"If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens." Jane Yolen

1/31/12

Still Learning - a Goals/Progress Update

Is it REALLY the last day of January? In some ways, it feels like the month has flown by, though in others, January has been SOOOO long. Anyway - the calendar tells me tomorrow is February 1, so I suppose it's time to look back at the past month and forward to the one to come.

So, how did I do with my goals? Well, let's see. I've posted them below(directly from last months goals/progress post):
  • Keep up with the two online classes I'm taking this month (1. Avoiding Mistakes that Scream Novice on the ACFW course loop[free to ACFW members!] and 2. Six Stages of Change - The Character ARC at Savvy Authors ) and make good progress in The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell.
  • Completely read through Ailing Body, Nourished Soul, noting thoughts of how to "transform" it into less of a memoir and more of a "help through struggles" book.
  • Work with Jennifer Slattery on determining the 52 New Testament biblical fiction devos in our next project.
 I did keep up in both classes (I learned a TON - watch for my monthly "What I Learned About Writing" post on Thursday about it, as promised in my yearly goals post). I also started - AND finished - The Art of War for Writers. Hiiiggghhllyy recommended!

I'm not QUITE done reading through Ailing Body, Nourished Soul - just six chapters to go out of 28. Planning to be done by the end of this week. So not quite - but close. And Jennifer and I DID finish determining - and outlining - the 52 devos we'll be doing.

So, overall, it was a pretty good month. And how about February, you ask? Well, here are my goals:
  • Keep up on the Margie Lawson class - Empowering Characters' Emotions - I'm taking in February (This is an incredible teacher - and class. Can't recommend it more highly. So much to learn - lots of reading, but SO worth it - and it's not too late to sign up!)
  • Finish my Ailing Body, Nourished Soul read-through and continue to ponder what God wants me to do with this manuscript.
  • Be intentional about applying what I've learned so far this year to my writing (blog posts, at least one "new" short story, and possibly Handmaiden to a Princess)
I think I'll stick with that. Thanks for reading, and cheering me on!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/30/12

Who's Blessing Who?

I'm at the Internet Cafe today. Hope you'll stop by - I'm talking about making God weep. Hoping I'm not doing that today!
I think everyone can get a bit starstruck on occasion. If you had a chance to meet the President, your favorite preacher, or a favorite author or actor,  what would you want to do? Get an autograph? Ask for advice on something? Pass out? ;) I'm guessing at least some of us would be tongue-tied,  at least for a few moments.

But have you ever thought about YOU giving something meaningful to that person, instead of the other way around? I didn't either - until I read Genesis 47 last week.

Let me set the scene. Joseph is second in command in Egypt, and he has just brought his family from the famine-ravished land to live closer to him, in the land of Goshen. He takes his father to see  Pharoah - the most powerful man in all of Egypt, bar none.
Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence. Genesis 47:7-10
 The people of Egypt considered the Pharaoh as a god himself. He had great power and resources. And an 130-year-old man blessed HIM. TWICE. Jacob, I imagine, could have asked for anything he wanted. After all, his son was Pharaoh's closest adviser.

But instead of asking for anything, Jacob blessed this powerful, pagan ruler - with the blessing of God (that's the assumption, isn't it?).

And there is no greater gift than that, is there?


**

There are many ways to "bless" those who are "more important" - at least in the world's eyes - especially if they aren't believers. What ideas do you have? Comment here, and join me at Living By Grace on Facebook and we can chat!






Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/27/12

Finds for Fridays: January 27

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

White Knuckled Praying by Patty Wysong at Patterings (about how sin is like snow and ice)

Our Compass by Kristi Huseby at Broken and Redeemed (about trusting God rather than our feelings)

Your Writing Career, A Pencil in God's Hand, Part 1 by April Gardner at Reflections in Hindsight (about God's control and immenseness)

When Everything Stalls by Sandra Heska King at ACFW blog (about goals and life and stalling)

Hope you enjoy these posts - maybe even learn from them! I know I did.

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/25/12

Guest Post - Good from the Dark - God Is So Good

Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.
 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
 Amy Michelle Wiley is an amazing young woman with incredible gifts in writing, encouraging, and so many other areas. I am privileged to call her a dear friend. She has several health struggles, and God has worked through them. This, however, is a struggle I was unaware of. And when I saw this post on the Jewels of Encouragement blog, I couldn't resist asking her if I can repost.

Good from the Dark
by Amy Michelle Wiley

During my early twenties, my happy-go-lucky, optimistic personality took a sudden dive. For unknown reasons, my brain snagged on germs and I plunged into a nightmare of OCD with an obsession of germs and a compulsion of cleaning. Within a few short months I was almost non-functional, spending hours in the bathroom showering, changing clothes, and cleaning. I freaked out over even the most minor of cross contaminations, tracking anything that touched something that might have brushed against something that was “dirty.” My hands were raw and bleeding from so much washing. Guilt overwhelmed me as I was convinced it was my responsibility to take care of anything around me that might possibly be contaminated. I no longer found any enjoyment in life.

My previously close and supportive family relationships were strained almost to the point of breaking. I knew in my head that the risk of illness from germs was better than the torment I was putting myself and my loved ones through, but I couldn’t escape the obsession. Nothing helped and things were so bad my family was almost considering bringing me to the mental hospital.

On the surface it seemed as though it could have been a spiritual problem, yet it wasn’t—it was very much physical (though that’s not to say all of my emotional outbursts were free of sin). Medical tests showed that my brain chemicals and hormones were severely out of balance. A friend summed up the spiritual aspect well when she told me, “Amy, never let anyone tell you that your anxiety is because of a lack of faith. What those people don’t realize is that it takes us more faith to get through five minutes than most people have to use in a week.”

After being put on a medication, I slowly pulled out of it. Today I am more aware of germs than I was previously, but I am no longer controlled by them. I know I’m blessed to have had anxiety for such a short time—many people struggle with it their whole lives.

I look back on that time as the worst in my life. Hopefully it will remain so. There’s something truly horrible about loosing every bit of your self worth and about a loss of control over your own self. Yet it’s even dark times like that which God refers to in the verse, “In all things, give thanks.” (1 Thes 5:18)

How do I give thanks for a time so damaging to myself and my family? Is that the type of trial James talks about when it says to “count it all joy”? (James 1:2)

I think it is. It’s not that we should be glad for the horrible times, but we can have joy because God has promised that “all things work together for His good, for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

We may never know what good is being brought out of our trials, but other times God gives us a little glimpse of it. In my case, He’s shown me several ways. I have at least two friends who struggle with agoraphobia. I know I’ve been instrumental in both of their lives in supporting them as they find the courage to step back into society where they, in turn, can be lights. I don’t think I could have had that empathy or been able to give that type of support if I’d never experienced anxiety or depression before.

A few years ago, we discovered that my young niece also has anxiety issues. We believe she has Asperger’s and possibly OCD. I think my family is far better equipped to be able to handle and understand her reactions and behaviors, because of what they’ve been through with me.

God can and does bring good out of even the worst and most hopeless of times. Whatever that valley is for you, hold onto the knowledge that God will still use you—and specifically that experience—to bring glory to Himself and to help others.

In order to truly help and support each other to make it through and find the goodness, it has to be two-sided. If you are in the hard times, you have to be transparent enough to let others help you carry the burden. Likewise, you have to be the type of person who others can trust enough to open up and confide in.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)
On the other side of that experience I am even more thankful and aware of the blessing it is to find joy in life. I pray that each of you can also experience the fullness of joy we find in living for Christ our Savior.
 *******
Amy Michelle Wiley is a lover of words and people, and of languages and cultures. These passions have led to her becoming a professional sign language interpreter at her church and a community college and a freelance author. Amy dabbles in all writing genres, but especially loves fiction, believing God can use it to touch people's hearts in a special way. She's had many short stories and articles published and is looking for a book publisher for her young adult novel, Reaching Sky, and writing a suspense novel, Voices of the Dark. Amy's online nickname, Sparrow, is a reminder from Matthew 10:29-31 that God cares about each tiny detail of her life. She lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and though she is disabled and daily faces physical struggles, she's learning that joy is a choice. Check out her website at www.sparrowsflight.com.
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/23/12

Only Wondrous

Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, 
who only does wondrous things! Psalm 72:18 NKJ 

from this...
This has not been a typical winter. Weather has been anything but steady. Snow one day, and 50 degrees (or close to it) the next. It has, in a way, made me more appreciative of the different seasons (even when they're happening in the same week!).

When I look outside and see the beauty of God's creation - whether it's grass peeking through the snow, or snow peeking through the grass -  I often pause in wonder. When I think about the incredible family the Lord has provided for me, I am again full of wonder. And, when I think of the amazing gifts He has given me, I am blown away by how wondrous they are - and He is.

But those are not the only times I should be moved by the wonder of my Lord.
to this!

Look at the verse I referenced above. Closely. The Lord only does wondrous things. Nothing God does is ordinary. Everything about Him is full of wonder. We should be in awe about everything our Lord does- whether it benefits us or not, because it is awesome, and wondrous, and part of His plan.

It's hard to think of, say, a brain tumor, a rejection slip, a death, a natural disaster, or a prodigal as a reason to bless the Lord. But that's exactly what this verse in psalms is asking us to do. Even the tough stuff is wondrous, because, if we look at it through God's eyes, we will know that He will make it all work out in His good, perfect, eternal plan.

No matter how difficult it may be, God can be trusted, and we (and our circumstances) are in His hands.

And if that isn't wonderful, I don't know what is.

Heavenly Father, I often think of wondrous as good for me and my selfish desires, but EVERYTHING You do is wondrous. Help me to see the things that cause us struggles and trials as wondrous, and part of Your plan. Because, Lord, I know this is true. In Your Son's precious name I pray. Amen.


**
Do you find it difficult to think of trials and struggles as "wondrous?" How do you "bless the Lord" when things don't seem to be going your way? Come join me at Living By Grace on Facebook and we can chat!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/20/12

Finds for Fridays: January 20

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

The Whole Town Went to Meet Jesus by Arlen Yoder at Arlen's Living Water Springs (about the "buzz" about Jesus)

Door of No Words by Pat Guy at Pat's Porch (about Jesus and a child)

I Have a Dream Today by Rebecca Boschee at WordServe Water Cooler  (about a familiar speech and writing tips you can learn from it)

The Melt Down by Nancy K. Sullivan at Jewels of Encouragement (about our reaction to God's protection of us)

Thoughtful About...Waiting on Promises by Roseanna White at Writing Roseanna (about God's faithfulness) 

Failing Forward: A Guest Blog by Alton Gansky at Chip MacGregor's blog (about learning from failure)

Hope you enjoy these posts - I know I did.

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/19/12

As Of Late: January (and a couple places to stop by!)

Today appears to be my "off-site" posting day. Not only am I at the Internet Cafe, talking about whether I should "Change or Wait," I also have a post at probably my very favorite group blog, Jewels of Encouragement. I talk there about how well I'm doing as an image-bearer of my Lord. Considering the title of the post is Funhouse Mirror, I'm guessing you know where I'm going with it ;).  Hope you stop by both places!

And yeah, I STILL want you to stay here and read this post, cuz it's time for As of Late! My dear, amazing friend Christy hosts this monthly meme (rhymes with cream) on the third Thursday of each month (and she has a new button for it this month. Pretty, eh?). It's a great way to look back and contemplate how things have been for you lately.
Photobucket

So, after you read MY post, be sure to stop by Critty Joy and read hers and the other participants' (they're generally VERY quick reads) - and join in yourself if you want!

And heeerree I go!

Lately,  I've been wondering if God wants me to be a novelist.

Lately, I've been debating what to do with a certain frustration. And I still don't know.

Lately,  kid car races have been on my mind.

Lately, "winter weather" has no meaning.

Lately, I've enjoyed learning more about writing.

Lately, I've appreciated several of my online BFFs more than ever.

Lately, I've been really looking forward to next month's Margie Lawson class and enjoying this book.

Lately, I've been trying to reign in my jealousy and self-centeredness.

Lately, most who know me would probably say I'm doing well on the  "as of late" above. But they'd be wrong.

Lately, my "out of the house" schedule has been lighter than usual. And I like it.

Lately, I've had lots of irons in the fire.

Lately, I've been loving our new mattress (10 inches of memory foam. What's not to love??)


So, what have YOU been doing as of late?

Stop by Critty Joy for more As Of Late

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/18/12

Feathers and Fluff - God Is So Good

Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.

 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
Sometimes, it's the little things that make such a huge difference. I have discovered, remarkably, that I find it easier to trust the Lord when things are terrible than when something minor isn't just right. Yet, God is good, and present, in every situation, whether big or small. And, I think, we're much more likely to forget to give Him the credit when it's something minor. Like this one day...

 Almost exactly a year ago, I wasn't the cheery, optimistic person many of you know me to be - at least on this one particular day. It had been a lousy morning. I was anticipating some pretty bad news. What news? I have no idea anymore (so it obviously wasn't anything life-changing). The kids had been grumpy. The internet was slow. I was a grouch. I was depressed.

I headed to my son's fourth grade class to help the kids edit/proofread some "Snowman stories" they had written. This was my favorite volunteer "job." But still, thinking about it scarcely lightened my mood.

But then I walked in the room, and Mrs. Maxted handed me something. She had no idea it was just the "feathers and fluff" that I needed on this grumpy day.

This pen had been HAND-MADE for me - "Editor Sher" as Mrs. Maxted always called me. How could I NOT smile when I looked at it? Held it? Used it? (and how could my editing POSSIBLY be too harsh for these 9- and 10-year olds when they received it with feathers waving in their faces?)

I used that pen for months, and every time, it brought a grin to my face. Mrs. Maxted - and the Lord - helped me get out of my silly funk. He is SO good!
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/16/12

Why Am I Like This?

 ...She said, "If all is well, why am I like this?...|” Genesis 25:22(NKJ)

God has it all under control.
You know that, right? Nothing happens without being sifted through His fingers. He may not like all that happens, but He allows it. It is all for His glory. All of it.

In God's view all is - or at least will be - well. And we have no reason to worry or fret.

But still we do. Or at least I do. I can't count the number of times I have sat in the midst of my life and fretted. Asked  why. Worried about the future. Wondered what in the %&#@ (pardon my French) God was doing.

Rebecca, wife of Isaac and mother of Jacob and Esau, did it too. I was reading through Genesis  25 just a few days ago, and I noticed my own heart's cry on several occasions there on the page - from the mouth of one of the matriarchs.

Let me set the scene. Rebecca had been married to Isaac for twenty years, and they were childless. Isaac pleaded to God for her, and she conceived. I'm certain she was thrilled with this. But everything wasn't ideal during this pregnancy.
But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?”... Genesis 25:22
Lord, if you gave me this writing gift, why am I so frustrated?

If my husband's health issues are in Your perfect plan, why is it so stressful and hard on all of us?

If You trusted me to raise my children, why do they lead me to tears and grey hairs?

If all is well, Lord, why am I like this?

Sometimes, it takes a very long time to get the answer to that question. Sometimes He gives me a small glimpse of His reasoning - through the blessings that come out in my trials, or my spiritual growth because of my difficulties. On occasion, it's my sin. Other times, I'm sure I won't find out this side of heaven.

But every once in a while, I hear an answer whispered in my ear. It's not always the same, but the essence is this: "It's not all about YOU, Jo."

God didn't put me here on earth to be happy and comfortable. I am not the center of the universe. His eternal plan includes a lot more than just my life. Sometimes, I am "like this" for the benefit of another, of the big picture.

And because I trust God, SOMETIMES, that has to be - should be - enough.

**

How hard is it for you to trust Him? Have you ever felt like Rebecca? Has God given you hints for why you are "like this?" Come join me at Living By Grace on Facebook and we can chat.

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/13/12

Finds for Fridays: January 13

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

Feeling the Pain by Lynda Schultz at Grains of Sand (about God's pain in our sin)

Simple Thoughts About Fair Use by Seth Godin at his blog (about copyright and such - stuff you should know)

Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast by Michael Hyatt at his blog (about keeping on top of lethargy of every kind)

You Are The Decisive Element by Nikki Turner at In Truer Ink (about the influence we have)

Hope you enjoy these posts. MUCH wisdom here - trust me! Have a great weekend!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/11/12

They Brought A Carseat - God Is So Good

Welcome to my Wednesday feature God is So Good. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.

 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b
I'm an optimist. If you don't know that about me yet, it won't take long for you to figure out. I see the silver lining on every cloud (or almost every one, anyhow). I've been called "annoyingly optimistic." God made me this way. It's not that I don't get frustrated, or mad, or weary. I just seem to have an uncanny way of spotting the blessings in trials. Like this one day, at the very beginning of my husband's health struggles...

 It had been a very tough week. My husband Marc had been experiencing a migraine for several days, with no relief, other than a brief reprieve thanks to a shot of medication at a doctor's visit a couple days before. And now it was Friday.

A weekend of excruciating pain didn't sound fun, so we went back to the doc again, hoping for some help. Of course, we brought our 2 1/2 year old Andrew along, since there was nowhere to leave him. Oh - and did I mention I was six months pregnant at the time?

ANYhow, the doc recommended we go to the ER for a CAT scan. So my aching husband, my squirrely toddler, and prego me got in the car and headed over there. NOT my favorite outing ever. Of course we waited (that's why they call it the waiting room, right?), and I got the presence of mind to call church and ask for prayer.

We got in the exam room. And waited some more. Andrew tried to climb my husband's legs and got whiny. He started playing with implements that are NOT meant as playthings. He got clingy. And bored. And even more bored.

We got a quick change of scenery when Marc went for the CAT scan, as we went into that waiting room. But still, Andrew was NOT happy. I began to wonder how much my unhappy son (and his hormone-crazed mother) could take. (Not to mention my poor husband with the migraine!)

And that's when an orderly came in. "Your pastor and his wife are here. Can they come in?"

Oh yeah. And the best part? They didn't just pray. THEY BROUGHT A CARSEAT. They gave the two of us a reprieve from a hyper, energetic, bored boy and allowed us to focus on one another, and what the doctor was going to tell us.

I didn't ask them to come, but they did. I didn't ask that they take Andrew with them and watch him while we dealt with this. But they did. They listened to our request, saw what they could do, and made a HUGE difference. God used them to help us. He is SO good.
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/9/12

You're Already Enlisted

I'm at The Barn Door today, talking about some of the stuff I've learned about snow clothing and kids since I moved from sunny California to...um...West Michigan. Come check out my lessons, and epiphanies, in Snow/Winter Clothing Rules.

**

The U.S. military is currently a volunteer organization. But it hasn't always been that way. Most people reading this blog, I would wager, have never been drafted into the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or any other branch I'm not remembering.

There hasn't been a military draft in the U.S. since 1973, when I was still in elementary school. I know my uncle was drafted into Vietnam when I was very small, and many protested during that time, upset (probably too mild a word) that they were forced to fight.

But there's another war, and another army, that does NOT take volunteers.


(Not my kids, by the way) 
As Russ Molag, my adult Sunday School teacher said just yesterday, "God isn't looking for volunteers in His army - He's already enlisted you!" When you become His child, you're automatically a member of His fighting force.

You don't need to decide IF you are in His army. All you need to conclude is whether you will be a dedicated fighter to the spiritual war that rages.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12
Are you sitting on the sidelines, ignoring the arrows that fly about you? Can God depend on you to put on His armor and quench the fiery darts that fly from those principalities and powers on the devil's side?

You're already in the army. If you want to please Him, you need be a good soldier for Him.


**

Let's talk about this! Be sure to stop by Living by Grace to join the discussion.



Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/6/12

Finds for Fridays: January 6

Finds for Fridays is my way of sharing some of the wonderful blogs posts I read each week. I am currently following close to 100 blogs and at least scan them as much as I can. Each week, I'll note and "set aside" some posts that especially speak to me for whatever reason. And each Friday that I am able, I'll share them with you. I hope you'll stop by and read the posts, and maybe even follow the blogs if you aren't already. A win-win, right?

And here they are!

Standing on the Crux of Eve by Wanda at The Watered Soul (about the just before)

If It Be Your Will by Joy Bach at Life Moments (about the faith to trust His will)

Do You Need a Leader? By Sheila Gregoire at Internet Cafe Devotions (on sharing control with your spouse - and God)

New Years with the Devil by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today (about hope and being ordinary)

Stick To It! By Jennifer Slattery at Words That Keep (about writing and persistence)

The Gift of Delight by Kristen Schiffman at On Talk 21 (about joy in the "middle moments")

Hope you'll stop by these blogs and give them a read. Much to bless you here!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/4/12

God Is So Good: Crystal Clear

Welcome to my first post of my new Wednesday feature. Here I will share stories - true and fiction, mine and others' - of the Lord's presence in the midst of trials, struggles, and difficulties.

 In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33b

Many of you know my family has certainly been through trials, and that God has been faithful. I am hoping sharing some of these incidents with you, along with others in my life and my friends', will encourage you through your own struggles.

I thought I would start this series with a bit of fiction - probably one of my favorites FaithWriters Writing Challenge pieces - and one of my first. I hope it encourages you.

CRYSTAL CLEAR
by Joanne Sher

The artistry of a sunset, with its deep reds, oranges and yellows, used to be my sustenance.

When I was depressed, I would go to the pond in my back yard and marvel at the beauty of the ripples on the water, the variety of wildflowers surrounding it, and the amazing diversity of the animals I saw. I would often see dragonflies, tadpoles, catfish, and even, occasionally, a deer enjoying an afternoon drink.

When I was bored, I would often drive up into the mountains, looking down with amazement at the city below, realizing what a small cog I was in this giant world. It always did wonders for my perspective.

Other times, I would pull out a book and engross myself in the imaginary world of the author. I found myself cheering for his heroes, crying and laughing along with them, and rejoicing at the injustices set right.

One of my greatest joys was looking into the eyes of my husband and telling him what a wonderful man he was, and how much I loved him. He has the deepest, most beautiful eyes I had ever seen.

I don’t do any of these things anymore, and haven’t for several years. And do you know what? I don’t miss them.

I have to admit, I used to. Who wouldn’t? After 35 years of being able to see, having your sight taken from you is quite a blow. But, I tell you, the good Lord has given me something better - MUCH better.

How did I lose my sight? To be honest, it’s really not important. The crucial question is: WHY did I lose it? Now, THAT question I will answer. I don’t know: at least not fully. I can tell you, however, that there is Someone who does know, and He has given me little glimpses over the past few years that have given me a peace I never had when these eyes were working.

People these days complain about being distracted by all the horrible images on television, and all those teenagers who walk around practically nude. I can say with confidence that, personally, I do not have any of those concerns.

I used to be one of the most independent people on this earth. I didn’t need anyone, and I could do anything. Now I am often dependent on others - which has helped me to learn to depend on the One who created me. There is nothing like needing someone to make you more aware of the needs of others, and how to meet them. I have become the servant that Christ had always wanted me to be, and all it took was the removal of one of my senses!

And, I know that I will be able to see again when I get to heaven (and I KNOW that’s where I’m going!), and it will be glorious. I don’t think there will be people more appreciative of the wonderful sights of our heavenly homes than those who could not see their earthly ones.

I often think of that wonderful hymn Amazing Grace and realize that it is true, in a very odd way, for me.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.


You can see so much more clearly with heavenly eyes than you ever can with earthly ones. When I became blind, my world completely opened up to all I could, and will, see.

Instead of the colors of the sunset, I will see the sparkling glaze of the twelve foundations of the Holy City’s walls. (Revelation 21)

Rather than marveling at our pond and the foliage around it, I will sit by the River of Life and eat of its tree. (Revelation 22:1-2)

Instead of watching a city from above, I will live in the New Jerusalem, with streets of gold and gates of pearl. (Revelation 21)

Rather than reading books to be transported to new lands, I will be living the ultimate fantasy, one that no one can imagine or improve upon.

And, on those days when I miss looking into my husband’s eyes, I remember that, one day, I will be able to look directly into the most amazing eyes of all - the eyes of my savior, Jesus Christ.

I may have lost my sight, but, thanks to my wonderful Lord, my vision is crystal clear.

**
I hope you found this encouraging - and that it reminds you of God's workings in the difficulties of our lives. I'll be back next week with a true story. Just remember. God is good.
Do you have a story you'd like to share about God's goodness in your struggles? Drop me an email and we can talk!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/3/12

A "Techie" Post on a Tech-Free Day

For those of you who are curious - YES, I'm still keeping up my tech-free Tuesdays on the first Tuesday of each month. It has been fabulous for me.
 I plan to stay away from my computer and texting all day - and it will be wonderful. Planning on going out to breakfast with my wonderful hubby AND go look at new mattresses (ours is in its teens and has gotten lumpy and, well, poky.)

BUT,  just because I'm not on the computer doesn't mean I can't prepost something. Right? Cuz, you see, the amazing (and amazingly PERSISTENT and CONVINCING) Patty Wysong has been strongly encouraging me and several others to post vlogs (video blogs) on our blogs today. And I ALWAYS do what Patty says. So, while I'm avoiding my computer entirely, enjoy (or something :::roll:::) this short little video of yours truly NOT in her Sunday best, and NOT being exceptionally entertaining (or even a little entertaining LOL). But at least it's only a minute and a half long. And I DID prepost it (on Saturday even!) - so it's all legal.


So - DO you have any other questions? Go ahead and ask in the comments. Just know I won't be by to respond until Wednesday. And be sure to stop by Patty's blog and check out the OTHER vlogs that are there! (and hey - don't be afraid to make one of your own and link up!)

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/2/12

Much to Learn

The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.(Luke 2:40 NASB)

You DO know "the Child" here is our Savior, Jesus Christ, don't you? The Great I AM increased in wisdom. He continued to grow. He became strong (meaning He didn't start out that way, right?). When God the Son came to earth as a baby, He had much growing to do - and not only physically.


This is a mystery I am positive I will never quite grasp this side of heaven. How can Omniscience increase in wisdom? How can All-Powerful God become strong? How can the Eternal continue to grow?

Because the incarnate Christ was both 100% God and 100% man, these things are true. And unfathomable - for me, anyway. But as little as I understand, one thing is clear to me: if we are on this earth, we are to be increasing in wisdom and continuing to grow. If God could grow and become "smarter," I certainly should be!

I have taken Luke 2:40 as my theme verse for 2012. I am certainly not Christ, but I am His child, am I not? And I have much to learn: spiritually, emotionally, relationally, intellectually, and every other "ally" there is, I'm certain. And having God's grace upon me sounds wonderful, does it not?

I don't know if you make resolutions, set goals, or just let the new year go by with nary a thought. But might I encourage you to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom during 2012? This, of course, will look different for each of us. But the result - the grace of God upon us - is worth the effort.

Let's talk about this! Be sure to stop by Living by Grace to join the discussion.


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

1/1/12

Not Just A New Year - A New Month :)

Yeah - I've already talked to you about how I did in 2011 (click here if you missed it) and what I plan to do in 2012 - God willing, of course (check out THAT post here!). But there's still the matter of my shorter-term goals. So if you can bear ONE MORE goals and progress post in a week (yeah - that's three), read on. This one, I don't think, will be as long.

How'd I do in December? Well, let's check out my goals, fresh from last month's post:
  • Three blog posts a week minimum
  • 10k in Handmaiden To A Princess
  • Start working on "reworking "Ailing Body, Nourished Soul 
  • Get back into my "usual" routine
I actually managed about four blog post a week - maybe a touch more. I didn't write any more of Handmaiden to a Princess, but I did read through it and make some observations about HOW MUCH I need to learn. Made some changes, too. That's what inspired me to dedicate this year to learning my craft more (click here for details).

I did start reworking Ailing Body, Nourished Soul, but have barely started. At least I made a bit of progress. And yeah, I managed #4 (that was an easy one, don't you think?).

Considering the holidays, I am not disappointed in how I did. But January is another month (and the start of another year!). And I'm planning to do MUCH better about sticking to my goals. AAANNDD, for January, they are below ;)
  • Keep up with the two online classes I'm taking this month (1. Avoiding Mistakes that Scream Novice on the ACFW course loop[free to ACFW members!] and 2. Six Stages of Change - The Character ARC at Savvy Authors ) and make good progress in The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell.
  • Completely read through Ailing Body, Nourished Soul, noting thoughts of how to "transform" it into less of a memoir and more of a "help through struggles" book.
  • Work with Jennifer Slattery on determining the 52 New Testament biblical fiction devos in our next project.
Okay - that looks like a lot. I think I'll stick with those three - plus my blogging.

And now, off to DO it ;)

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

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