By the Book

where a love of God and good books meet

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Write Stuff Wednesday – Erin Howard

Author PictureToday’s guest on Write Stuff Wednesday is Erin Howard. Her favorite quote is a great reminder for those on the journey of writing. But it’s wisdom can be applied to a lot of endeavors. Whatever you seek to do, keep these words in mind for those times you want to give up or think about quitting before you ever start.

I love Jodi Picoult’s quote, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” It’s a great reminder that my writing doesn’t have to be perfect at first. It just has to exist. There’s something very freeing about that statement. For me, a blank page can be intimidating. It can stop me from writing at times if I let it. I had to make myself stop editing as I write the first draft of my novel and wait until I’m completely finished. If I don’t, I will keep editing and perfecting and never get anywhere.

I love being creative, I’m always doing something crafty, but even with crafts, I want it to be as perfect as I can make it. I think creative people already have the tendency to never think what they create is perfect. They aren’t fully satisfied, so they keep learning. They keep practicing and creating new things. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, it’s good to continually learn and grow, but we shouldn’t let those perfectionist tenancies keep us from writing.

Don’t let excuses stop you from writing. Just write!

Let’s meet Erin and find out a bit more about her writing.

New Release: The Soul Searcher (The Kalila Chronicles, #2)

Release Date: 2/19/19

Publisher: Mantle Rock Publishing

Back cover blurb:

Elnora’s parents gave her one rule:soul searcher

Stay hidden away at all costs.

Elnora Scott is used to her survival depending on the decisions of others. Locked away in her safe house, it is easy to follow her parents’ dying wishes until an angel, demon, and seer show up on her doorstep. Now, waking up in a dirty cell, she wishes she would have gone with them when she had the chance, because the very ones who unknowingly ushered the kidnapper to her location may be the only ones who can save her.

When Thea learns that Elnora may be in danger, she doesn’t hesitate to go find her. Thea thought stepping through the portal would be her greatest obstacle, but it only reveals a more sinister threat.

Bio:

Erin R. Howard is a developmental editor, fantasy author of The Kalila Chronicles, and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/English from Southern New Hampshire University. When she’s not writing, Erin enjoys spending time with her family, fueling her craft addictions, and teaching writing workshops. Erin is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the KenTen Writers Group. She resides in Western Kentucky with her husband and three children.

 

Social Media:

 

Website: https://erinrhoward.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/E.R.H.Fiction/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ErinRHoward

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/erinrhoward/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/erinrhoward/

 

Blog/Wordpress:  https://erinrhoward.wordpress.com/

 

Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/c386-H

 

Purchase link: https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Searcher-Kalila-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B07MLXTYJT

 

Release Day is Finally Here!

While I’m looking forward to the launch party on Saturday, I’m excited to let you know Grasping Hope is available on Amazon today! And stay tuned for more info on how you can be a part of the launch party even if you live too far away to attend.

Full of Character with Regina Rudd Merrick and a Giveaway

Before we begin today’s interview, I want to take a moment to congratulate Sarah Taylor who is the winner of the drawing for both Faith’s Journey and Sara Foust’s book giveaway. Message me, and I’ll get your information to Sara. The rest of you haven’t missed your chance to win a book. Today’s author is giving away an e-book copy of her book. All you have to do is comment below. The winner will be announced next Monday. Only those living in the U.S. can win.

reginaNow, let’s welcome Regina Rudd Merrick to our Full of Character Interview.

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

Wow. That’s a tough question! I’ve read many, many books, but I think Laura Ingalls Wilder would be the character (well, she’s a real person) that has impacted me the most. No, I don’t want to get in a covered wagon and traipse across the prairie, but her ability to make the best of whatever her circumstance might be, and her ability show us that the everyday things are what are important, whether it be “making hay while the sun shines” or “seeing” for her blind sister.

 That’s definitely an attitude to aspire to. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I would say that Jared Benton, in Carolina Dream, was the easiest to write, mainly because I had a particular actor in mind, and had written SO much fanfiction based on a show this actor was in, so I could get the subtle expressions and nuances down. And while male characters are usually easiest for me (don’t ask me why!), Tom Livingston, one of my main characters in Carolina Mercy, was harder. I had learned, in my first book, that “wounding” your character was necessary, and I had to give Tom lots of reasons to be a somewhat different person in book two than in book one due to circumstances beyond his control. Lucy couldn’t understand WHY he was so different toward her, and I had to really agonize over that one!

Now, I’m intrigued. I want to know who you modeled Jared after! Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

You’re going to laugh at this one, but David is the Bible character that I love to hate. Last year decided I was going to concentrate on reading the Psalms through as quickly as possible. I got so irritated at David! While many of his Psalms are uplifting and do nothing but glorify God, so many have him whining! I had to switch to the gospels after that! LOL Of course, as a girl, I have probably read both Ruth and Esther more than any books of the Bible. And another woman of the Bible I’m fascinated by is Rahab the harlot. Here she is, a prostitute, but she ended up in the lineage of Jesus, right there with Ruth!

 Isn’t it great to know that God doesn’t count us out of His plan due to our failures. Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

Another lesson learned in writing book 2 of a series is that you have to do some planning before you start. If you’re going to carry characters from one storyline to another, it has to make sense. In book 3, my current Work in Progress, I’ve done even MORE planning, because the events happen (spoiler alert!) 5 years later. I made a list of all the elements based on James Scott Bell’s superstructure plotting method, and then started filling in the blanks. That enabled me to have an outline, but guess what? Those characters still surprised me!!

Wow! That sounds like a lot of planning. If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

Oooo. About ME? I would like Patricia Heaton to play me! She’s gorgeous (I can only dream of being that thin!), and she’s funny, and she could probably pull off the pratfalls that would have to be involved in any story about me. Let’s see – I have a scar on my hand from a cheese-cutting incident, a scar on my left foot from a fall during the march-in of a Christmas Cantata at church, I have a scar on my knee from a tumble on Mother’s Day, and I sprained my ankle stepping up on the platform at church on Father’s Day (fortunately, it was AFTER church, so only my best friend and daughter saw the spectacle that time! LOL!). 

It sounds like maybe you should avoid going out on major holidays! I want to thank you for taking time to do this interview. And for the readers, keep reading. There’s a lot more about Regina and her books following. And don’t forget to comment for your chance to win an e-book!!

Book Blurb For Carolina Mercy:

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 began reading romance and thinking of book ideas as early as her teenage years when she attempted a happily-ever-after sequel to “Gone With the Wind.” That love of fiction parlayed into a career as a librarian, and finally to writing full-time. She began attending local writing workshops and continued to hone her craft by writing several short and novel-length fan-fiction pieces published online, where she met other authors with a similar love for story, a Christian worldview, and happily-ever-after. Married for 30+ years and active in their church in Marion, KY, Regina and her husband have two grown daughters who share her love of music, writing, and the arts. Visit Regina on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or on her website at https://www.reginaruddmerrick.com.

Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Regina-R-Merrick-512257938964888/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/trmerrick64

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reginamerrick/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/rmerrick/

Website: https://www.reginaruddmerrick.com

Publisher Website: https://mantlerockpublishing.com/

Sale Links:

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1945094532/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1530227728&sr=8-2&keywords=Carolina+Mercy

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Carolina-Mercy-Southern-Breeze-Book-ebook/dp/B07DYXW1G2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530227776&sr=8-1&keywords=Carolina+Mercy

 

 

Full of Character with Cynthia Roemer

MRP-Cynthia-Roemer-Under-this-Same-Sky-360x570Today we’re going to spend a little time getting to know author Cynthia Roemer. Cynthia writes historical Christian fiction. I’ve read both Under This Same Sky and Under Prairie Skies. You can find my reviews of them and a Main Character Monday interview with Becky Hollister from Under This Same Sky in my archives. If I’m lucky, I may even get to sit down with Charlotte Stanton or Chad Avery from Under Prairie Skies for a new Main Character Monday interview one of these days. But for now, let’s find out a little more about their creator.

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

Probably Jo from Little Women.  I can identify with her tomboyish ways (I was also a tomboy growing up in the country with sisters.) and her resistance to change. I’m a stickler for tradition and find change difficult when it comes to those I love. I identify with her desire to keep her family together and unchanged, though we all know that isn’t possible or for the best. As with novel characters, growth and change in relationships are what keep life exciting.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve never gotten around to reading Little Women. I need to add it to my TBR pile. What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

Hmm. The easiest would probably be Becky Hollister from Under This Same Sky. I understand her emotions and tendencies. There is a lot of me in her. One of the most challenging for me to get into the skin of was the heroine of Under Prairie Skies, Charlotte Stanton. She was such a brat in the first book. It was a real challenge to stretch and grow her personality into someone I liked and admired. But I fell in love with her character throughout Under Prairie Skies as I sensed her vulnerabilities and why she acted the way she did early on.

Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

I dearly love the story of David. He had such a heart for God. I love his simple trust as he faced Goliath and his desire to honor God in everything he did. I also love the story of Ruth and her devotion to Naomi. She was committed to doing the right thing, no matter what. Both of these characters had hearts of compassion and faithfulness—two traits that I hold in highest esteem.

Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you

as surprised by them as your readers?

A little of both. I start with a good understanding of who they are, but allow for God’s leading as the characters develop and change.

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

Oh, wow! I have to think about that one.  First of all, I can’t envision someone making a movie about my life. LOL! Secondly, I’m not up on many modern-day actresses, but I would want a Christian actress (hard to find). The best choice would likely by Chelsea Noble (wife to Kirk Cameron). Though I’ve not seen her act, she is a woman of faith. That’s good enough for me.  =)

Before I let Cynthia tell us a bit more about her newest release and herself, I want to thank her for taking the time to participate in this interview. Feel free to leave a comment or a question for Cynthia below.

UNDER PRAIRIE SKIESBook Cover _ Under Prairie Skies (Final) (1)

~ 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.Cynthia R

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

Full of Character Interview & Giveaway 1

For the next few weeks, Main Character Monday is taking a vacation. Instead, I’m going to do Full of Character Author Interviews. I hope it’s a fun way for you to get to know new authors or get to know those you already know a little better.

I’m starting it off this week by answering the interview questions myself. Plus, I’m going to give away a copy of my book, Faith’s Journey. To enter, simply follow my blog and ask me a “getting to know me” question in the post comments. (You must be a US resident to enter) If you already follow, mention it when you post your question.  The winner will be drawn and announced next Monday.

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

I think Lance Michelli from the Michelli Family Series by Kristen Heitzmann has probably impacted me more than any other character. He has a heart to do the right thing, but he often struggles to figure out what that is. He wants God to use him and allows Him to do it in a big way, but he’s painfully aware of his failures. That gives me hope that God can still use me on the days when I feel more sinner than saint.

What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

I’m not sure about the easiest, but I definitely have one that’s been the most fun to write. In Grasping Hope, the book I’m currently working on, I’ve got a grandmother character named GiGi B. She’s not your typical grandma. She’s quirky and full of sass and wisdom. It’s a blast writing scenes with her.

The hardest character for me to write would probably be Sharon, Katie’s mother, in Faith’s Journey. I have a wonderful relationship with my own mother. It’s nothing like the one Katie has with her mother. Writing that angst into their relationship while being careful not to leave you despising Sharon is probably what made her the hardest to write.

Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

There are so many that I love for different reasons. I’d love to be a Joshua or a Caleb, ready to take the land despite the obstacles. But maybe I relate more to Peter. Ready to step out of the boat, but when the time comes my eyes drift from my Savior and I start to sink. Or maybe Elijah. He saw God do some awesome things, but still he struggled with discouragement. I’ve definitely been there too.

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

I’m not a planner. I never have been. After my stories get going, I can go back and fill in the details a bit, but even then, it tends to happen organically through the story. I do, however, flesh out the physical attributes of my characters before I write. Usually, I choose someone from television or movies to model the person after.  The GiGi B character I spoke about earlier has the looks of Helen Mirren and the attitude of Flo from Mel’s diner.

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

Stana Katic. I wish I could say it’s because we look so much alike! She’s a beautiful actress with a great deal of talent. But really, it’s just because I loved watching her in Castle. I think she could portray my personality with ease.

A Little More About Our Guest:

Heather Greer is a mom of four from Makanda, Illinois. Growing up as a pastor’s kid and now living as a pastor’s wife in small country churches, she has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of ministry life. She’s directed a local Christian youth camp for teens since she was barely out of her teens herself, and she has a passion for encouraging believers in their faith through writing. When she isn’t busy blogging, reading, or writing, Heather enjoys baking and binge watching her favorite geeky shows and Hallmark movies.

Heather Headshot 5Faiths Journey

Get In Touch:

email: bythebook724@gmail.com

facebook: @AuthorHeatherGreer

twitter: @Heather_Greer1

Faith’s Journey can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, and Booksamillion

 

 

 

Full of Character Interview & Giveaway 1

For the next few weeks, Main Character Monday is taking a vacation. Instead, I’m going to do Full of Character Author Interviews. I hope it’s a fun way for you to get to know new authors or get to know those you already know a little better.
I’m starting it off this week by answering the interview questions myself. Plus, I’m going to give away a copy of my book, Faith’s Journey. To enter, simply follow my blog and ask me a “getting to know me” question in the post comments. (You must be a US resident to enter) If you already follow, mention it when you post your question.  The winner will be drawn and announced next Monday.
What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?
I think Lance Michelli from the Michelli Family Series by Kristen Heitzmann has probably impacted me more than any other character. He has a heart to do the right thing, but he often struggles to figure out what that is. He wants God to use him and allows Him to do it in a big way, but he’s painfully aware of his failures. That gives me hope that God can still use me on the days when I feel more sinner than saint.
What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?
I’m not sure about the easiest, but I definitely have one that’s been the most fun to write. In Grasping Hope, the book I’m currently working on, I’ve got a grandmother character named GiGi B. She’s not your typical grandma. She’s quirky and full of sass and wisdom. It’s a blast writing scenes with her.
The hardest character for me to write would probably be Sharon, Katie’s mother, in Faith’s Journey. I have a wonderful relationship with my own mother. It’s nothing like the one Katie has with her mother. Writing that angst into their relationship while being careful not to leave you despising Sharon is probably what made her the hardest to write.
Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?
There are so many that I love for different reasons. I’d love to be a Joshua or a Caleb, ready to take the land despite the obstacles. But maybe I relate more to Peter. Ready to step out of the boat, but when the time comes my eyes drift from my Savior and I start to sink. Or maybe Elijah. He saw God do some awesome things, but still he struggled with discouragement. I’ve definitely been there too.
Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?
I’m not a planner. I never have been. After my stories get going, I can go back and fill in the details a bit, but even then, it tends to happen organically through the story. I do, however, flesh out the physical attributes of my characters before I write. Usually, I choose someone from television or movies to model the person after.  The GiGi B character I spoke about earlier has the looks of Helen Mirren and the attitude of Flo from Mel’s diner.
If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?
Stana Katic. I wish I could say it’s because we look so much alike! She’s a beautiful actress with a great deal of talent. But really, it’s just because I loved watching her in Castle. I think she could portray my personality with ease.
A Little More About Our Guest:
Heather Greer is a mom of four from Makanda, Illinois. Growing up as a pastor’s kid and now living as a pastor’s wife in small country churches, she has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of ministry life. She’s directed a local Christian youth camp for teens since she was barely out of her teens herself, and she has a passion for encouraging believers in their faith through writing. When she isn’t busy blogging, reading, or writing, Heather enjoys baking and binge watching her favorite geeky shows and Hallmark movies.
Heather Headshot 5Faiths Journey
Get In Touch:
email: bythebook724@gmail.com
facebook: @AuthorHeatherGreer
twitter: @Heather_Greer1
Faith’s Journey can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com, and Booksamillion
 
 
 

Looking for Direction

glassesToday was filled with the stress of making choices. It started with ordering new glasses. Sounds simple enough, but it’s not. Do you know how many choices there are? Metal frames or plastic? Type of lens? Scratch resistance? Anti-glare? Bi-focal or regular? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Those choices are easy, coming down to how much I want to pay. But choosing frames? That’s a different story.

I decided to go bold, at least for me. My frames are thin and non-descript, almost invisible. I wanted a change. So, instead of being in and out in minutes, I stood for over forty minutes in front of the displays taking awkward looking selfies in anything that didn’t make me immediately snarl and pull the frames from my face. Then, I sent the best ones (frames, not selfies, I’m horrible at taking selfies) to six trusted family members and friends for their feedback. Thank goodness they all pretty much agreed, with the exception of my daughter who tried to steer me in the direction of the boldest frame I had tried on. I assured her I wasn’t quite to that stage yet, and I went with the consensus.

I placed my order and went on with my day. Imagine my horror as I stood in the aisle of Wal-Mart looking at dry erase boards, realizing I faced another choice. The board I wanted came with the option of white, black, or wood trim. After another fifteen agonizing minutes, the wood framed one ended up in my cart. Two choices in an hour? I was exhausted.

Choices are hard sometimes. I tend to be laid back about most things, not really caring about what to have for dinner or what my husband and I should do on date night. But choosing the glasses I have to wear for the next several years or the dry erase board that will either bring together everything or look mismatched in the office I’ll set up once my oldest son moves out in five months? That’s a different story. I have to make the right decision or I might regret it. At least in the grand scheme of things the decisions I faced today are minor.  Anne Carty isn’t so lucky in Keeper of Coin by Mary Kay Tuberty.

Anne leaves her family in Ireland at her father’s insistence. As the most frugal daughter, John believes she is the best option for making the trip, finding employment, and sending for the rest of the children. Anne believes her older sister should make the trip first, but she bows to her father’s wishes out of respect for his authority. She arrives in America and makes her way to St. Louis where things don’t go exactly as planned. Her father has hired a man to oversee her funds and help arrange passage to her uncle in Oregon. Anne has reservations about the man’s integrity, but again, she defers to her father’s decision.

When plans go awry, Anne has to choose whether or not to stay in St. Louis or keep trying to reach Oregon. Anne likes her life in St. Louis. She has friends, an adopted family, and a man who is quickly winning her heart. But her loyalty is to the promise she made her father, and she pushes aside her desires to fulfill his wishes.

After her older sister joins her in St. Louis, both girls believe saving for the other children to join them will go quickly, allowing Anne to fulfill her promise and choose the life she desires. It isn’t to be. A thief steals the fare for the next child’s trip. Their uncle in Oregon is surprisingly silent on bringing them from St. Louis. And to top it off, their parents aren’t taking care with the money the girls work so hard to send due to famine conditions in Ireland. Though Anne receives wise advice from many encouraging her to consider that her father cannot know what’s best since he’s not in America and has no idea what life is like for her, she still chooses time and again to honor her pledge. It leaves her and those she loves wondering if she will ever feel free to choose the life and love she desires.

I can understand Anne’s struggle to honor her parents and still make choices that work with her new life. I wouldn’t want to face the same decisions. She could’ve used a neon sign directing her path. I know I’ve wished for one. I desire so much to make right choices, godly choices. Sometimes my paths are clear, but not always. I’m sure we’ve all been there. We wait for God to tell us clearly what to choose, but He doesn’t give us a burning bush or even an audible voice. What are we supposed to do? How are we to decide?

Proverbs 3:5-6 gives us a starting point. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”  Trust. It is  a simple word with huge implications. Trust is when what we believe about God turns into action. Do we believe He has a plan for us? Do we believe He loves us? Do we believe He wants us to live inside His will? Do we believe God is a big enough, powerful enough to let us know if the choice we’re considering is definitely not in His plan for us? If so, then we can proceed. It may be that God’s plan can be accomplished in many ways, and the right thing for us to do may be to simply choose.

But what if it’s not? That’s where the rest of the verses come in. Lean not on your understanding. Don’t trust in yourself, that you know best. Turn to God. Go to Him. Know scripture to gain understanding of what is and isn’t inside God’s will. If your plan includes anything contrary to scripture, it can’t be what God wants. God doesn’t want any of us living in sin.

In all your ways acknowledge Him. Are you praying about your decision? Are you asking for His guidance and wanting in your heart to do things the way God wants them done? Are you remaining open to His leading, even if it is contrary to your desire? Do you end each prayer with the same desire that Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane? Not my will, but Your will be done.

He will direct your paths. It’s right there in the Bible. If you’re going in a way contrary to His plans for you, God will show you. If we do our part to seek His will and His way, He will direct us. It may not be as clearly spoken as the plan Moses received. But we will hear His quiet voice speaking to our spirit if we are going the right way. If we are open to His plans, He will close and open doors for us as we go. He will nudge us away from choices that would be detrimental. And He will work through our choices to accomplish His will when the specifics of those choices are left to us to decide. And if we make a choice God doesn’t want us to make? When I’ve seen my error and sought His forgiveness for going in a direction He told me not to go, my God is big enough to redeem even those choices and put me on the right path once again.

By the Book: If you’ve been struggling to make a choice, have you given it over to God? Do you trust Him? Are you open to seeking His will, His way? If so, listen for that small voice and look for the opened and closed doors.

Main Character Monday – Anna Hartwell

safeWelcome 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 Anna Hartwell from Safe Refuge by Pamela S. Meyers. Thank you for joining me Anna.

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

Ruth. My parents had set up my arranged marriage just days after my birth with a boy who grew to be an abusive and hateful man. I had to lean heavily on God and seek his will during that time leading up to our ceremony, all the while praying for an escape before I found myself exchanging vows with a man I detested. I can identify with Ruth because she left all she was familiar with and followed her widowed mother-in-law to another land and adopted their ways and found her kinsman redeemer. Readers will better understand this after they read my story in Safe Refuge.

What has been the most difficult lesson God has taught you? 

What Proverbs 5: 3-7 says is true. I’m to trust in God with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding. In His due time (not my timetable) he will make my paths straight.

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?   

I seem to come to kindness naturally and I’ve learned that is likely one of my God-given gifts.

Which one is the most challenging for you?

Self-control and patience have taken some work. When it seems the odds are against me, I tend to lose patience and that’s when I’m not so kind after all.

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

Trust in Jeremiah 29: 11-13.  One of your more modern Bible translations than the one I use says it this way: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

If you keep those words from the Lord close to you heart, especially when things get tough you can make it through just about anything. God has been my safe refuge all my life and He’s never let me down.

Just for Fun:

Dark or Milk Chocolate? I prefer dark, but will never turn down chocolate of any kind.

Beach or Mountains?  Mountains definitely. I like the beach, but you can only spend a little while there before you have to get out of the sun. Mountains, no matter the weather draw me in.

Sweet Tea or Lemonade?  Sweet tea for sure. Being a northerner, I didn’t taste it ever until I traveled to Alabama where my mom’s ancestral family is rooted. I thought I’d find it too cloying but I loved it. Nowadays, we have sweet tea in the north. Not as much as the South, but it is around.

If you could describe Pamela Meyers in three words, what would those words be?

Loyal, Creative, Trusted

I want to thank Pamela Meyers for letting us have this time with Anna. If you’d like to get to know Anna better, you can get your copy of Safe Refuge from Amazon in both paperback and e-book formats.

Love is a Verb

DC Talk rapped some very wise words when they told us “Luv is a verb.” So, their spelling may have intentionally left a little to be desired, but the message is clear. Love isn’t a feeling. Love isn’t something that just happens. Love is a choice, and love is an action. Love is something we are all called to exhibit in our daily lives. Active love changes lives.

No one knows this better than Anna Hartwell in Safe Refuge by Pamela S. Meyer. Growing up in a wealthy Chicago family in 1871, Anna has had opportunities others haven’t. She’s seen a lack of love in action in her family and the man she’s been promised to marry since birth. Her mother reaches out to those she considers less than herself only when it will promote her standing in society. Her sister is young, but often distracted by the trappings that come with a life of wealth and social standing. But Anna is different. Through her church and personal relationship with God, Anna has seen real love. Anna has had the opportunity to realize those her parents consider lower class and less worthy have simply not been as fortunate financially. Anna’s heart is soft to the needs of others, and she reaches across the lines to befriend and help those in need.

When tragedy strikes her family and all of Chicago in the form of the Chicago fire, the differences between her family’s version of love and real love becomes even more apparent. Anna experiences the results of love in action as her family flees their hometown for Lake Geneva and finds people willing to give of themselves to those affected by the fires, whether rich or poor. These examples strengthen Anna to keep giving of herself without reserve to the neediest of the refugees despite her own loss. And when her family’s whole world is turned upside down with devastating news, Anna learns what unconditional love really is. For Anna, love is what changes everything.

It’s a lesson we can all stand to take to heart. God is love, and His love is unconditional. His love prompted the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for people who had and would continue to reject Him and His ways. His love reached out to the unlovable. His love moved to change the lives of those the rest of the world would have considered unworthy. His love didn’t condone sin, but it also didn’t alienate the sinner in the desire to purge him of his sin. He loved the people to the truth, and that love changed hearts and lives.

The call to live lives of radical, active love is found in Jesus’ words from Matthew 25:40 which encourage us that whatever we do “To one of these brothers of Mine, even to the least of them” we did it to Jesus. There are countless verses about bearing with each other in love, carrying one another’s burdens, sharing each other’s joys, taking care of the widows and fatherless, and caring for all those in need. But Jesus gave us more than His words. He gave us His example. To the ten lepers, He gave healing even though only one would ever thank Him for the gift. To the woman caught in adultery, Jesus gave mercy and encouragement to go and sin no more. To the woman at the well, He gave her the truth of her sin wrapped in the softening blanket of hope. To Peter, Jesus gave forgiveness and restoration. The 5,000 received enough food to fill their bellies so they could focus on the teachings that would fill their souls.

And for us? Jesus gave His live in exchange for ours to pay sin’s debt. He gave it before we ever loved Him, before we ever knew Him. He gave it without reservation. He gave it to us, the creation that is so much lower in standing than the Creator. He gave it without regret to people like us who, even after being forgiven, would continue to fail Him and forget Him more times than we will even admit to ourselves. He gave to show us that love is a verb.

By the Book: Study the life of Jesus. How does it teach us love? How are you showing others love in your daily life? How good are you at putting love into action unconditionally?

Seeing the Unseen

At some point, you’ve probably experienced the feeling that someone or something is behind you. I feel that way after watching creepy movies or television shows, which is why I don’t knowingly watch them. But that’s not really what I’m talking about. That’s rooted in fear of something that isn’t really there. It’s transferred fear from what I just watched.

The feeling doesn’t have to be born of something sinister. Today at work, I was having a conversation with a co-worker when that feeling struck. I work in a doctor’s office. Danger doesn’t lurk around every corner waiting to pounce. So, as this feeling of being watched came over me, it did so without inspiring fear. However, as I turned and realized another co-worker was standing directly behind me, just inches away, staring intently at me, I have to admit I jumped a little. How in the world did she invade my space without me realizing it? I have a pretty impenetrable personal bubble. How did she weasel her way inside to surprise me?

I wasn’t in tune with my surroundings. I was so focused on the conversation I was having with my other co-worker that I had blocked out everything else. Being caught unaware didn’t hurt anything in this situation, but that isn’t always the case. Dark parking lots, empty nature trails, and secluded alleys are all areas where being aware of your surroundings can be the difference between life and death.

For Thea, the main character in the fantasy novel The Seer by Erin Howard, being in tune with what’s going on around you takes a different twist. Thea doesn’t know it, but she’s a seer, a person with the unique ability to see what’s going on in the spiritual realm alongside our physical realm. Seers are protected by angels and hunted by demons because of their gifts. As Thea first awakens to her gift and realizes the battle raging around her, her gift doesn’t seem like such a gift. When learning to master her ability requires partnerships with not only her protecting angel but also the demon sent to kill her, Thea wants nothing more than to return to normal life. But once a seer has awakened to happenings in the spiritual realm, normal is over.

Particulars of faith aren’t spelled out in The Seer, but the idea of spiritual battles raging around us is scriptural. The Bible doesn’t spell out exactly how angel and demon interaction weaves into our physical lives, but the reality of spiritual and physical lives working in tandem is undeniable. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” That’s not to say I think every bad thing that happens, every illness or failure is the result of demons at work. We live in a world marred by sin. Bad happens naturally as a result.

But with scripture stating it so clearly, we as believers need to be aware there are things happening beyond our line of sight. There are battles going on every day that we don’t see, but we can see the results of them. And like Thea, we have been given a gift. We may not physically be able to see angels and demons, but we’ve been given the Holy Spirit. Part of His job is to give us discernment. When we’re in tune with God and scripture, the Holy Spirit can help us sense when something is not right spiritually. We can feel God’s Spirit moving in a service. We can also feel it when we’re listening to a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That unsettled, sometimes sickening, feeling can be God giving us insight into what’s going on in the spiritual realm. It warns us to proceed with caution or flat out run from a situation. This gift of discernment can lead us to the people God wants us to help or away from those who seek to destroy.

And like Thea found, the gift comes with a responsibility. We don’t get to choose when to use the gift. We need to be ready to move in the direction the Holy Spirit leads us. If God moves in us to help someone, we need to be ready to answer that call no matter the outcome. If God tells us a situation or person is not right, we need to get away from it. Sometimes, we need to do it while warning others of the dangers. We find that out through discernment as well.

And once we’re awakened to this gift of discernment, life will never be normal again.

By the Book: Have you experienced discernment from the Holy Spirit in your life before? Have you felt the Spirit giving approval to a service or action before? What about Him warning you? What are you doing to stay close in your relationship with God so that you are better able to use the gift of discernment?

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