky weather stopped, and we had an amazing turn out. Friends, family, and some new faces all came together to celebrate the launch. It was humbling and a great blessing to share the day with so many friends and loved ones. I just want to praise God for His guidance and provision each step of the way.

By Sweet Design

bakery2Growing up, it was a frozen yogurt place. Too bad it was before the frozen yogurt craze. It didn’t last too long. After that, it housed various pizza places. None of them stayed around too long either. People blame it on the location, sitting on the fringe of the town’s business area. I think the location could be a success with the right business.

I think the cute little building would make a great bakery. I love to bake. And since the last pizza place moved out and the newest For Sale sign went up, I’ve imagined it as one. A fresh coat of paint would give it new life, as well as covering up the graffiti on the lamp posts. A good cleaning would allow the windows to sparkle. It would be fun, yet comfortable. Inviting. People would stop in each morning for traditional pastries as well as clean eating options. Regulars would provide a solid base to keep the doors open even when the students left the nearby university each summer. It might not make the owner rich, but it would provide a decent living. I even know what I would name this imaginary bakery, By Sweet Design.

I have it all planned out, and the building still sits empty. It’s been that way for a couple years now. There’s no fresh paint. There’s not a brand new sign sporting a fun cupcake and the name of a bakery. The windows definitely don’t sparkle at this point. I don’t own a bakery, and I never will. But my planning wasn’t completely in vain.

By Sweet Design has come to life. The color scheme and décor are everything I dreamed they would be. The sign is quirky and fun.  And customers love the pastries, from the brownies to the scones and everything in between. It’s a relaxed atmosphere that draws people in and invites them to stay a while.

Want to know the best thing about my bakery? It’s never going to go out of business. The empty building and my own bakery ideas are the inspiration for Austin Blake’s bakery in my book, Faith’s Journey. I even kept the name the same. Austin didn’t mind. He loves the way people like Erin and Katie hang out after a girls’ day out. He knows his regulars by name, and treats each customer like they’re his best customer.

Through writing Faith’s Journey, I’ve gotten to create my bakery. I’ve gotten to see it become everything I knew it could be, and I love it. It may not be the way I imagined when the idea popped into my head, but my plans for By Sweet Design add life to the story of Faith’s Journey. My time spent daydreaming and planning weren’t a waste. And though I didn’t see it at the time, I know God did.

Jeremiah 29:11 promises there is a plan and purpose for our lives. It’s not our plan. It’s Gods. And it’s comforting to know His plans are for our good. It doesn’t mean they won’t surprise us though. And it doesn’t mean we’ll understand everything as we go through it.

I didn’t know why I had such a clear vision for a bakery I would never own. Now, I do. A woman I know dreamed of being a missionary. Her husband didn’t share the vision. Her desire to go into all the world never wavered. Years would pass before she began taking youth groups on mission trips throughout the United States. It wasn’t all the world, but she was sharing the gospel outside her immediate vicinity. More years would pass before she started blogging. Her blogs share the truth of scripture and a strong gospel message. Her followers include people from around the world. God has brought her to the realization of her dream of world missions.

Does it look like she expected it to look? No. Blogging didn’t exist when the spark to reach others was first lit inside her. Computers and the internet were not in most homes. Now, they are, and God is using them as the vehicle to take her into the world.

She could fight God on it. She could refuse to see this as God’s fulfillment of her dream. She could gripe about how this wasn’t what she meant when she said she wanted to impact the world for Him. She could do these things and lose the gift God has given her. She could miss His purpose and plan because it doesn’t look the way she thought it would. Instead, she chooses to embrace it. She sees it for the blessing and provision it is. She chooses to live by faith, trusting that each step of the way has been planned by God’s sweet design.

By the Book: When has God worked things out in your life in surprising ways? Have you embraced His plan or do you fight it because it doesn’t look the way you envisioned?

Main Character Monday #7



Welcome to Main Character Monday. It’s a little different than my regular blog posts, a little more lighthearted. But stick with it, and you just might find some characters you’d like to read more about. And even though it isn’t my usual devotional style, you may still come away with an encouraging word from the Word. I hope you enjoy Main Character Monday!


Today’s Guest is Becky Hollister  from Under This Same Sky  by Cynthia Roemer. Thank you for joining me Becky.

Could you please share with us your favorite Bible verse?

Yes. My favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” sayeth the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” This verse took on so much meaning for me after my ma and sister died and my pa lost his sight. When we relocated to St. Louis for him to attend the school for the blind, I thought the Lord had abandoned us and life would never be the same. Little did I know, He would take the ashes of my life and bring about untold blessings.

Is there a person from the Bible that you most relate to?

My friend, Jimmy Bodine, likened me to Abraham. (Smile) That may seem funny, but when I was away from home, all I wanted was to return and have things as they once were. Jimmy told me home was my Isaac—the one thing I held back from the Lord. Through my experiences in St. Louis, the Lord was teaching me to depend on Him, that He was what I really needed. I’m so grateful for His love and guidance. He turned my shallow faith into heartfelt relationship, and my sorrow into joy!

The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Is there one of these characteristics you find easier to show than the others?

Most likely faithfulness.  Though my faith was shaken by my hardships, I never lost sight of God, never allowed the root of my faith to die. Was there anger? Yes. Doubts?  Most certainly. But the Lord never let go of me. And now that I see His hand on my life, I’m more determined than ever to remain faithful!

Which one is the most challenging for you?

Patience! I don’t know how many times I tried to take things into my own hands, wanting things to happen on my time and way instead of God’s. It’s so hard not knowing what’s ahead and fully trusting in the Lord.

If you could give one message to those reading this interview, what would you tell them?

That no matter what they go through, God is with them, cheering them on, holding them in the palm of His hand. He loves us, even in our doubts and questions, and He wants the best for our lives.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate?  Definitely milk chocolate.

Beach or Mountains?  Mountains!

Sweet Tea or Lemonade?  Lemonade

If you could describe Cynthia Roemer in three words, what would those words be?

Quiet, dedicated, faithful

I’d like to thank Cynthia Roemer for allowing me to interview Becky Hollister. If you’d like to get to know her better, please check out Under This Same Sky on Amazon!

You can learn more about Cynthia and her writing at and follow her on Facebook at AuthorCynthiaRoemer.

Doing Nothing

Today, I did nothing. I didn’t clean my house. I didn’t read the book I intended to finish and blog about. I didn’t do laundry. And until this very moment, I didn’t write a word. I did nothing.

I guarantee next week won’t be this way. In addition to my 8-5 job, I’ll finish preparations for the Faith’s Journey Book Launch party, bake several batches of cookies for the event, and complete all wife and mother related activities. Creating trivia night questions for a mission trip fund-raiser is on the back burner until the launch is over. That will demand all my time for the weeks after the launch.  Finishing lesson material for the camp I direct every summer will wait until the weeks after I finish the trivia night questions. Sometime, in the middle of it all, I need to complete the sequel to Faith’s Journey.

There were plenty of things I could have done today. Anything from cleaning my house to working on the sequel and all the activities in between. Instead, I chose to ignore every possible activity.

I’m tempted to feel guilty over wasted time. It would be easy to stress over the things I didn’t check off my to-do list. But I’m not going to. It wouldn’t help anyway. The time is gone. It won’t come back. Tomorrow is another day. With its beginning, I will rejoin the masses and be a productive member of society. But I refuse to feel bad about today’s lack of industriousness.
Days when we don’t cater to a never-ending list of demands are needed. They work as a sort of reset button for our minds and bodies. We were created to need rest. In Genesis, God gave us the example of rest when He rested on the seventh day. He didn’t do it because He was tired. He did it, in part, to show us the importance of a day of rest. And the need to escape the noise and busyness doesn’t end with our minds and bodies. The example extends into our spiritual lives as well.

Ministry requires our time and energy. Whatever area of ministry we find ourselves in, no matter how much we love it, it can push us to our limits physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can also drain us spiritually. When we expend energy, it needs replenished. When our bodies burn calories, we have to replace them with more. Constant attention to our own spiritual life is necessary to ministering in a way that honors God. Through worship and fellowship with other believers, listening to pastors and teachers, and daily prayer and time in God’s word, we stay connected to the source of spiritual replenishment. But there are times when the ministries we are part of take more out of us than usual. In those times, and even before those times if we are wise, we will remove ourselves from the busyness and focus only on being with God. Just as He gave us the example of physical rest, God has given us the example of spiritual rest.

Jesus’ ministry on earth took place in a relatively short time span. He went from unknown son of a carpenter to healer, teacher, and miracle worker with the turning of water into wine. Crowds followed Him everywhere. Everyone needed something from Him. Those who didn’t follow Him in awe, followed Him in attempt to discredit Him. Even when the masses weren’t right beside Jesus, the disciples were.  And they needed instruction as much as anyone else in the crowd, maybe even more so since they would serve as the leaders of the church after His ascension.

Jesus was God made man. He had the same needs we all experience. He knew exhaustion. He knew frustration. He knew how to handle it when the demands became too much. Luke 5:16 tells us, “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” Other references to Jesus’ examples of solitude for spiritual renewal can be found in Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, Luke 6:12, and Mark 1:35. At the most demanding time in His ministry, when Jesus was preparing to give His life for us, He prayed. Though some of the disciples went to the garden with Him, Jesus chose to go off on His own once there. He poured out His heart to His Father in solitude, and He found the strength to do what needed to be done.

As we give of ourselves in ministry, can we expect to need times of quiet solitude with God any less than Jesus?

By the Book: When was the last time you got away from the busyness of ministry and spent time simply being in God’s presence? Why is giving ourselves permission to do nothing in our daily lives and ministry hard at times? What can we take away from the examples of rest that God has given us in scripture?

Good and Perfect Gifts

Tonight I celebrated twenty-one years of marriage to my husband, Andy. Last year, on our twentieth anniversary, he got me a new wedding ring. I hadn’t been able to wear my original one in years, and this new ring was the perfect gift for that milestone anniversary. Tonight’s celebration wasn’t nearly as elaborate, but considering our busy lives, just being able to go to dinner with him and spend some time window shopping made it special.

That’s not to say I didn’t get an anniversary surprise this year. It just didn’t come from Andy. Tonight, as we pulled into our driveway, I noticed four packages waiting for me. Knowing what they held, I couldn’t contain my excitement. As soon as we carried the four boxes inside, we picked one back up and headed to my parents’ house. I wanted them to join Andy and me as I opened the first box.

Of course, I opened the box to a huge wad of paper. But once I threw all the paper to the floor, I got to see and hold my very first published novel, Faith’s Journey. I didn’t expect them for another week, closer to the February 13th release date. It was an experience I’ve dreamed about and worked for since I was in grade school. And it couldn’t have become a reality on a better day. It was like a special gift.

My anniversary surprise was a great reminder of James 1:17 and Matthew 7:11. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”

I know there will be tough days in the years to come. There will be struggles and disappointments. God doesn’t promise only rainbows and sunshine for those who follow Him. But when those times come, it’s encouraging to know I can look back on all the good and perfect gifts He has blessed me with and continue to praise Him even in the storm.

By the Book: What are some of the most memorable “good things and perfect gifts” that God has blessed you with?