Real Life Romance and Free Books

 

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Wanna know more about the real-life romance of this romance writer? Had a LOT of fun telling a few stories on Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s blog. She’s offering one of my books FREE to the person who guesses which story I told in my novella, You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch. YOU might know if you’ve followed this blog for a while. Check it out, and make a comment, and I just might be sending you an autographed copy of Tinseled Tidings.

BTW, You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch is *FREE* today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday). Enjoy!

And there’s a special fall novelette on the way ONLY to my newsletter subscribers, so sign up and discover a special-edition love story from one of the extra special characters in Grinch. Hint: You’ll get to also me her little one!

Until Next time,

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A Little Update

Hey Friends,

It’s bugging me that this blog is neglected.

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Jerry and me celebrating our 29th anniversary

Here’s the deal. Since my husband’s heart attack December 31st of last year and the subsequent struggle with Graves Disease, I haven’t had much left over for this space. And the times I’ve tried to write something heartfelt? Well, I ended up deleting.

Jerry and I are working through things. Making lots of changes in everything from employment to diet to choices for activities. We finally admitted to each other last week that there for a while we were preparing ourselves to say good-bye. But lately he’s been gaining strength and energy and stamina, and that has us encouraged.

What’s discouraging is that he seems to continue to lose vision. He’s having to give up lots of stuff, and, well, you grieve every time  you have to let something go. Our pastor taught a few weeks ago on “blessed are they who mourn.” It opened up good conversation between Jerry and me about our grieving process. He grieves all he’s giving up. I grieve for him. And we both grieve the things we can no longer do together.

It’s been quite a journey.

I won’t promise I’ll be any better about posting here in the near future. We’ll see. The dam may open and the words come flooding out one of these days. But for now, I’m just trying to take it a day at a time.

22vdcxThat said, I’m not absent in the on-line world. On my author/speaker page I still post daily inspirational thoughts on living Free to Flourish, and I send a weekly newsletter to my subscriber list. We actually have a free novelette coming this fall for my newsletter subscribers, so now’s a great time to sign-up. And the Lord continues to bring me speaking engagements here and there. There’s something really beautiful about still speaking about Jesus while I’m in a season of grief. It blesses me when He pours the love and hope through me, and I see others encouraged.

I’ve had a few of you ask for that next book in the Towering Pines series. Rattled is half written, and poor Chad and Jade are left hanging, still trying to figure it out. I also promised another Christmas novella this year telling Hillary’s story (Evie’s best friend from Fruitcake Fallout). Honestly I don’t know when they will be written. I’m sad with those of you who’ve told me you’re waiting. Me, too. One of these days, months . . . (I hope not years!) . . . it will happen, and I’ll be sure to let everyone in cyberspace know.

For now, Jerry and I would appreciate your prayers.

Blessings,

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God’s Involved

Do you ever reflect on the ways God’s shown up in your life? Stuff that is beyond coincidence. Stuff that isn’t the big story, like being healed from a life-threatening disease, but is still only explained by His interaction with your life?

Today I reflect on the year 2002. A homeschooling mamma, I taught part time at a Christian Enrichment school for homeschoolers. My class, Mindboggling Missionaries, was primarily wiggly boys. I wanted to capture their imagination, touch their spirit, and give them heroes to immaculate. Missionaries. It was an easy topic to sustain with endless opportunities for creative learning. The Trailblazer series by Dave and Neta Jackson provided the base and the boys, my assistant teacher, and I soon traveled to exotic and distant lands. We played games, made crafts, and ate foods from these cultures. (Rule one when dealing with squirrely boys before lunch is food!) Together we learned about ordinary people who did extraordinary things when lives where surrendered to God. (I found out later those elementary boys took bets on have far Miss Paula would get into glass before the story of these heroes brought her to tears. lol) Oh the people we studied!  Prince Kaboo. Martin Luther. Gladys Aylward. Adoniram Judson!

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Adoniram Judson Picture taken from this site, where you can also read his story

Adoniram Judson.

 

One of the first American missionaries and the first to bring the gospel to Burma.

He’s the one who broke my heart.

As I taught about Adoniram’s life, which was wrought with suffering, I secretly cried out to God. My spirit understood that even one life changed for eternity was “mindbogglingly” more important than I could understand. But as I read of his loss of three children and his wife, of the cruelty he endured while in prison, I wondered. Those first six years in Burma were especially hard, and at the end of them he had only one Burmese convert.

“Was it worth it?” I cried silently. His story haunted me.

About this time, through a strange string of circumstances, I learned a Burmese refugee, Dah Doh, lived only five minutes from me. I decided to visit her in hopes she might talk to our class about Burma. As I walked down the dark hallway to her apartment, I wondered if I would find a Buddha outside her door.

The Burmese woman graciously invited me inside. She fed me traditional food, and within minutes I discovered she had a rich and vibrant faith in Jesus, a faith that helped her survive years in a horrible refugee camp in Thailand after she escaped the cruel government of Myanmar, which is what the conquering army renamed Burma.

“I’m teaching about Adoniram Judson,” I said. “Have you heard of him?”

Dah Doh’s eyes lit with joy, and she grabbed an old cassette tape. When she pushed play on the worn tape player, the voices of children singing in Burmese filled the air. She translated the words of a hymn into English. I don’t remember her exact translation, but I googled what I remembered and found this Burmese hymn that seems close:

Eternal God, we offer thanks for the ministry of Adoniram Judson, who out of love for thee and thy people translated the Scriptures into Burmese. Move us, inspired by his example, to support the presentation of thy Good News in every language, for the glory of Jesus Christ; who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Brushing tears from my eyes, I understood.

Before me, almost 200 years later, stood the fruit of Adoniram’s sacrifice. Dah Doh explained that most of her people, the Karen, were Christians because of the missionary work of Adoniram Judson in the early-mid 1800s.

What a glorious answer God gave to my broken-hearted cry! He could have simply led me to statistics about the wonderful success of Adoniram’s ministry toward the end of his life, but instead the Lord showed me how Adoniram’s willingness to continue to serve, despite intense suffering, left a legacy that still survives, nearly two centuries later.

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Prince Sao Ky Seng and Princess Inge Sargent. Photo from this site.

Dah Doh came to my class, and the children loved her. She captured their attention as she talked of her beloved homeland.

 

Dah Doh (and God!) had another surprise for us. Dah Doh knew Princess Inge, who was once married to the Prince of Burma. Inge met Prince Sao Kya Seng when they both attended Colorado University in Boulder. When they married and she returned with him to his native land, she didn’t know he was the Shan Prince until brightly colored ships greeted them in the harbor. The prince and princess served the people with an eye to their good. The prince gave his rice fields to the farmers who cared for them and sought ways to strengthen the economy. Inge taught nutrition, established a birthing clinic, and built a trilingual school. They had two daughters and were happy in their work on behalf of their people and country. But Prince Sao Kya Seng’s leaning toward democracy upset the army, and he was killed during a coo. Princess Inge eventually escaped with her two daughters. She hid her identity, taught high school German, and eventually remarried. But she couldn’t stop thinking of the plight of her people. She began to tell her story and to raise awareness for the plight of the Burmese people. (You can read more about them here and here.)

Princess Inge came to our class. We were all so excited! She talked of Burma and the needs of the Burmese people. We were so moved, the children took up a collection.

I started this post thinking about God-moments. I’ve often pondered this one. My heart is tender when I think of how thoroughly He answered the aching (even accusing) questions of this young mamma’s heart. Passion floods as I think about how He turned that teaching moment for ME into an incredible experience for those I taught.

There is no success without sacrifice. If you succeed without sacrifice it is because someone has suffered before you. If you sacrifice without success it is because someone will succeed after.                                                                                   ~ Adoniram Judson

Flourishing Moments

f2f memes portrait - Page 007Need a quick pick-me-up each morning?

I post short, encouraging thoughts on my author/speaker page on Facebook daily.

Just follow me there! If you pin my page to the top of your feed, Flourishing Moments will automatically post to your timeline so you don’t have to go looking for them.

Here’s a sample:

The true essence of our destiny is living as a masterpiece. It’s easy to let our good works or our service become the focus. But God didn’t say our work is the masterpiece, He says we are.

Flourishing Moments are that pause in your day that helps you take a breath and refocus.

Hope to see you there!

(Lurk and read, like and share, or comment. I love to interact with readers there!)

Blessings,

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Levis and Hijabs

30698037_10155553271969077_4312443565172064256_nImagine walking into the 9/11 memorial next to a vibrant, first-generation New Yorker who is dressed head to toe in traditional Muslim attire. Her hair is completely hidden beneath her hijab, and layers of loose-fitting clothes cover her wrists and ankles. She is twenty-one, bright and articulate. Her conversation, despite a slight accent, sounds much like that of any American college student as she complains about how hard Calculus Four is. We know Sushmita will make a fine secondary math teacher.

I want to know how she feels, as a Muslim woman, as she steps into this place, but I don’t want to pry. Finally I ask, “Were you old enough to remember 9/11?”

Sushmita explains that she was too young to understand what happened, but that she experienced the aftermath when she came to school in her traditional attire. The other children ostracized and bullied her. They called her “Osama’s daughter.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“It’s okay.” My new friend smiled. “They carried much pain. They needed to release it.”

20180411_141302As this vivacious young woman walked through the memorial, it was obvious she carried much pain as well, not for how she was treated, but for tragic deaths of so many of her fellow New Yorkers. She stood for nearly thirty minutes listening to name after name, story after story, of New Yorkers who died that day. Long after I couldn’t take it anymore, she and my daughter lingered there, grieving. Honoring the ordinary people who suffered that day. Standing in solidarity with their friends and families.

I walked also with another new friend, Mina. Mina is a beautiful Afghan woman who has lived in the states for five years and recently applied for citizenship. Her grief was palpable, as was her concern for ours. I soon realized she didn’t experience the memorial as one who’d seen the devastation on TV like I had. She saw it through the lens of her life in Afghanistan, where such tragedy occurs on a regular basis.*

Often we asked each other, “Are you okay?”

“Yes. Are you?”

The time came when the grief flowed out in my new friend’s tears. For the people of 9/11, for the people in her homeland who daily face the fear of attack. She told me that every morning the first thing she does is check Facebook to see if her family in Afghanistan is alive. She is glad to be here with her husband and children. Safe from the daily fear of bombs. But her brother, her sisters, her loved ones in Afghanistan live daily with the very real possibility of tragedy.

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Mina pointed at two young women standing nearby, Sushmita and my daughter, Sarah.  In broken English she explained that at any moment a bomb could explode between them, taking half of each of their bodies. She pointed to her hand and talked of a friend who no longer had a finger. Another who no longer had an arm.

We were women together that day. An American team with their new friends from another culture. Grief and love bound us together, weaving through the varied experiences that brought us to this place and the shared experience of the moment. Before and after this time we would laugh together. But in this space we wept as one.

Please pray for Mina and Shusmita. That love will bind their wounds. Pray for their struggle as they press forward in their desire to live as free Americans who come to this land to love and be loved.  Please pray for the safety of their families in their countries of origin, the loved ones who face great uncertainty every day.

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Blessings,

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*Today’s heart-breaking story from Kabul, Afghanistan.  As I work on this blog, I text with my friend Mina. She sends me pictures of this tragedy, and once again we cry together, her from her home in NYC, me from mine in Denver. Two women. Hearts forever joined.

How Do I Show Up?

Successful career. Successful relationship.

Finances. Respect.

The list could go on, couldn’t it? The one of things that get in the way of true living. (Notice I didn’t say the list of things wrong to desire.)

But don’t they get in the way?

Of the good moments.

We miss too many of life’s beautiful moments because our focus is in on worrying about something on the list.

They get in the way.

Of productivity.

It slows when fear of financial problems, a need to succeed, or managing relationship replaces creative energy.

Of delight.

There’s nothing like fear and striving and worry to zap life’s joy.

Of healthy relationship.

Relationships are harder when we worry about success or think they can be managed.

Of success itself.

How far could we go if life wasn’t driven by the need to succeed? Is it success if we’re constantly grasping and fearing its loss?

What if we lived from passion instead?

Passion to bless.

God and others. In daily interaction. In work, even work that doesn’t feel like calling offers opportunity to bless. In relationships, even when they aren’t fun.

Passion to receive love and share it.

Humans know how to love because they were first loved by their Creator. (We love because He first loved us.) So we take a stand and shout to the world (and mostly that negative, nagging voice in our head), “I am loved!” Then we pause and reflect the love back to its origin. “I love you, too, God!” Then we step into our families, our friendships, our work place, our Facebook groups, our schools, our blogs . . .  our life. We step into life and love others with the love we are given.

Passion to move forward as our true selves.

To let the real us, the strong, true, gifted person who wants to bless and love, show up in the world. (Which means we constantly tell the fearful, striving, success-craving, down-on-herself/himself, selfish voices to shut up.) We acknowledge our strengths. Enjoy them, even. Believe that we were designed with a uniqueness this world needs.

What if we stopped chasing success and instead stepped boldly into life from our passion?

Wouldn’t this be the ultimate act of glorifying the One who made us?

Until Next time,

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PS These thoughts rolled out this morning as I deal with real life. I write as a sojourner, longing desperately to put aside my self-absorption, worries, and fears to live out my destiny.  To be all-in with God and to be put out with fear. To let my neediness fall aside as I focus on my passion. As I seek to trust God with my life instead of grasping for things that cannot fill me up. To be about passionate work with eternal significance, not chasing a paycheck or significance or career advancement. To believe God will supply all my needs and that I am free to go about my Father’s business without letting lesser things slow my productivity and advancement.

Hung Up on Weight?

My body.

It takes up too much of my thought life.

Especially the negative zings, which don’t belong in my head at all.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know that in 2012 I started paying attention to my body and lost 55 pounds.

Unfortunately I’ve found some of those pounds again. To be honest, I don’t know how many because I’m afraid to get on the scale.

I learned a lot about where I turn for comfort in 2012 and 2013. I mean you can pray and read Scripture and love your family and talk to your friends and all of that but still try to eat your negative emotions.

I got a lot better. I learned to pause to think about what was really going on when I craved food. And usually I could let go of the craving.

So here we are about 5 years later.

I haven’t totally gone backwards, but I’ve shrugged off more fresh veggies and healthy exercise choices than I am willing to admit.

And lately I’ve given space again to the negative “I’m fat” thoughts.

This has been going on awhile, and has really cranked up in the stress of the aftermath of my husband’s heart attack.

So why I am writing about it now?

Today I browsed blogs written my folks who’ve recently followed mine. I’ve had some new follows by people talking about health and weight and body image, including a young girl from another country. She’s only 15 but, like me, she’s focused on her body.

I’m 52.

I don’t know if it will comfort or discourage her that I still think about this stuff.

I was reminded this weekend of a blog post I wrote a few years ago. I posted a picture of how I really looked and a picture of how I thought I looked, which was much heavier. This memory made me wonder how much of my weight gain since that day is related to never truly being able to see myself as I truly was.

It’s hard enough in your 50s with these struggles, but what about this young girl–and all the others like her? What would it mean to all of us if we saw ourselves as we really are?

Not just our real weight.

I mean the real weight of our existence.

What if we saw ourselves as amazing, strong, worthy, and beautiful?

What if we understood our value?

Ladies, we are God’s treasure. The Creator of the whole universe had us specifically in mind even before the world began. GOD dreamed us up. He not only loves us, He likes us. He thinks we’re beautiful and unique and of great value.

He also knows all the wonderful things we are capable of–the ways we can impact our world for good–if we can break out of negative self-focus and live fully aware of our value and how He’s wired us to live in this world.

I was recently talking to Him about all the stuff bugging me. When I got to my weight, I swear I heard Him laugh. Not at me. Not in a mean way. Just a laugh that seemed to include a shrug, as though I made way more consequence of it than He did. As if all the things I found unattractive were not even an issue for Him. As if His focus was somewhere entirely different than those pesky extra pounds.

As if He thought I had better things to think about and do than to worry about how I looked in the mirror.

I’m not saying He doesn’t care about my weight or health. He proved His personal attention to this area of my life time and again as I lost weight and learned to make healthier choices five years ago.

What I’m saying, is that He isn’t hung up on my weight.

It doesn’t limit or diminish His approval.

He isn’t wringing His hands or spending precious thought time on the number on a scale.

He’s thinking about His women in a whole different way.

Sure, He thinks we’re beautiful. He designed us to be beautiful! It’s just that He knows beauty isn’t a number on a scale or a perfect figure or perfect outfit. Beautiful is being fully present in this world. 

Taking up our own space.

Living out our destiny of bringing goodness in our own unique way to our little corner of the world.

So to my new 15 year old follower and to myself, this is what I have to say.

Be healthy. Eat well. Live active and strong. It’s good for you!

But it is not your totally and need not be your world.

(Your world is so much bigger than a number on a scale!)

It is not your identity.

It doesn’t deserve undo focus in your thought life.

You have so much more to think about. So much more to do.

Like notice a sunset or a shaft of bright light.

Like laugh with a friend or encourage someone who needs a bit of help.

Like enjoy amazing music or art or poetry.

Or create it.

Like love.

Love others.

Love God.

Start by loving yourself.

To do that you receive love.

You believe you are of great worth to your Creator.

You tell your Creator you want to believe you are valuable.

You ask Him to help you change your thinking so that you don’t focus negative thoughts about yourself

You start seeing the gifts, the strengths, the beauty, the courage you possess.

As as you receive God’s love, then you share it.

You help a friend see his or her worth. See that there is more to them than what people think or say (and that’s what I’d tell another new follower, this one from India).

There is more to you than even than you know.

And it is good.

Until Next Time,

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PS It’s not too late to download that free Easter devotional on my website, Soul Scents: Selections for Easter.