Tag Archives: soul scents

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)

 

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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Soul Scents: Flourish Available

The blogs I’ve shared this season are excerpted from the ending of Soul Scents: Flourish, the last book in the Soul Scents devotional series. It is now available in paperback and electronic versions on Amazon.

I invite you to come with me. To brave the deeper release. To seek Him for the deeper rsz_pmapprov4-01healing. So we can learn to live like daughters of the King instead of slaves. So we can quit striving and beating ourselves up with all that pressure, so we can walk through the pain to the other side. To freedom. So we can learn to live in His unforced rhythms of grace.

Soul Scents: Flourish. All 506 pages of the journey to healing. Short daily excerpts. Not an easy read, but an accessible one.

Here’s the back cover copy:

At just the right time in history God sent His beloved Son to set the captives free and claim victory over the darkness. At just the right time in each life God shows His child how to step into the freedom He already won.

Lie weeds twist around the good plantings of our heart, choking abundant life, but when we step into truth, the tendrils of that vile weed uncurl. In this fourth volume of the Soul Scents series, Paula talks about her journey out of emotional, verbal, and spiritual abuse.  She says, “As God reveals how pain and abuse twists our understanding of who He is and how He works, the distrust falls away.  The root of the lie weed is exposed, and the Lord pulls that sucker out completely! In its place comes a deepened intimacy with Jesus and the joy we’ve prayed for but couldn’t find. We rise from the pain and live free to flourish.”

Take the Flourish journey and brave deeper healing, letting go of shame and learning to live as vibrant daughters of the King!

The Soul Scents collection invites readers into an ever-deepening discovery of who God is and how He interacts with us. Combined, its four volumes—Awaken, Rooted, Bloom, and Flourish—offer a year’s worth of devotional reading. Each book has thirteen weeks of down-to-earth insight gleaned from Scripture and the author’s journey into spiritual freedom.  The week-day readings include Scriptures and prayers. Rest in the Son’s embrace as you enter the beautiful heart of the Freedom Giver Himself.

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Telling

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This piece of paper–and the promises here–has been on my desk for the last many weeks as I write Soul Scents: Flourish. It’s the deepest journey I’ve been on in many years. Maybe ever.

There are things I’ve not shared publicly. Things that shamed me and kept me hidden.

My friend Mary DeMuth says an untold story never heals. Her bravery has astounded me over the years. She and I are called to be writers and speakers. Our stories are meant to be told out loud, on paper, where ever Jesus sends us.

Your story may need to be told too. Only maybe you speak it to your best friend or a counselor or maybe you start with your journal in a private space.

For years my telling was in my journals. With the trusted few. In freedom sessions and counseling sessions. But now He says I’m strong enough for the telling He called me to. He says He needs me to tell in this way. He says I need to tell like this. Soul Scents: Flourish is this telling.

In the summer of 2015 I wrote several blogs, very raw blogs, that I never hit publish on. I sensed the Lord wanting me to write as if I were telling for the first time what only those closest to me have known and understood.

It was hard writing. At the time He asked me only to write those blogs, not to publish them.

Now it is different. Those blogs are part of the journey I write about in Soul Scents: Flourish, the intense walk of coming out of emotional, spiritual, and verbal abuse. I hid for many reasons. My shame. Because I thought in light of the abuse some of you have suffered that mine was unworthy of sharing. Because I wanted to “honor” those who hurt me by keeping it private.

I wrote a few things for publication. I have articles in Wounded By Words and The Gift of Letting Go, but I asked my identity stay hidden behind a pen name.

And the Lord was okay with that.

For a season.

Last year He asked me if my silence was honoring or simply protecting my abuser as I was taught to do. Somehow I equated honor with silence. I don’t know if that is what the church taught or if the enemy twisted all that in my head. Now I think to honor is to be all I’m created to be.

Then He asked (through much conversation with my husband) what might happen if I broke my public silence. He asked me how many lives could heal if I shared.

Then He told me when evil’s claw is inserted into our deep places that it is real. That abuse cannot be compared. That evil is evil, and when you’ve been damaged by evil, it affects you. While you have to process the circumstances, while what happens matters, it is the assault of evil that damages, the same evil, no matter how it happens. No matter how bad it looks to someone else.

I didn’t know when I started writing and publishing the Soul Scents series a year ago, that He would ask me to tell in this last book. I didn’t know it wasn’t only about telling, but that it is about healing for me. Deep, deep processing. Without pretty little Christian bows topping off stories that aren’t pretty.

He is my healer. The first three books in the Soul Scents series share much of my healing journey. A reader who has become a friend and partner in this ministry, Wendi, asked me what the story behind the stories was. She sensed that the hard-earned truth in my first three books had a deeper root. She was right. Now I tell that story.

And in the telling comes deeper freedom. Deeper release. Deeper healing.

It’s almost finished my friends. I don’t have a release date, but we are very close. The rsz_pmapprov4-01choice to publish this book is a game changer for me. A life decision covered in months and months of prayer. A choice I didn’t know I would ever make.

I pray this book will be a game changer for someone else too. That they will wake up to the shrouds of lies and twisted truth the enemy has poured over them. That they hear the voice of Jesus who sets them free instead of the voice of religion which holds them in bondage. That Scripture will begin to leap off the page with new meaning and that where it has been shaded and twisted it will now shine in pure light, offering the hope and freedom He intended instead of the putting those who are hurting in straight jackets and keeping them there.

That’s my prayer.

Please pray it with me.

And pray me to the other side of this thing.

More soon,

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Honey Tears

IMAG0010The tears start early today. Little drops of golden honey that will bring healing to me and to the chosen who read my next book.

At least that’s what He tells me. That my tears will drop and form words, phrases, and paragraphs, coming from the deep places and calling out to the deep places.

Healing.

Not just me. But me too.

The words will be His heart and mine. Together. Right. For many. For me.

But I barely have energy to move today. The tears started long before I reached for the keyboard. I didn’t work yesterday. Tuesday’s writing was done in dropping tears. Taking a break and pacing the living room. Returning. Hands on keyboard. Until I had to stop.

I don’t want to be in a holding pattern of tears. I want to surrender to this latest call, to bravely go where I have not gone before. To get to the other side for whatever glory awaits. Peace. For me. For others.

Telling my story because we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

Blessing and suffering together. Two cups. He asked me to drink of both. He promised to be in both.

For good. For beauty. For hope.

Not for despair.

But today–and for a stretching of days–I walk through to get to the other side. I choose this journey for love of Him and for love of those He heals.

I choose it in the security of the knowledge that He never does harm. He only does healing.

I brave it because I am loved. Forever. Unconditionally. By Him.

Please pray me through my friends.

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Easter Week Devotion ~ Blackened Streaks

EASTER-cross-and-crown-smalJoin us each weekday preceding Easter for a devotional focusing on the Cross of Jesus. These devotionals are taken from the bonus week in Soul Scents: Rooted, which just released. 

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18 (KJV)

As the pastor traced the blackened streaks upon my forehead, tears sprang to my eyes. I couldn’t remember attending an Ash Wednesday service before, but this deep worship touched inner hidden places.

The liturgy invited the Holy Spirit to search within. To root out sin. To cast down idols. It asked me to speak words of repentance. Trouble brewed inside. I didn’t yet understand, but I gave permission for revelation.

By definition to repent is to feel regret, to rethink, to change.

Repentance in a Christian is an interesting thing. We’ve already made the choice to accept Christ’s gift of salvation, hard earned at the cross. His righteousness covers us and declares us holy. We live as citizens of the kingdom of heaven. Every fault is already forgiven: today’s, yesterday’s, and tomorrow’s.

A painful memory of my childhood is how my precious, sweet Grandma, who knew the Lord and constantly pointed me to Him, didn’t understand this concept. She believed Christ was her Savior and loved Him with a loyalty almost baffling to me as a young child. Her lips moved almost continually in silent prayer. Many times her belief in God and His ability to help in trouble shored up my own young faith.

But Grandma didn’t have the freedom a deeper grasp of grace would have given her. Guilt and fear often held her back.

One time when she tucked me in for a special overnight at Grandma’s house she told me, “Every night I ask the Lord to forgive me for anything I did wrong during the day, in case I sinned and didn’t know it or forgot to ask forgiveness. If something happens to me in my sleep I want to be right with God.”

It still hurts to think of the bondage this kind of thinking held over her. She didn’t understand she was already acceptable to God because of Jesus. “For it is from God alone that you have your life through Christ Jesus. He showed us God’s plan of salvation; he was the one who made us acceptable to God; he made us pure and holy and gave himself to purchase our salvation” (1 Corinthians 1:30, TLB).

Maybe a lot of people feel like she did. In church service after church service we sing songs and pray prayers that beg for God’s mercy. Yet hasn’t He already extended mercy?

“But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the dead—only by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved—and lifted us up from the grave into glory along with Christ, where we sit with him in the heavenly realms—all because of what Christ Jesus did” (Ephesians 2:4–6, TLB).

In His grace Christ cleansed us and made us a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Then why celebrate Ash Wednesday?

Why repent?

Because we’re like the apostle Paul, who said, “So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:23–25, TLB).

Paul was comforted by the same truth that comforts us today: Jesus moved in, cleansed us by His blood, and now the Holy Spirit convicts, slipping into our secret places and revealing where we’re thinking and living in the old way. “The Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT). The King James Version of the Bible says we are changed from “glory to glory.”

We repent, not out of fear of hell, not because we are worthless sinners, but because we are new creations, citizens of God’s kingdom, and we want to repent—to “rethink” and “change”—anything that gets in the way of becoming more like Jesus.

My friend, as you rethink life and ask the Lord to help you become more like Jesus, you repent from the safe place as one already forgiven and accepted.

Precious Jesus, Your sacrifice changed everything. Thank You for walking the road to the cross, for entering such degradation and pain so I might be cleansed and freed from the powers of sin and death. Holy Spirit, thank You for dwelling within me, probing the places where I need to rethink life. I give You permission to reveal any place where I’m thinking in the old ways instead of like a Kingdom citizen. Please change me from glory to glory.PMApprov2-01

(Soul Scents: Rooted is specially priced this week only. The Kindle version is 99 cents through Tuesday, then increases by $1 every day until it reaches its regular price of $4.99. If you prefer the paperback version, email me for special instructions on how to get a discount.)

My 2015 Christmas Miracle (Part 4)

It’s amazing how God can take something you’ve worked on for over a decade and turn it into a reality in less than a month.

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If you’ve read the first three posts in this series you know the miracle story of how God is taking a project from files on a computer to a published book in less than four weeks.

He is indeed a miracle worker and the Ultimate Gift Giver.

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As I type the words above I have to smile. I’ve been buried in edits the last two weeks. What jumps out at me more than anything is how the spiritual truths the precious LORD gave me over ten years ago are tried and true today. I wrote a devotional set back then about God’s gifts. I’m pretty sure I called Him the Ultimate Giver Giver or something very close.

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I edited more than 65 devotionals in the past month. The writing of the original content spans more than ten years. Much of what I wrote as a much younger woman was true but not deeply tested. I prayed prayers I didn’t understand and penned concepts not knowing what deep application would come of them in my own life. Maybe I was a bit naive, but whether the devotion was written in 2004 or 2015, the spiritual truths stand.

They may be better understood. I may be stronger and deeper and more tried.

But it is all real. All that spiritual discovery.

And that alone is breath-taking.

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One theme of Awaken is how we can stop striving to be Christ-followers and trust Holy Spirit to do what Scripture says He will do–remake us to be more and more like Jesus. These last ten years are a journey of learning to rest in His embrace, to keep my eye on the Savior, not myself or my circumstances.

I can say with more confidence than ever HE IS TRUSTWORTHY. In every situation, no matter how painful. In every life, no matter how messy.

The cover designs in this post were created thanks to  Kim Liddiard of the Creative Pixel. Her genius took my passion and Lisa’s artwork and combined them into a cohesive visual set. I love her concept of a sunburst coming from behind the tree as well as her use of creative fonts. I believe Kim’s inspired book covers show the progression of the vibrancy of the journey we take with the One who leads.

As I mentioned yesterday the Lord put the remaining components of my team together by the end of the day on Monday, November 30th. I’m grateful Kim worked me into her busy schedule of clients. Even if she weren’t a dear friend she is who I would want for cover design! The Lord also nudged Ruth Meyer to step in to do line edits and proofreading. It’s exciting to see who God called together for the birthing of Soul Scents Publishing.

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The final member of the team is my sweet Jerry who researches all the technical stuff I don’t want to think about while I create. Really these books began over ten years ago when he challenged me to set up a devotional website and mail a weekly devotion to subscribers. His vision led to four amazing years as the Lord sent a few thousand subscribers to walk with me on a spiritual journey in Jesus’ embrace. And from that journey another is birthed, more than ten years later. Stay tuned for information on the Christmas week release of Soul Scents: Awaken.

Blessings,

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