Category Archives: Inside Out

FLAW = Free to Live As Worthy

If you’re like me, flaws can really bug you. The Lord is graciously teaching me to step out of self-judgement and offer myself the same grace as He offers me.

The gals in my prayer group and I were talking with the Lord about this awhile back. One of the women was given this acronym as we prayed. FLAW = Free to Live As Worthy.

This concept is the focus of my first installment of Flourishing Moments. Flourishing Moments is something that grew out of some questions I’ve been asking myself and the Lord: How can I bless people who follow my blog, newsletter, or author page? What can I offer that is of value? What truly makes a difference?

I’m not sure of all the answers yet, but I do have a starting place.

Flourishing Moments begins this week on my author/speaker page on Facebook.

Each week day I’ll post words I believe will encourage us as we seek to love Jesus and be loved by Him. The thoughts are designed to help us lay down our struggles and self-judgement and receive His boundless grace.

Here’s the post I shared there today so you can get a taste of what you can expect from Flourishing Moments. I hope you’ll join me on my author page! Maybe even mark my author page to pin to the top of your daily FB news feed so you can see these posts each morning. God-given truth refreshes the soul, yes?

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Photo by Tonya Vander

Do you ever feel flawed?

Most of us do at some point. Heck, most of us feel flawed daily. The thing is, how we see our flaws determines how we weather this journey we’re on.

It’s important as we heal that we understand God’s perspective on our faults and failures and those faults and failures of people who hurt us.

Our flaws. Their flaws.

We humans are hard on ourselves and others, holding people to high, unattainable standards. We experience tremendous judgment and pain when we (or they) don’t “live up.” Sometimes we’re so overwhelmed with our flaws that we go to the other extreme and pretend they don’t exist. Or we acknowledge our flaws but blame others for our faults and failures. Sometimes we do that with people who’ve hurt us too. We make excuses for the people who’ve behaved badly or pretend the incidents never happened.

All of this is, of course, a lie.

The great news is that Jesus came so all of us could be Free to Live As Worthy. His blood cleansed us. He believed we were worthy of His gift. He knows us inside and out, and our flaws don’t worry Him. He set us free from the dark stuff. He daily works within us to finish the good work He started.

Next time you’re hung up on a flaw, why not remember the cross and look at it this way. FLAWs don’t have to take us out, they can be reminders that we are:
Free to
Live
As
Worthy

~ Thoughts adapted from Soul Scents: Flourish.

Blessings,

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PS I’d love feedback from those of you who hang out here at my blog. I’ve been thinking about how to continue to share about the books–I’m loving these posts by fellow authors–but also to share the kind of thing I shared today. Another idea is some series. A friend suggested I do a blog series on starting a spiritual journal. And I’m aching to write a series about the things Jerry and I are learning as he recovers from his recent heart attack. What would bless you. Any thoughts?

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Ok . . . Just a Note About that Last Author

Maybe I’ll share just one thing about the author in A Bouquet of Brides who I chose not to introduce this week: me. You know plenty about me already, right? And my writing journey has been so entwined with several of the authors in this collection, that you got bits of my story as I talked about them. But I want to share one more thing. This:

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Why that picture?

Because God sent these angels to hold me together on my writing journey, to walk with me into greater personal freedom, and to cheer me on in my calling.

It’s my prayer group, and we’re beginning our 7th year of meeting regularly. We call ourselves the Council of Kings. We believe that God has a destiny and a kingdom for each of us. (Not just in this group. For you too.)

I love you Deb, Kathy, Margie, and Jill. As I move forward in the writing and speaking the Lord is calling me to do, I’m grateful for the support God has given me by His Spirit and through loved ones.

Which means I need to add one more picture. It’s not easy having a writer for a wife or mom. She can get really distracted and disappear for hours. Her income is sporadic. Her tears come often. But these special people fill my heart with joy even on the hard days.

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Until Next time,

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A Story Grows Up

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Did you really begin writing A Packaged Deal when you were high school, you ask. Yup. True story. I have roughly fifty pages of cursive on lined notebook paper to prove it.

Yesterday I said that the stories that don’t go away are the ones you eventually have to write. This story stayed with me. Even though I didn’t complete it in that nine week creative writing class, I lived it in my mind, and it lurked there for many years. When it shouted for attention, I had my own seventeen year-old. Now that it is ready for the public, my children are grown and (usually) out of the house.

The call to finish the story which became A Packaged Deal grew louder when my middle son, Stephen, and my nephew Caleb competed with the Nederland Middle School ski team. Life was busy for the writing of the great American novel, but I thought I might be able to handle penning a romance amidst the hustle and bustle of four teenager’s activities. As I wound through mountain curves to drive Stephen and Caleb to Eldora Mountain, the little story I started as a seventeen year-old began once again to take shape, only this time the setting was a quaint ski town full of quirky and caring supporting characters. Now the heroine became a downhill racer, and the hero waltzed in as the handsome GM of a small-town resort.

Here’s the back cover copy of the NOW story:
Snuggle next to a fireplace in Towering Pines, the Colorado ski town where friendship is served up in hearty helpings and love is as true as the cobalt blue sky.

When Olympic hopeful Aspen Carlisle gave up her ski-racing dreams to raise her orphaned siblings, she found out the hard way that men aren’t interested in a “packaged deal.” Thrust into a stiff learning curve on motherhood, Aspen discovers the love and support of her friends in Towering Pines, but when the handsome new resort manager Stephen Wallace shows kindness to her little family, can she drop her guard long enough to allow him into that trusted circle—and her heart?

As Aspen struggles to believe in him, Stephen battles ghosts of his own. Time with Aspen and her family causes old issues to bubble to the surface. Does he have what it takes to push through the fear and regret, or will he stay stuck in the pain of the past? If he can believe in himself enough to become the husband and father they need, he’ll discover how wonderful a packaged deal can be.

The heart of the  book dreamed up in Robert Wyly’s English class stayed true. A young woman’s life was interrupted when her parents passed suddenly, and she chose to raise her siblings.  That was in the original story line. It’s precious to me, maybe because I love my brother, Curtis, so much. Sibling relationships are so important!

Originally in the seventeen-year-old version there were two men vying for the heroine’s attention, but the more grown-up me didn’t want to do that, so a man named Chad became the ex-boyfriend, and Stephen was the only one pursuing Aspen. (I actually don’t remember what the guys names were originally. I need to find that old manuscript and see!)

While today’s book is definitely the romance genre as was the work of that dreamy seventeen-year-old, this grown-up book works through faith, loss, and the struggle to hope in ways the high school version never could. I pray it blesses you! I absolutely love  what the Free to Flourish publishing team did to make the book beautiful. Thank you to Lisa Joy Samson for the interior artwork and the Towering Pines series logo, to Bryan Butler for the gorgeous cover, and to Carmen Barber for her vision for a lovely interior design and layout.

It’s great fun to see a book dreamed up in my youth become something I can hold in my hands.

Blessings,

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PS A Packaged Deal, which is the first book in the series about Towering Pines and its people, ends with a lovely Christmas Eve surprise, so it is perfect reading for this season and would make a great gift for the readers in your family. Consider purchasing it along with the Tinseled Tidings Collection. Both are available in paperback and on Kindle. Did you know you can gift books on Kindle to your electronic reading friends? In the case of these books, gifting electronically is a wonderful way to stretch the budget.

PPS It’s not too late to download your free Advent devotion from my website. I’m also posting a daily Advent thought on my author page on Facebook. Follow me there to share the Advent journey.

A Shout Out to English Teachers

Ever have an English teacher change your life? Maybe it was a discussion about that story you read in class. Or maybe, like me, you had teachers who flamed your passion for writing.

Today is the official release of my new book, A Packaged Deal, the first story in the Amazon_Front_Cover_1600x2560 JPGTowering Pines series. I dedicated it to three English teachers. My friend Maria Clinton, who teaches high school English a few blocks from my home, my high school English teacher, Mr. Wyly, and my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan. Other names and faces flit through my mind. I’ve had many excellent English teachers, but there’s a reason I singled out these three.

Years ago as I drove up a windy road toward Nederland, Colorado, a story called for my attention. It was a tale from years before, my first attempt at writing a book. I started it my senior year in high school, and I still have the handwritten cursive manuscript on lined notebook paper to prove it.

That story matured with me over many years, but it never went away. It’s the stories that don’t leave you alone that must be written. A Packaged Deal is one of those, and that story I began at seventeen grew into the book releasing today. I remain forever grateful to Robert Wyly for this and more. Why? Because in that nine-week creative writing class I requested permission to write a novel instead of doing the daily assignments, and he cheered me on.

It was one of those touch points that established my dream to become an author. The experience helped keep my dream alive and sustained it during my busy years as a teacher and young mom, when I thought I would write books and didn’t accomplish much more than short poetry and family letters.

I chose my third grade teacher, Mrs. Duncan, for this dedication because her class is the first place I remember knowing I would someday write books. It started when she assigned us a creative writing exercise using personification. I wrote about a pencil and an eraser who always fought but eventually discovered they needed each other when they had to work together to save the third grade classroom. As I wrote that little story, I was hooked. My first “real” job out of college was as a third grade teacher. I can only hope there are a few students out there whose lives were impacted by me as I was by Mrs. Duncan. I read that pencil and eraser story to my students every year, and they always loved it–and loved writing their own personification tale.

Mrs. Duncan also gave me another gift I’m forever grateful for. She discovered that I loved to read and that I finished my work quickly. Instead of allowing me to sit idle, she and the librarian set me up on a speed reading device that helped me read and comprehend more and more quickly. This valuable skill allows me to consume books even now, and I’m very grateful.

I chose to include my friend Maria in the dedication because of her dedication to her students. I am consistently amazed by her passion for them. She cares about their academics and works hard to prepare them for college. She is also passionate about them as individuals. I believe the literature, writing, and class discussion in Mrs. Clinton’s classes open the world beyond that classroom as well as helping her students explore the world within. No doubt the experience grows their understanding and provides forward momentum in their lives. What a difference a passionate teacher makes! (Mrs. Clinton and I share another joy beyond our mutual love of literature, learning, and people. My son, Sam, just proposed to her daughter, Ariel! Wahooo!!)

I’m forever grateful to these three teachers–and to all the English teachers (and librarians!) who called forth my passions. As I reflect, story after story, teacher after teacher, comes to mind who fostered my love of books and writing. The story that made me laugh that our fourth grade teacher read to the class? I read it to my own class of third graders years later. We laughed so hard my co-worker came over and asked what was going on because her class was getting jealous. That serious book about concentration camps in fifth grade? Still part of the shaping within me for justice and compassion. The sixth graders teachers who allowed me to express creativity in numerous ways. Anne Frank’s Dairy, Great Expectations. The immersion into fantasy thanks to a teacher who loved Brigadoon and pookas. The elementary librarian who constantly worked to find me the next books series and keep me engaged in reading. The junior high librarian who became a friend as she shared her favorite authors with me, again finding ways to keep my love of books growing. The list continues into college.

So here’s to English teachers (and librarians) everywhere! Thank you for pouring out on our behalf!

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Blessings,

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PS A Packaged Deal is available in paperback and on Kindle. Tomorrow I’ll share a little more about how this story matured from its beginnings in Mr. Wyly’s class to become the novel of today.

Stories Behind the Stories and Paperback

Ever wonder what drives the spiritual themes in your favorite stories? Do authors plan them, or do they unfold as they write? Are they ever surprised?

Collection picture lower resolutionFor me it’s both. In my new Tinseled Tidings Christmas romance collection, I had some idea of where I was going, but the Lord also added some special surprises. (BTW, the paperback just released! This volume includes the first three titles in the Tinseled Tiding Collection–and I gotta tell you, it’s gorgeous! The original artwork (by Lisa Joy Samson) and interior design (by Carmen Barber) makes the book’s fun, uplifting stories even more delightful because they are so visually pleasing!)

When I wrote The Joy ScroogeI found it interesting that when I wrote Krista and Tait’s pivotal moments, it just flowed. Usually it’s when my characters are in pain that I have to fight through the writing. (Hey, they are real to me, and I hate to see them hurting!) But this time when I got to the happy ending, I had a block. Talk about weird! The hard part was done, but I couldn’t write the fun part! (Makes me wonder how often we fight through pain—or even choose to stay in it—but are afraid of believing in the happy in real life! But I digress.)

Because I couldn’t seem to write the happy part of The Joy Scrooge, I went back and did couple of rounds of editing on the deep parts of each of the main character’s journeys. As I rewrote Krista’s, I realized that her issue was bumping up against one of my own. I needed to be willing to walk with someone I love on a path of suffering. I needed to do it whether or not this person could ever come out on the other side. It helped me be willing when I realized that the simple act of loving when it means hurting with the person we love is part of entering the suffering of Christ. It helped me feel closer to Jesus and to trust Him with how the other person’s pain affects me.

To be clear, I’m not saying that in every situation we should choose to walk closely with someone in pain. None of us have that bandwidth, and not every need is the call. We help where we can, and we follow God’s leading in that. There are also abusive situations where we have to remove ourselves from the more intimate act of walking with a hurting person who is acting out. But all of us face situations where we need to choose to enter the suffering of a loved one. Sometimes they cause their own suffering, and sometimes it is thrust upon them by health issues or evil. It brings me comfort to know in these situations, when loving means entering someone else’s painful journey, that it is part of entering Christ’s suffering. It comforts me that He understands and is with us in the pain.

Once I processed all of that, the happy ending for the book came more easily.

If learning this kind of backstory for my latest stories is interesting to you, you’ll enjoy an interview I did with Peg Thomas. Check it out! Peg is a fellow author and we are both published in a novella collection, A Bouquet of Brides, which releases January from Barbour Publishing.

Happy Advent!Advent cover small

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PS If you’re joining me by reading Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent this December, you might enjoy liking my Facebook page and following me there. Each day I’m posting short thoughts connected to the reading. (And you can still get that as a free download at my website.)

PPS The Tinseled Tiding paperback would make an uplifting, fun Christmas gift–and for those electronic readers, all three novellas could be bundled and gifted electronically for less than $3!

I Should Have Known

rsz_tinseled_tidings_small_scroogeI’m typing happily along, answering interview questions that will be placed in the back of The Joy Scrooge, one of the holiday romance novellas in my newest fiction series, Tinseled Tidings. 

Suddenly I find myself typing, “And so you can go to my website to download a free Advent devotional.”

“What?” I thought.

Then I chuckled. I knew it had to happen. It was the perfect non-fiction companion to the playful inspirational Christmas novellas I’d been writing. I contacted the Free to Flourish Publishing team, and they agreed to make my dream come true. We lifted the daily devotions from weeks 9-12 of Soul Scents: Flourish, added content, and off we went!

One of my favorite additions to the Advent devotional is a weekly Sunday worship that includes ideas for meditation and celebration as you light Advent candles.

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I hope you’ll receive this gift of my heart! You can down download a *free* PDF of Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent  by visiting my website. For those of you who prefer reading on Kindle, it’s available on Amazon for 99 cents. I felt like it was a God-kiss when the Advent devotion published on Kindle on October 29th, my 52nd birthday!

I’m super excited about the line-up for this fall and the release of the Tinseled Tidings novella collection. The first book, You’re a Charmer, Mr. Grinch, which was a finalist for novella of the year in the ACFW Carol Awards, is already available on Kindle. We have two more titles, one releasing every fifteen days on Kindle, so readers will have them before Christmas!

But what if you prefer paperback?

All three of these fun stories will be included in the paper back release of Tinseled Tidings (Volume 1), coming in time for the holidays.

Stay tuned for more details!

Until Next Time,

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Announcing the Winners!

It’s really fun how the drawing turned out! Empty-Nest Man won the book, The Joy of joy of letting goLetting Go: Releasing Your Teens into Real Life in the Big World! If the series on releasing our children to adulthood blessed you, I believe you’ll be blessed by his new blog. And as crazy as this seems that Empty Nest Man won the book on empty nest, I promise it was not rigged. I wrote out each name on paper and drew two. He was drawn first, and He chose his book!

Winner of the Colors of Hope inspirational coloring book is Lacey!

Her comment asked a question: Your devotional time sounds both joyous and thought-provoking, Paula. Just out of curiosity…not that it really matters, except for preference…do you use colored pencils, or crayons? My daughter has 17155194_10154303091171723_2711020159173082596_nbeen ill, and I bought a new box of over 100 crayon’s for her. Fresh, new crayons with a crayon sharpener included. There’s something special about using a new crayon or recently sharpened pencil.

My answer to Lacey was: I’ve been using markers or colored pencils, but that may be because I have pencils to sharpen but not fresh new crayons! I think that would be a great question for Lisa, though! 

So I contacted the expert, Lisa Samson who said:

Colored pencils would work better for the book. There are smaller spaces that would be hard to access with crayons. Although, there are some pages that would work just fine with crayon because they have been designed for people of all skills!

Thank you to everyone who participated in the drawings. I hope to do more in the future! Stay tuned!