Tag Archives: advent

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!

Just Kiddin’ (Not really. I messed up.)

You may or may not know that I have a lovely part-time job that is an incredible gift and only feels like real work once a month when I have to get there at 7:30 to sing at the early service. (So not a morning person.)

The job is as a staff singer at a lovely Lutheran congregation. We sing wonderful music, like Bach and Handel, and just got new choir robes. (Hang in there. This relates to my mistake.)

I arrived this morning thinking that Advent starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving–which it often does–and prepared to put on my purple stole. (I actually paused briefly earlier this morning when getting dressed because I couldn’t help but think how my red earrings would clash with the lovely purple stole once the robe went on.) I arrived at church only to discover white stoles on the choir robes.

White??

“Isn’t it the first Sunday of Advent?”

Now Advent is confusing for lots of folks for reasons exactly like this. Not everyone celebrates Advent in the same way or on the same weeks. (I think the Irish actually do a six week Advent.) But much of the traditional church in America celebrates Advent beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

NEXT WEEK.

Not today.

Ooops. And I bought my candles and everything.

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STOP! Don’t light that first candle yet! Hahahaha!

Not to mention telling everyone to get that Advent devotion so they can start reading it today.

Only it’s a four-week devotion designed for the four weeks before Christmas and there are still five weeks. Not four. Because Thanksgiving comes on the fourth Thursday every November and there are five Thursdays this year, not four.

Have a headache yet?

So if you’re using my devotion this year for Advent, I’d encourage you to hold off on starting it for one more week so it will last the whole time, even though I know You’re chomping at the bit to get started. (Or you could start and leave room for all those times you miss a day ’cause you’re busy.)

And if you haven’t downloaded your free copy–there’s still time!

Look at that. Maybe it was meant to be. And here you thought you might miss out.

Now here’s the next confusing issue. I was told today no purple stoles for Advent. Next Sunday we’re wearing blue. Last year it was purple. But that was before we got the blue ones. My research shows that some churches choose purple for Advent, some do blue. Others do something else entirely.

So maybe there’s another point to be made. Advent is not about doing it all right. I don’t think there is right way except maybe this one thing: Celebrate Jesus.

Whenever, however, with whatever colors you like.

And if you’re like me and love the opportunity for stillness with Him in the busy month of December, part of that celebration just might include candles and devotional thoughts. If that’s you, I hope you’ll join me this year in reading Soul Scent: Flourish Selections for Advent, which is still available for *free download* on my website.

 

Blessing,

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Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent offers four weeks of devotional thoughts, Scriptures, and prayers for meditation and worship in the weeks before Christmas. If you’re celebrating Advent with candles, you can use Sunday’s reading for reflection as you light the candles of hope, peace, joy, and love. It also includes a scripted prayer and suggestion for worship. Monday through Friday’s daily readings focus on concepts like Christmas memories, the Christmas tree, the Cross, celebration, nativity, and worship. On Saturday journal questions prompt reflection on the week’s worship experience.

Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent is taken from weeks nine through twelve of the Soul Scents: Flourish thirteen-week devotional book. Additional content for reflection during the lighting of Advent candles and at the end of week is included only in this special holiday edition.

(Selections for Advent is available as a free pdf on my website, www.paulamoldenhauer.com/gifts. If you prefer to read on Kindle, you can get your copy there for 99 cents.)

 

Why I love Advent–Which Starts Sunday! (And a free Advent devotional book for you.)

The ribbons and bows looked funny on that avocado plant, but my little brother and I beamed at our parents, showing off our “Christmas tree.” To their credit they didn’t reprimand us, but the delight my nine-year-old heart hoped to see in their eyes was pain instead. They hated to disappoint us, but they couldn’t encourage such “pagan” behavior. See, I was raised with the belief that Christmas and all its trappings were not of God. Jesus was from God. He was sent to save us. But Christmas was not His birthday, and the Christmas tree was nothing more than leftovers from people who worshiped a false god.

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My first Christmas tree

It was to be another forty years before I owned my first Christmas tree. Perhaps this is one reason I dearly love Advent worship. The process to shedding the beliefs of my childhood and learning to celebrate at Christmas has been long and confusing, but the search has also been pure gold. Since I wasn’t raised with traditions around the holiday, my heart hungered to understand why people did what they did, what God thought about it, and what was right for me.

 

The Advent devotional readings became one of my favorite things, and I’m always on the look-out for a good devotional book—one that makes me think about worshiping Jesus and celebrating not only His birth, but what He came to do.

When I wrote Soul Scents: Flourish, which is a thirteen-week devotional book about my journey out of spiritual, emotional, and mental abuse, I didn’t expect a month’s worth of writing to center of Advent worship, but it’s what God placed in my heart to write. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Captivity of heart, mind, and emotions is the result of abuse and my heart has fought for years to fight out of the captivity connected to my Christmas worship.

Advent cover smallThis fall, as I worked on my Christmas novella series, Tinseled Tidings,  the Lord prompted me to pull out the weeks of Advent worship and off them free on my website. I am pleased to do this. I like to think of it as giving a Christmas gift to all who will receive it! (You can get yours by visiting for free at my website.)*

As I wrote these devotions I found myself typing, “I was created to celebrate. The trappings of Christmas are simply an expression of this need to worship, to sing, to dance. What I really seek is complete freedom to be who I am, to praise my God in abandon, to enjoy every ounce of beauty I can find, without majoring on minors or intense self-evaluation of the rightness of every choice.

From the beginning of my life the enemy tried to steal this identity from me. Children of celebration don’t do well with strife, but I was surrounded by it from day one. They need free expression and movement and beauty. As a child, religion created within me a mistrust of the aesthetics. The culture I was raised in didn’t give much credence to the arts. In the early years movies were considered evil. Dance classes a sin. And much of art inappropriate. Beautiful spaces were not particularly appreciated. There was a prevailing attitude in the church of my childhood that poverty was more acceptable than riches. Too much emphasis on outward adornment was also suspect. As a religious culture, there was a scarcity in our ability to celebrate, to embrace the abundance of the gifts God offered us. Christmas was but a tiny piece of a prevailing attitude that found suspect anything that included too much celebration, too much joy, too much beauty—too much abundance of any type.”

As the words flew from my fingers I grasped something big. I wrote, “It isn’t just Christmas the enemy has tried to steal from me. It is life!

The right to be who I am and breathe my own air the unique way He created me to do it!
You see, I am a child of dance and song. I am a child of celebration. From the beginning the enemy has sought to steal this from me. He has tried to exploit my desire to please God by turning it into striving instead of joyful surrender and praising advancement. He tried to twist the deep parts of my personality, the “old soul” that is me to make me melancholy instead of simply reflective and insightful. He tried to poison my sanguine temperament with hopelessness.

But he has lost his battles. His schemes are crushed into the ground. Where he sowed pain and despair my Jesus came in and poured His healing blood and turned all that evil had planted into seeds of faith. My Jesus watered those seeds with the showers of blessings and storms of trial and the every-single-day-new-hope of His Light. The seeds are bursting forth in blossoms, and the garden of my heart where He dwells is fragrant with grace. The turtledoves have arrived and coo their love song there in my garden heart. The garden my Lord planted for His enjoyment. Here there is hope. There is dance and song and celebration. For I am His child, created for joy.”

As I share those words** with you today, passion rises, jumps, screams out of my body asking, “how about you?” Where has the enemy stolen your joy? Taken away your worship? Lied to you, forcing you into a box of unending self-examination and rules or held you back from enjoying abundance?

My friend we are FREE.

Remember the truth of the beautiful carol, “In His name all oppression shall cease!” and join with worshipers of the ages singing:

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim! ***

May God meet you in joy and freedom this Advent season. I hope you’ll download my *free* Advent devotion and let me be a part of that.

From my heart to yours!

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*If you prefer to read on Kindle instead of downloading the free pdf, Selections for Advent is available on Kindle for 99 cents.

**Taken from week 2 of Soul Scents: Flourish Selections for Advent

***O Holy Night’s original verse by Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure in 1847, translated into English by John Sullivan Dwight (1812-1893)

 

Vulnerable at Advent

20161201_173427.jpg“We start with intimacy. Longing. Vulnerability,” said our choir director. “We’re moving from Advent to the Incarnation.”

He was talking about the progression of Christmas music we’ll perform at our concert on Sunday, but I heard it with heart-ears. It’s exactly how I feel.

Vulnerable. Intimate. Longing.

How I long for deeper connection to Jesus! How I long for release to joy. To celebration. How breathless expectation both rises in me in hope–and falls within me in fear of disappointment. How I need Jesus to come and meet me in some very tender, raw places. How I’ve tucked myself next to His heart as I ponder. Wait. Wonder.

Advent. The longing for the incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us.

How confused I get at what that means and how it looks.

I have Christian friends who say the same thing. “I don’t really get Advent. What exactly is that anyway?”

Their admission surprises me. Maybe I thought my background uniquely set me up to not “get” all things Christmas. See, I didn’t celebration Christmas for most of my life. There was no Advent calendar at my house. Heck, there wasn’t even a Christmas tree. Jerry and I grew up in a denomination which taught that Christmas was pagan worship. We left that church twenty years ago, but our struggle with understanding Christmas continues to this day.

My latest book, Soul Scents: Flourish, releases soon. In it I talk about a lot of stuff I’ve never shared publicly before. The last section of the books talks about my struggle with–and longing for–Christmas worship.

I can’t help but wonder if you might relate to my struggles to find Him in this season. Oh, our stories are very different, but maybe you and I both feel a little vulnerable. Hungry for more of Jesus, but kind-of afraid He won’t show up. Or that He will and we’ll miss it.

As I pondered what I want this Christmas season to look like for me, I realize I long to celebrate Jesus and give good gifts. The very best gift ever given is Jesus, and so for the next 25 days I offer Him to you by sharing a little of my personal journey to the manger. I feel like the little drummer boy. I have nothing of earthly value to give you, limited resources, but I offer what I have to give. He played his drum. I write my words. And I give them, as a Christmas present, to you and to Him.

The devotional thoughts I share until Christmas come from Soul Scents: FlourishSome will be published in their entirety; others will be edited for brevity or clarity (since you don’t have the context of what comes before them in the book).

So I hope you’ll journey with me for the next 24 days. Invite your friends. Comment. Send me little Christmas notes via the blog-o-sphere and I’ll write you one back. It’ll be like exchanging mini Christmas cards! Let’s celebrate and journey together.

Until Tomorrow,

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Hush

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I love that word. It says so much more than quiet or still or silent.

It’s a breathless space. There is peace mingled with anticipation.

Yearning mixed with tranquility.

It’s calm.

There is no disturbance.

It’s a mood of the heart.

It’s part of inside-out weight loss.

Shedding of the hurry, at least for a moment.

I didn’t grow up in a tradition of Advent. Actually there was no Christmas worship of any kind.

I’ve come to treasure Advent’s hush. This year my quiet span has included a book of daily readings from a Celtic Advent tradition–which means 6 whole weeks instead of four.

Each week I lit a new candle symbolizing Father, Holy Spirit, hope, peace, joy, and love. In a few days the final candle will burn, signifying the light of the Christ child, my Lover and Best Friend, Jesus.

In this span of hush my heart is quieted, yearning without disturbance. And when the crush of struggles invade my peace, this restful space helps me realign with all that is Good and Holy.

With Him, the Three in One, the Creator of all.

There has been no moment as precious as these to me this season.

For a short time, at least, I am able to turn from the cares that invade my day and simply rest.

I light a candle, “Praise to You, Loving Father, Creator of All, Most Powerful.”

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And my heart kneels, submitting to One wiser than I.

I light a candle, “Praise You Holy Spirit. You are my Teacher, Guide, Counselor, and Friend.

I need Your direction today.”

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And my heart kneels, welcoming His Guiding Presence.

I light a candle, “Thank you for hope.”

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And my heart kneels, choosing belief over despair.

I light a candle, “Thank you for peace.”

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And my heart kneels, releasing worry, embracing calm.

I light a candle, “Thank you for joy.”

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And my heart kneels, claiming singing, dancing, swirling joy,

asking that He teach me to live like that.

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I light a candle, “Thank you for love.”

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And my heart kneels, receiving acceptance from the One.

Giving self permission for love. Allowing Love to permeate the parched places.

And soon I will light the last candle.

Breathless space, anticipating hush.

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Complete in Jesus.

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As the countdown to Christmas ticks away, my you embrace a quiet hush.

Weight Loss Journey Day 40

It’s sort-of shocking that this woman who was afraid to walk alone now craves it. As much as I miss being with Jerry, who still can’t walk because of a back injury, I love this quiet space with myself, God, and the blue sky.

I awoke today with thoughts of Sabbath rest and have been processing all day. I exercised a lot this week, but feel a need to be more quiet today. I enjoyed lighting some candles and making herb tea (no calories!) and reading a novella. The guys were watching football, and I felt lonely. Decided to take a walk, not for exercise, but for rest and sunshine. I didn’t walk fast and only walked about a mile. I stopped often. Sat by a little creek. Enjoyed park benches. Eventually I ended up at a second tiny park, and listened to Scripture on my phone while waiting for the sunset. I think God is teaching me to be alone and content.advent

Once back home I craved advent worship. I dug around until I found the advent candles I bought after season last year and put them out. Then I lit candles and found a hymnal with carols in it. I sang for a while, read an advent devotional on-line, and longed for Jesus to come to me in a new way this season.

Real Time Update:

I hope the next few posts don’t confuse anyone! Remember, I’m sharing journal entries from roughly 2 months ago so that puts us back in December. The next month or so will have several posts referring to the holidays (AND, thank to BeNew I kept losing during the holidays, including 5 pounds the week of Christmas!)

It dawned on me yesterday that some of you may have not noticed I have a weight loss tips page at the top of my blog.  Hopefully, you can get some ideas there. It’s simple stuff, like how licorice tea curbs sugar cravings, or that it’s good not to eat after 7:30.

How About You?

I’d LOVE to hear little tips that have helped you on your journey to a healthier, more slender body. And if you don’t mind me adding them to my blog, let me know.