Write Stuff Wednesday: What I Need

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” –Virginia Woolf

An author friend of mine used this quote on Facebook this week as she shared about her new space dedicated to her writing. It caught my attention, and so I did what any good author does. I borrowed her quote for my blog post.

On a side note, Linda Fulkerson has four fun and creativity inspiring adult coloring books for writers available on Amazon. If you enjoy coloring, quotes, coffee, or a combination of the three you’ll enjoy her books. I have one myself and have pulled quotes from it for Write Stuff Wednesday more than once.

Anyway, back to the quote at hand. I think it resonated with me because of my own writing journey. Starting out I wrote in my room, lounging on my bed. With a house full of kids, it was the only place I could call mine. Even sequestered in my personal space, the noise of television, music, game systems, and arguing children chose to disregard my very real walls of separation. This was initially the reason I started writing to music, a practice I continue to this day.

As my family grew up and my children started working, I moved from my room to the living room couch. I had to contend with my kids’ frequent trips to the kitchen for snacks or into the utility room to do their laundry. Trying my best to block out everything that was not writing I plugged in my headphones and kept my eyes fixed on the computer screen as much as possible.

My bedroom and living room writing arrangements were less than ideal. I did the best with what I had available because I had to write. In September, things changed. My oldest son married and moved out leaving his bedroom empty. Tonight I write this post from my office. It houses everything I need to write in peace and comfort. The simple act of having my own space has increased my productivity and given me greater opportunity to keep my writing business organized.

My office makes up the corner in an L-shaped trio of rooms. The other two belong to my two remaining sons. If you have teenagers, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that I still have to deal with noise, but that’s okay. The difference is amazing.

My biggest struggle in writing has changed along with the changes in my family. Now, instead of a room of my own, I deal with lack of funds. Teenagers are expensive. I have no choice but to work a full-time non-writing related job to help pay the bills. There are nights when I come home too tired to write. There are nights when no matter what I do I can’t make enough time to write on my work in progress, blog, market, and continue to learn about the business of writing. If only I had the funds to stay home and write full-time. How much more could I accomplish? How much faster would projects be completed?

It’s frustrating and discouraging. But still, I keep going. It may not be the way I pictured it, but I’m getting to do something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl. I’m getting to carry out the purpose I’ve always felt God had for me. And if what I do encourages or challenges one person in their faith, then it’s worth all the difficulties.

The decision to keep on despite the hurdles is one that I find I have to carry into my faith walk too. I want to be able to spend my time in ministry and not just my writing ministry. There is so much I’d like to do, but I have to weigh each thing carefully due to a lack of time. But the issue is more than a simple shortage of time. It’s about my expectations versus God’s reality.

I want to be stronger in my faith. Spiritual growth is important to me. An increased and deepened prayer life appeals to me. I know how I’d like those things to happen. I’d like to be able to spend more time in detailed study of God’s word and enjoy closeness with Him that naturally springs for my time with Him. It happens that way sometimes, but it’s not been my experience the majority of the time.

My faith has grown and my prayers have deepened more often through the devastations of life. I’ve felt closest to Him when I’ve had no choice left but to lean on Him completely. I’ve learned first-hand the truth in “counting it all joy” and considering “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Though I never sought to go through hard times, I’ve seen God do pretty amazing things in my life because of them. I just had to keep on despite the frustrations and disappointments.

Whether in faith or in writing, it’s important to remember reality may be different than the dream. It’s not a reason to give up when frustration sets in. We choose to keep going because what we’re doing means more to us than what we’re going through. One day maybe we’ll have the room of our own and the money to go with it. Until then, keep putting pen to paper and faith into action.

Main Character Monday: Nat Montgomery

tieWelcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is Nat Montgomery from Tie-Dyed by Amy C. Blake. Thank you for joining me Nat.

 

If you could choose only one thing to buy without money being an issue, what would you buy?

Before my grandmother Gigi left me enough money to cover tuition for my art history degrees, I would’ve said cash for college, because school is expensive! But now, I’d have to say a tour of the major art museums of the world.

That sounds like a lot of fun. Given your area of study, I’m sure it would be beneficial for you too.

The New Testament tells the story of two sisters who react to Jesus visiting in very different ways. Mary chooses to spend her time with him, while Martha chooses to see to the physical details of his visit. Are you more a Mary or Martha?

I’m a blend of the two. I’m willing to sit, read Scripture, and ponder God’s Word, but I do have to call my thoughts back from wandering to all the things I need to do.

Focus is a difficult thing to achieve when the world doesn’t slow down around you.  “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27 – Do you think this verse, lived out would have made a difference in your life? If so, how?

Absolutely. If my mom had lived the “keep oneself unspotted from the world” bit rather than indulging in drugs and live-ins, my childhood would’ve been so much better. Thankfully, Gigi as much as adopted my virtually orphaned self and lived out the gospel before me.

It’s such a blessing when there are people in our lives to help make up for what we’re missing. Your Gigi sounds like a wonderful woman.

What scripture verse would you claim as a life verse?

Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Gigi always pressed this passage on me, and I learned the truth of it more deeply during the difficult events of the summer.

If there was one message you could give those reading this interview, what would that be?

Trust God and His great love, even when your life looks like an abysmal mess.

Just for Fun:

Indoors or outdoors: Outdoors—with my bow. I love archery, though I haven’t found a place to shoot yet in DC.

Reading or writing: Reading, definitely. It takes a lot less effort than writing.

Apples or pears: Pears are my favorite!

Early bird or night owl: Did you read the tactics my roommate sometimes has to use to wake me up in the morning?! Night owl, no question.

Nat, please describe Amy C. Blake in three words.

Tall because she’s 5’8, and I’m . . . far shorter than that.

Restrained because she doesn’t usually make the smart-alecky comments that often land me in the doghouse.

Blessed because, unlike me, she has a set of wonderful Christian parents who taught her the love of Jesus from a very young age.

I want to thank Nat for joining me today. And thank you to Amy Blake for sharing her with us. If you’d like to know the rest of Nat’s story, check out Tie-Dyed available now on Amazon.  And while you’re at it, keep reading to find out more about Amy and her books. 

amazon.com/author/amycblake
Now available: Whitewashed, my Christian suspense novel about 18-year-old homeschooler Patience McDonough (Book 1, On the Brink series)
Now available: Colorblind, my Christian suspense about 18-year-old homeschooler Christy Kane (Book 2, On the Brink series)
Now availableTie-Dyed, my Christian suspense about 19-year-old homeschooler Nat Montgomery (Book 3, On the Brink series)
Now available: The Trojan Horse Traitor, my YA fantasy novel about 13-year-old homeschooler Levi Prince and his adventures in Terracaelum (Book 1, Levi Prince series)
Now available: The Fall of Thor’s Hammer, my YA fantasy novel about Levi’s second summer in Terracaelum (Book 2, Levi Prince series)

 

Write Stuff Wednesday: Why

why-2028047_1280“Maybe it won’t be famous. Maybe it won’t be a movie. But that’s not why I started it. And that’s not why I’ll finish it.” – Ryan Reudell

Maybe one day my books will be as famous as those by Karen Kingsbury or Melanie Dickerson. It would be amazing if a production company approached me about making one of my stories into the newest Hallmark movie. (I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love Hallmark movies. All of them. Not just the Christmas ones.) I recently saw a social media post about another author on that path right now. Congratulations to her! I hope it’s an awesome experience for her.

That could happen to me too. It would be wonderful if it did. But I can live my life as an author and consider myself successful even if neither of those things takes place. Why? Because that isn’t why I write. I come home from my 8-5 job every day to spend my evenings working on marketing, blogging, and my newest manuscript until long after I should be asleep. My reasons are simple. I love to write, and I feel like God wants me to use whatever talent I have in that area to help encourage others in their faith. Writing is a way I can encourage and challenge others that I might otherwise never get to meet.

If my books never reach the popularity of Karen Kingsbury’s books or get made into a movie, it’s okay. I’m doing what I feel God would have me do with the interests and talents He has given me. I’m sowing whatever seeds of faith each story contains, and I trust that God will allow those seed filled stories to make it into the hands of whoever needs them and grow what He wants in their lives. If He chooses to bless my hard work with a best seller I’ll be ecstatic. If not, I’ll trust Him and keep writing.

By the Book: What talents has God given you? Have you ever asked Him if and how He wants to use them?

Main Character Monday: Lucy Dixon

regina1Welcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is Lucy Dixon from Carolina Mercy by Regina Rudd Merrick. Thank you for joining me.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?

Oh my. I’ve been a lot of places already! Dad and I visited the British Isles a few years ago, so I can mark that one off the list! I was born in Atlanta, but my dad was a plant manager and we moved around a lot. Before we came to Kentucky, we had lived in Silicon Valley in California, and then in Chicago. We saw a lot of the US. Kentucky was home, though. It was where I went to high school, where I learned that being a Christian was more than just going to church, and where I met my BFF Sarah Jane Crawford! But if I could pick any place? Probably Australia. Mainly because it’s the farthest away, and the idea of visiting the Southern Hemisphere in our winter – their summer – is intriguing. While I’m there, can I go to New Zealand, too?

I don’t see why not. I’d love to visit New Zealand for purely geeky reasons. I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan. But anyway, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of these traits do you find easiest to display in your life?  Which of them is the hardest to display?

You’re going to start meddling, now. Here are the ones I usually (can I underline that usually?) find easy to display: love, joy, kindness, and faithfulness. The harder ones? Peace, patience, goodness, gentleness and self-control. Not that I’m ANTI any of those things. They’re just the ones I have to work on. Especially, right now, patience. Have you MET Tom Livingston? He’s adorable, but let me tell ya, he’ll try a girl’s patience and self-control! I know he’s got a lot on him, but seriously? To not call me for EIGHT MONTHS? Okay, now I’m having trouble with peace and gentleness, too. Grrr.

Eight months would try any girl’s patience! What is your favorite story from the Old Testament?

I have two, actually, and they are SO not surprising for a girl. Esther and Ruth. Esther, because she didn’t question what God had in mind for her, she just obeyed. I want to be more like that. Ruth? I love Ruth because she was loyal, and submitted herself to both God and her mother-in-law. I’d love to have a mother-in-law like Naomi. If a certain sheriff’s deputy would get in line, I could have that. Don’t get me started!

What is your favorite book in the New Testament?

Acts. For one thing, I’m a very active person, and the book of Acts is the story of how the church started. Reading about Pentecost, and Paul’s conversion and missionary trips are fascinating to me. I guess I love it because it tells me that we’re not supposed to just sit around and wait for someone else to share the love of God and the free gift of salvation that Jesus made possible, but we’re to be out there, in our daily lives, showing and telling what He did for us! There are so many ways to do that!

If you could leave us with one message, what would you want us to know?

After my dad died in an accident, and my best friend had moved away, I realized that home wasn’t a place, and that if I’m going to make major changes in my life, I need to seek God’s guidance. I need to be fully engaged in prayer and scripture, even when I’m a little angry with God. God is good, all the time, and guess what? He just wants me to do the next right thing and trust Him.

Just for fun:

Sunrise or sunset? When I’m visiting Sarah in Murrells Inlet, SC, I’m all about a sunrise. It’s gentle, and the colors are muted. The smell of sea and marsh are so alive, but in a comfortable way. I love it here.

Pie or Cake? Pie. Especially pecan. Maybe I could make that for an event coming up . . .

Tulip or Iris? Tulips are interesting because they are pretty exotic and don’t last long in the south, but I prefer Iris. They’re stately without being too fancy.

Chocolate or Vanilla? Ha! Did I just snort? Oh, sorry! Uh, Chocolate!! The darker the better, and if you want to pile chocolate on top of chocolate, that’s okay. When I get to pick sundae toppings, I’ll pick chocolate ice cream (or fro-yo, or custard), then top it with hot fudge sauce and Heath bits. Death by chocolate!

What three words would you use to describe Regina?

Loyal, Creative, and Unexpected.

Thank you to Lucy and Regina for agreeing to this interview. I’ve loved reading Lucy’s story in Carolina Mercy, and it was a pleasure getting to know her better through this interview. Keep reading to find out more about Carolina Mercy and author Regina Rudd Merrick.

Book Blurb:

She’s always gotten everything she’s wanted. He thinks he has to give up everything.

Her best friend’s wedding is foremost on Lucy Dixon’s radar. Her biggest concern is once again meeting Tom Livingston, who has ignored her since an idyllic date on the boardwalk of Myrtle Beach the previous summer.

At least, it is her biggest concern until tragedy strikes. Where is her loving, merciful God, now?

When Tom Livingston meets Lucy, the attraction is instant. Soon after, his mother is diagnosed with an untreatable illness and his personal life is pushed aside. His work with the sheriff’s department, his family – they are more important. He knows about the love of God, but circumstances make him feel as if God’s mercy is for everyone else, not him.

Can a wedding and a hurricane – blessing and tragedy – bring them together?

 Bio:

Regina Rudd Merrick is a writer, church musician, wife, mother, former librarian, and reggrateful follower of Jesus Christ. Having lived most of her life in Western Kentucky, she dreams of the sound of crashing waves and sandy beaches. Married to her husband of 35 years, she is the mother of two grown daughters, and the keeper of a 100-year-old house where she lives in the small town of Marion, KY. She is the author of three books: Carolina Dream (Apr. 2017), Carolina Mercy (July 2018), and coming in Feb. 2019, Carolina Grace in the Southern Breeze Series.

The Baby and the Bathwater

You’ve probably heard the phrase “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”. I recently heard that it dated back to a time in early American history when washtubs were used and baths were taken in order from oldest to youngest. This left the baby to be washed in murky water that could lead to mistakenly throwing out the baby when you emptied the tub. A quick search of the phrase’s beginnings show this to be nothing more than the product of someone’s imagination and the willingness of people to believe everything they read on the internet. Aside from it being wrong, this story is also quite disturbing. What mother would walk away from her baby in a washtub for a long enough time that when she came back she wouldn’t remember the baby was in the tub in the first place? It doesn’t make sense.

No matter its beginnings, the phrase does carry an important lesson, and one I have wrestled with this week. Usually on Saturday I post a devotional review of whatever book I’ve read during the week. Today, I finished the book I initially thought would be the focus of this week’s post. I liked the book’s story and characters. I would recommend it to fans of historical Christian fiction, but I wouldn’t recommend it across the board.

I don’t pretend to be perfect. I’m far from it. I’ve been told my own book is missing one word. I’m not sure where, but I trust the one who told me though she couldn’t remember the passage either. As careful as I’ve been, I know there have been errors in my posts too. Mistakes happen. I understand that. I’ve found mistakes in books by my favorite authors which were published by some of the big publishing houses. It doesn’t bother me.

But this one did. Aside from formatting errors, which happened a few times, there were also missing or incorrect words in various places. But even those weren’t too distracting. What took me out of the story more than anything was the author’s use of phrases or words that didn’t seem to fit the time period of the book. A few I couldn’t let go. I had to look them up. One actually could have been used, though I still have serious doubts. The others were words out of time and place.

So I have questions for you readers out there. Do you let the errors stop you from reading what would otherwise be a pretty good book? How would you want a book like that reviewed? Would you even want it reviewed?

Now questions for the authors out there. Would you want someone reviewing your book if they were going to include the above information? If someone had to say they liked the story but…? Would you want a reader to contact you with the errors? Keep in mind this would be out of a desire to help them become stronger writers, not to bash them.

And let’s round it out with a life lesson for all believers. How many times have we been guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water in our churches? When the going gets tough at church, and face it we are dealing with a group of people trying to function as one so there will be rough times, how do we respond? Do we pack up and move on? I’m not saying it’s never God’s time to leave a church, but it should not be our “go to” move every time something happens that we don’t like.

Or maybe you’re dealing with Christian people who seem to fail repeatedly. The temptation is to label them hypocrites. They aren’t true believers, and we don’t need to worry ourselves about them anymore. We spend our time and energy on those who get it right more often or at the very least fail in ways we find more palatable. There goes that baby again. Yes, there are true hypocrites, people who are willfully living in ways contrary to what they say they believe. They are nothing more than liars and fakes. But it’s good for us to remember there are sinful strongholds we all face in our faith. There are sins we may fight for years before we finally learn to conquer it. This doesn’t make us fake in our faith. It makes us weak. It makes us human. When we see someone struggling  (and the key word is struggling) with a sin or question of faith and belief, let’s not be so quick to slough them off. Let’s extend mercy and grace and love. Let’s help be the encouragement and example that can help them in their fight.

There are enough reasons to let go of certain things in our lives. Let’s learn how to celebrate the good and deal with the bad in godly ways instead of running or pushing away so quickly.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Guest Post

IMG_5853Each Wednesday I share a writing quote that either encourages or challenges me in my writing. Today, I’ve invited author Amy Anguish to share one of the quotes that means a lot to her. After you’ve read her quote, keep reading to find out more about Amy and her writing.

“I want to do something splendid… Something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead… I think I shall write books.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

As a girl just out of college with the dream of being an author, that quote resonated in my spirit. Over the last fourteen years, my goals have changed some, deepening along with my faith in God, becoming a bit more realistic in some areas, a little freer in others. But one thing remains. I love writing books.

I like to think I’m similar to her character Jo in Little Women, always a favorite of mine. Jo, when she starts writing, simply writes for the fun of it. It’s a thrill to see her name in print, to get those few dollars for each story published. But by the end of the novel, she has realized she can use her writing for so much more. She can use it to tell a beautiful story that will touch someone’s heart, and maybe even teach something.

I don’t know how much my stories reach people, but my goal with each one is to show that even though we as Christians have struggles in this life, God can help us through, and we’ll come out even better because of them. Life isn’t perfect. It’s messy and rough and sometimes painful. But God makes everything worth it. And if my books can show that to someone, as Louisa May Alcott said, that would be “splendid!”

An Unexpected Legacy tweakedMore About Amy’s Book:

“Smoothies brought them together, but would the past tear them apart?”

When Chad Manning introduces himself to Jessica Garcia at her favorite smoothie shop, it’s like he stepped out of one of her romance novels. But as she tentatively walks into a relationship with this man of her dreams, secrets from their past threaten to shatter their already fragile bond.  Chad and Jessica must struggle to figure out if their relationship has a chance or if there is nothing between them but a love of smoothies.

 

More About Amy:

Amy R Anguish

Author of An Unexpected Legacy

Amy R Anguish grew up a preacher’s kid, and in spite of having lived in seven different states that are all south of the Mason Dixon line, she is not a football fan. Currently, she resides in Tennessee with her husband, daughter, and son, and usually a bossy cat or two. Amy has an English degree from Freed-Hardeman University that she intends to use to glorify God, and she wants her stories to show that while Christians face real struggles, it can still work out for good.

 

Follow her at http://abitofanguish.weebly.com or http://www.facebook.com/amyanguishauthor

Main Character Monday: Charlotte Stanton

Book Cover _ Under Prairie Skies (Final) (1)Welcome to Main Character Monday. Today’s guest is Charlotte Stanton from Under Prairie Skies by Cynthia Roemer. Thank you for joining Charlotte.

If you could visit any place in the world, where would you go?

I’ve spent my entire life on the Illinois prairie. I can’t imagine traveling too far. However, I would enjoy visiting the mountains I’ve heard about out west. The prairie is flat as far as the eye can see. But I love it.

I grew up in Illinois too, and I’ve never seen the mountains out west either. But I’ve heard they’re beautiful. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Which of these traits do you find easiest to display in your life?  Which of them is the hardest to display?

Oh, I could use more of all of these traits. Given certain circumstances, I can be gentle and loving. Patience and self-control are definitely not on the top of my list of virtues.

What is your favorite story from the Old Testament?

I love the story of Esther. Her courage and willingness to do the right thing, despite the dangers she faced, is so inspiring.

Doing the right thing even when it’s hard. You’re right. It’s a great lesson for all of us. What is your favorite book in the New Testament?

I’m ever so convicted by the book of James. He gives such practical advice on how one should live. If only I could put it all into practice!

If you could leave us with one message, what would you want us to know?

I want you to know that change it possible. That God can soften hearts and mold us into the people He wants us to be. Just as iron sharpens iron, he uses people to sharpen each other’s lives.

It sounds like you know this from experience. I guess readers will have to check out your story to get all the details!

Just for fun:

Sunrise or sunset? Sunset

Pie or Cake?  Cake

Tulip or Iris? Tulip

Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate

What three words would you use to describe Cynthia? Quiet, loyal, outdoorsy

Thank you Cynthia Roemer for allowing Charlotte to visit with us this evening. Please keep reading for more on Charlotte’s story and Cynthia Roemer.

BOOK BLURB FOR UNDER PRAIRIE SKIES

~ Beyond shattered dreams lies a realm of possibilities ~

Illinois prairie ~1855

Unsettled by the news that her estranged cousin and uncle are returning home after a year away, Charlotte Stanton goes to ready their cabin and finds a handsome stranger has taken up residence. Convinced he’s a squatter, she throws him off the property before learning his full identity. Little does she know, their paths are destined to cross again.

Quiet and ruggedly handsome, Chad Avery’s uncanny ability to see through Charlotte’s feisty exterior and expose her inner weaknesses both infuriates and intrigues her. When a tragic accident incites her family to move east, Charlotte stays behind in hopes of becoming better acquainted with the elusive cattleman. Yet Chad’s unwillingness to divulge his hidden past, along with his vow not to love again, threatens to keep them apart forever.

AUTHOR BIO: 

Cynthia Roemer is an award-winning inspirational writer with a heart for scattering seeds of hope into the lives of readers. Raised in the cornfields of rural Illinois, Cynthia enjoys spinning tales set in the backdrop of the 1800s prairie. She writes from her family farm in central Illinois where she resides with her husband and their two college-aged sons. Under Prairie Skies is Book Two in her Prairie Sky Series.

 

Contact Info:

 

Cynthia Roemer can be contacted at:

 

Website:  http://cynthiaroemer.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com@cynthiaroemer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCynthiaRoemer/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16785237.Cynthia_Roemer

Author Newsletter Sign-up: http://cynthiaroemer.com/

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=cynthia+roemer

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/under-prairie-skies-cynthia-roemer/1128471176?ean=9781945094446

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cynthia-roemer

Dread and the Bad Haircut

haircut-834280__340Have you ever had a bad haircut? If you haven’t, you’re lucky. If you have, do you remember the moment of dread that comes before this experience?

You’ve signed in and are waiting for your appointment. Doubt flickers when the person who calls you looks like their own hair was cut with a weed trimmer. Still, you march bravely forward and sit in the chair. You show the stylist a picture of what you want. You’ve searched the internet for days finding the perfect style. You ask if this cut will work with your hair. You’re assured it will, and the stylist rattles off some simplistic description of your holy grail of hairstyles.

As the stylist picks up scissors to begin working on your transformation, she mentions something that doesn’t make sense.  No, you don’t want only an inch taken off. Your hair is down to the middle of your shoulder blades and the style in the picture barely grazes the shoulders.  On what planet is that an inch?

The tiny doubt you knew when you saw the stylist blossoms into dread. That dread is multiplied as you watch your haircut’s progression. How is this going to turn into the style in the picture? Can that even be possible?

The stylist you see in the mirror is the picture on concentration. And doubt. It’s the doubt that takes your feeling of dread to near panic. You know this is going south at an alarming rate, but there is nothing you can do about it. You can’t walk out mid-cut.  And there’s only so much hair you’re willing to lose.

Why did you come to this salon? Why did you agree to sit in this stylist’s chair? When are you going to learn? You give a weak smile. It’s too late anyway. You pay and leave. Once in the safe confines of your car, you pull out your phone and google how long it will take the bangs that are now two finger widths above your eyebrows to grow back. Then, you reschedule your family pictures for a couple weeks later than that. Next time, you’ll listen to that feeling of dread. Maybe.

Olivia, in A Desperate Love by Jessica McCarty, knows the feeling of dread that comes withMRP-A-Desperate-Love-360x569 poorly made decisions all too well. When her fiancé’s ship is attacked by pirates, Olivia mourns his loss while still maintaining the hope that he lives. When her father and mother decide it’s time she moves on into an arranged marriage, Olivia wants nothing to do with it. Desperation drives her to leave home in disguise. Her choice brings with it apprehension, but Olivia pushes through determined to do what she must to find her fiancé.

When her journey leads her to an inn filled with rough men, she feigns confidence and joins them in their gambling so she can glean information from them. She gets more than she bargains for when a strange offer is put on the table. Join the captain’s pirate crew to help them with a job, and the captain will help find her lost love. Instinct tells Olivia this isn’t a wise plan. She does it anyway.

In her time on ship, Olivia fights the demons of fear inside her, grows from skillful to masterful with a sword, finds bravery she didn’t know she had, and learns what life can be like when you allow yourself to lean on friends. But these revelations don’t keep the dread from popping up every time she’s faced with a new, less than moral choice. Olivia does her best to limit her involvement in the things she knows are wrong while living up to her end of the bargain she struck with the pirate captain. Learning to balance the two is the only way she can hope to save her fiancé.

Olivia faces her moments of dread after each step down the bad paths laid in front of her. While we may not face impossible choices with life or death consequences, I’m sure we’ve all known that catch in our spirit when make a poor choice and veer from the path God intended. It’s that feeling of heaviness that tells us we’re making a mistake. It’s God warning system for His children.

When Jesus was living on earth, He was able to show His followers how He expected them to live. When they made poor choices, Jesus dealt with it. When the disciples let fear steal their peace in the storm, He reminded them to have faith. When Peter denied Jesus, he went out and wept over his failure. When Jesus returned to them after His resurrection, He restored Peter. Jesus was with them to warn them and guide them back when they strayed.

We don’t have Jesus walking the earth with us, but He didn’t leave us alone. Jesus said He would send a helper to live inside every believer. The Holy Spirit would take up residence and work as our teacher, warning system, and the one to guide us back to the right path. When we make a sinful choice or a series of sinful choices, the Holy Spirit is there creating that feeling inside that tells us what we’re choosing is wrong. It’s a gentle nudge that if listened to can help us avoid painful consequences. That gentle nudge becomes a persistent sense of conviction when we stubbornly cling to our chosen path.

It’s not pleasant, but it can’t be. The Holy Spirit means to get our attention. He wants to keep us from sinful choices. It would be wonderful if we listened to the quiet prodding when we felt the first stirrings. Too often we don’t. Then, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict us of the sin we’ve let in. This dread or conviction is heavier because the situation demands it. But when we heed the warning and turn back from our sin, God restores and we are freed from the guilt and dread that weighs us down.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Writer’s Toolbox

tool-box-2124616_1280My son recently moved out. I now have an office to write in. It’s a room set up exactly like I want it. My office may be different than one you would design. I have a comfy chair and ottoman. You might prefer a desk. My chair faces the window. You might find that too distracting. I have three jars filled with various candies (one is chocolate, one is caramels, one is fruit flavored) to snack on when the urge strikes. You might prefer celery. (But really who would prefer celery?)

I have everything I need to write in my office. I have whiteboards to keep notes on. I officehave bookshelves full of the books I’ve read and my TBR pile. I’ve got a cork board with notes about potential reviewers pinned to it in a pleasing pattern of colored index cards. I even have a diffuser to fill the air with whatever scent I fancy that day.  I have everything I need to write productively.

But the smallest word in that sentence makes all the difference. I. My office is not set up for you. You might be completely uncomfortable in my office. You might stare out my window and fail to look back to the computer screen. You could fall asleep in my comfy chair. My office might not work for you, but it is amazing for me. It’s one of the best tools in my writer’s toolbox.

Some of my tools are meant for the writing part of being an author. I love the Write Track site. It encourages my competitive side and keeps me on target with my word counts. My tablet is great for researching information without coming away from what I’m writing on my laptop. I’m part of a writing group that encourages and critiques my writing. And I have shelves full of books dedicated to helping me become a stronger writer. I’ve found all of these tools helpful in my writing journey.

fallBut there are other tools I use too. I discovered the importance of these tools after receiving a contract for the publication of Faith’s Journey. These tools I’m less comfortable with, but my proficiency is quickly improving. These are the tools needed to market my book and grow my audience. My author page on Facebook helps me stay connected to readers and other writers. WordPress allows me to have my own web site and blog. Canva and Pixabay are amazing resources for designing publicity from social media advertisements to postcard invitations for book launch events. Social media sites I’d given little to know thought about before Faith’s Journey was published are now easily accessible from my phone.

I need all these tools and then some in my efforts to be a successful author. And I can’t just have them. I have to use them properly for each tool to be beneficial to me. It can be overwhelming. “I just wanted to write!” There are days that frustrated cry comes from my mouth. It’s usually after I spend an hour trying to develop the perfect advertisement or post only to have it not work out at all.  If I were more proficient with the programs I could accomplish my goals with ease. I’m not. But I’m not giving up either. I keep learning and as I do, each project becomes easier to create. I become more comfortable with the tools in my writer’s toolbox, and they enable me to do exactly what they were designed to help me do.

There’s a lesson here for living our faith too. We also have tools of the trade in our Christian lives. We have scripture, prayer, Bible study groups, small groups, church services, fasting, and fellowship. And this is by no means an exhaustive list. Just as the tools in my writer’s toolbox can help me be the best author I can be, the tools of our faith help us be the people God would have us be. These tools can help bring us peace in our storms, encouragement for the days when nothing seems to go write, direction on what our next move should be, and correction when we stray from the path.

To grow as believers we need to find out what tools are available to us, and we need to learn how to use them. Some may feel more comfortable than others, but we keep learning and trying. Some tools may seem more useful for a time, but that doesn’t mean the others aren’t important. I can’t use my thesaurus to create a social media advertisement. That doesn’t mean my thesaurus is useless. It just means I need Canva for this project and my thesaurus for creating variation in my writing. Know which tool is best for which circumstance and don’t be afraid to use them.

Whether in writing or faith, we don’t have to rely on our meager abilities alone. To be the best we can be we need to learn and grow. We need to pick up the tools we’re given and use them to get the job done.

Trust Issues

tieAs a probation officer, my husband has to dissect his clients’ words in effort to find the truth in any given situation. Before that he spent years as an addictions counselor, another profession that requires carefully weighing what you hear someone say against what you see going on in their life. After over twenty years in these professions, this way of interacting with people has not filtered into his non-professional life. By nature he trusts. Optimism comes easily for him and with it a generally positive outlook on people and their motives.

I am my husband’s opposite. Well, almost. I would argue I’m not a pessimist but a realist. I see the negative outcomes as possibilities while still holding onto hope for and working towards the good. It’s a fine line, but that’s a discussion for another day. When it comes to people, I freely admit, I don’t trust easily. That task of weighing and dissecting words and their meanings that my spouse has had to learn comes all too naturally for me.

For some, like Nat Montgomery in Tie-Dyed by Amy C. Blake, experience teaches them not to trust. Nat’s grandma is the only stable thing in her life. Her mother is a functioning addict who has been in and out of her life since she was a child. Even when she was with Nat, her motives were often selfish. Nat doesn’t know her father. When her grandmother dies it feels like the only sure thing in her life other than faith has been taken from her. As she delves into a message her grandma left her, Nat if forced to question if she could even trust her beloved grandma.

Her grandma’s story plunges Nat into a dangerous quest for answers. Pains from the past mingle with the present pushing those around her to questionable and sometimes illegal acts. Nat’s lack of trust influences her to make poor decisions that could cost those she loves, and it keeps her in a state of confusion about those who seek to help her. When events seem darkest, Nat even questions the trustworthiness of God who has taken so much from her. For Nat learning to trust turns into a matter of life and death.

I doubt my instinct against trust will ever lead to a life or death situation. But there is another issue Nat faces that my own issues could lead me to if I’m not careful. When things go horribly wrong in her life, Nat doubts God’s ability to love and care for her. Is she worth God’s love and if not can she say for sure He does? For those who are a little less trusting, either by nature or because circumstances have taught them to be, the danger is in letting the storms of life erode your trust in the only One who is absolutely trustworthy.

How do you build trust that’s unshakeable? Know the one you’re trusting. God tells us everything we need to know about His nature. He gives us examples of times when He’s miraculously rescued people from circumstances, but He’s also shown us how He’s remained faithful to His children even when the situations remained the same. These examples and hundreds of promises have been given to us in His word. When we spend time in scripture finding out who God is and burying His promises deep in our hearts, we strengthen our trust. As hard times come we can hold onto the things we’ve learned. We can pray them back to God, and we can rest knowing He is the same God in our lives that He’s been throughout history. Each time He brings us through our faith is strengthened and our trust grows leaving it stronger for the next challenge of life.

By the Book: Try keeping a journal of God’s provision in your life. Detailing His work in your circumstances will provide a tangible reminder of who God has been to you for your next dark time.