"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

3/30/12

Finds for Fridays: March 30

  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!

Roots by Maria Morgan at Life Lessons (about gardening, weeds, and sin)

Waiting for a Miracle by Sarah Heywood at Jewels of Encouragement (about selflessness and sacrifice and God's gifts)

The Gift of Writing by Mary Vee at The Writers Alley (about using our gifts, and prayers for our writing)

Hope you enjoy these posts. I know they blessed me.

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/28/12

Holding Elijah - Guest Patty Wysong - God is So Good

Exciting stuff! There's an interview with PHILIP YANCEY at the FaithWriters blog today! Learn about this multi-award-winning, bestselling Christian author's writing process, his advice for new authors, and more.Stop by!


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
Some things you just have to experience to "get," I'm convinced. One of my absolute BFFs (and the half-owner of my brain) has experienced one of those things - twice. When I first read this post a few years ago, I was amazed at my dear friend's strength in Him. When I remembered it again two days ago, I had the same feeling. And I asked her if I could share it here today. I pray it blesses you, and reminds you of God's presence in the disappointments, losses, and trials of this world.

Holding Elijah

Fourteen weeks after conception, and my precious baby was perfectly formed. Minuscule hands and feet, a face the size of a man's thumb print. A bittersweet miracle. I held him in the palm of my hand and wept for the years I would never have with this child. We named him Elijah because he was caught up early to be with the Lord.


For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
~Psalm 139:13

How people can say that an unborn child is anything less than a person, is beyond my imagination. Elijah, and his brother after him, were perfectly formed. God had woven them together in my womb, and had they been given the time, they would have been able to live apart from me. They would have run and played with their older brothers and sisters and added to our joy. But instead, they're safe in the arms of Jesus.


Even the darkness is not dark to You,
and the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
~Psalm 139:12

A second miscarriage is not necessarily easier than the first one, it just means that you have an idea of how things will go, but only an idea. After my first one, I needed time to heal physically, but the second one sent me into a spiritual cave. God, in His mercy and grace, allowed me a few moments of holding those babies. They are imprinted on my heart, cherished. They also pointed me to the Creator and helped me see that my darkness was not dark to Him--the Holy One, my God and my Father. He shined into my darkness, and led me out of the cave one step at a time. I learned that grief without blackness is bearable, and the Light of God dispelled the blackness, helping me bear the grief. What a great and mighty God!


I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
wonderful are Your works,
and my soul knows it very well.
~Psalm 139:14

Read more about Elijah here.
 **
Patty Wysong, a home executive with over 20 years of experience, homeschools three of her five children, but don't let that fool you. She spends much of her time working on what God has placed in her hand: her keyboard. From the corner of her living room she writes inspirational fiction, devotionals, blog posts, and teaches online blogging workshops. You'll also find her drinking kool aid from her china cup, preparing for the ladies Bible study she leads, and helping at their church.

Patty learned about blogs and blogging the hard way and now delights in teaching and helping others, sparing them that frustration so they can focus on what God has called them to do. Through her writing, Patty has found the extraordinary God in her ordinary life.

**
I learned that grief without blackness is bearable, and the Light of God dispelled the blackness, helping me bear the grief. WOW. God 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

3/26/12

Oh, Mercy!


 (I wrote this several years ago, but the message has NOT gotten old)

"The computer's not recognizing it." I took a deep breath and looked down at the laptop in front of me on the kitchen table, fighting the urge to scream.

"Not recognizing what?" my husband asked from the living room, where he'd been reading a magazine.

"The flash drive." My voice began to rise and my speech quicken. "The computer's not recognizing the flash drive. I tried unplugging it and plugging it in again, but nothing."

My husband entered the kitchen and stood beside me. "Did you try a different USB port?"

I nodded, a lump forming in my throat. "That was the only place I had the file saved."

"That wasn't very smart." He looked down at me seriously. "You should always have a backup."

I nodded. "But I didn't. That's hours of work lost, and only a couple of days until my deadline. I was only an hour or two away from being finished, too!"

**

The information was, for all intents and purposes, unrecoverable. The flash drive was damaged; the only way to get my work off of the drive was to send it away for days or weeks and pay thousands of dollars for data recovery. It was time, and money, I didn't have.

I suppose I could have started over, but it likely would have driven me, along with my entire family, crazy. This had been an intense, extensive weeklong project, and even the thought of trying to redo it in two days was enough to make me want to cry.

And to make matters worse (in my mind anyway), it was completely my fault. I was the one who hadn't made the backup on my computer's hard drive. I was also the one who had carelessly placed the flash drive on top of my clipboard. When I picked the clipboard up, the flash drive fell onto the wooden floor, undoubtedly causing the damage that lost all the data.

There was really only one thing I could do. I shot off an email to the project's coordinator, explaining the situation and asking what my next step should be.

I was quite thankful that my boss was the understanding, sweet Christian woman that she was - and that she wasn't counting on me alone to complete the project. Some other bosses I have had in the past likely would have jumped down my throat for my carelessness and required me to get it done, perfectly, on time, no matter the circumstances.

My project coordinator, on the other hand, extended both mercy and sympathy. She would allow the others to complete the job without me, and didn't begrudge me my errors. I was off the hook.

Our "Heavenly Boss" is like that too, isn't he? Often, he will give us a job to do, and we will mess it up - probably more often than we'd like to admit. We're often afraid to confess our errors or sins to the Lord, frightened, perhaps, of His reaction.

Yet, like my project coordinator, God is compassionate and merciful. He knows we are only human, and that "things happen." If we ask, He will forgive us, and often give us a chance to try again.

I will soon have another chance to work under this project coordinator. I have a feeling that, just like my Heavenly Boss, she will give me another opportunity to serve. That's what mercy is all about, isn't it?

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 NIV 

**
 
Have you experienced God's wonderful mercy lately? Have you GIVEN it to someone who messed up? Have you thanked the Lord for His wonderful mercy?

Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/23/12

Finds for Fridays: March 23

  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!

My Day in Prison by Greg Johnson at WordServe Water Cooler (about writing, grace, and prison)

Making Movement in the Dark by Wanda at The Watered Soul ( about trust when we can't see where He's leading)

Do You Have A Thick Skin? by Rachelle Gardner at her blog (about taking criticism in a productive way no matter how it makes you feel)

Thoughtful About This Jesus Fellow by Roseanna White at Writing Roseanna (about the deeds AND person of our Savior)

Hope you enjoy these posts, and maybe even learn something. I know I did!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/21/12

His Persistence - 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, God sends us signs to point us in the right direction. And sometimes, we ignore those signs. It happened in the Bible several times. And, of course, it happens in our lives. But the amazing thing is that God doesn't give up. He keeps putting up those signs, until, hopefully, we actually pay attention. I've been there. Read on to see what I had in common with the king of Moab once upon a time (and probably still, sometimes!). 

Every time I read the 23rd and 24th chapters of Numbers, I laugh.

King Balak summoned Balaam to curse Israel. Every time Balaam spoke over God's people, however, he couldn't help but bless them. But the king didn't give up in trying to get that nation cursed.
"Then Balak said to Balaam, 'Come, let me take you to another place. Perhaps, it will please God to let you curse them from there.'" Numbers 23:27
And this didn't happen just once. The king kept hoping against hope that having Balaam look at the Israelites from a different angle would change God's view of them. Balaam actually gave five different oracles, from five different spots,  all blessing God's chosen people, much to Balak's chagrin.

Silly and stupid, I'd think each time I read it. Until last time, when I saw Balak in my own reflection.

How often have I wanted to do something, received a "no" from Him, but either tried to justify it or sought another way to make the request? God puts stumbling blocks in our way, at least sometimes, to keep us in His will. His wish is that we discern those difficulties as signs from Him to turn the other way. But we don't always do it.

From the time I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher. It was my dream. I practiced with my younger brothers (yeah - I even gave them homework - and made them do it!). I took classes. I got the degree and the teaching credential (by the skin of my teeth - but I'm not going there). And I got my first teaching job as an English teacher at Perris High School in Southern California in fall 1990.

I wasn't a praying woman at the time, but if I had been, some of my conversations with the Lord over the next several years would have looked something like this.

Spring 1991: "You don't really want me to quit teaching, do you Lord? Just because I am completely unable to keep the class engaged doesn't mean I should quit, right? Maybe if I try another school, it will work."

Fall 1991: "I'm struggling just as much at this new school, Lord, but I'm sure it's just because I don't know anyone here. And maybe it's just the high school level. Lord, I'm sure teaching elementary school would be better."

Fall 1993: "Thank You so much, Lord, for getting me into an elementary school. It's still so difficult for me, though. I'm sure I'm struggling, though, because I'm at such a tiny private school, with such a wide range of grade levels in one class. You really don't want me to quit, do you? I'm sure if I get a regular elementary classroom, I'd do just fine."

Fall 1994: "No job yet, Lord, but I am substitute teaching. Still struggling, but every substitute has discipline problems, right?"

And finally, the revelation (Spring 1995): "Well, here I am, Lord, in a long term sub position in my preferred grade: first grade. I still can't handle the discipline. Lord, are You trying to tell me something?"

It's not always that blatant, of course, but I pull a "Balak" much more often than I'd like to admit.

It's human nature to put yourself first, to satisfy your own wants, to try to manipulate the world around you. But if your desires are contrary to His will, He will let you know - over and over, if necessary - to stay away. (Isn't that amazing?)

So accept His guidance the first time. Just think of all the time and resources Balak and I could have saved if we hadn't tried to find a way to get our will done.

Heavenly Father, I am such a selfish, strong-willed person at times, greedily trying to circumvent Your plan for me to satisfy the desires of my own flesh. Help me, Lord, to listen to and heed Your voice so I can stay within Your will, not to mention avoiding the struggles on my own path. Help me not to follow Balak's example, Lord, and instead follow that of Jesus, who wanted and did only Your good will. In His name I pray, Lord. Amen.

**

Over and over - before I even accepted Him (yeah- I got saved in  '98) - He tried to guide me. He didn't give up, no matter how stubborn I was. 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

3/20/12

Talking About My Kitty...

Hey folks - I'm guest blogging over at Roxanne Rustand's All Creatures Great and Small blog today, talking about my sweet kitty, Twix, who I had for 18 years. Writing this post brought back a lot of memories (in fact, my post for tomorrow is partly on the same topic - and I forgot this guest post is where I got the idea from! LOL). Stop by and read about (and see!) my sweet kitty!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/19/12

Pure Joy

I'm at Jewels of Encouragement today, talking about my family and the support I give (and don't give!) them. Hope you'll stop by and learn about The Family I've Never Met. See you there!

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2 NIV

This verse threw me for a very, very long time. I understood, fairly early in my journey as a believer, that coming to Christ wasn’t a guaranteed relocation to easy street. I was, however, guaranteed a Comforter to lean on during tough times, and His watchcare over me as they continued.

But that’s not what James is saying here, nor is it the message Paul focuses on in his letter to the Philippians. We are to “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4) Note that this is not only in good times, but in bad as well (Paul was, after all, writing this epistle from a Roman jail).

How, you may ask, did he do that? How are WE to do that? How can we possibly have joy in the midst of loss, confusion, and desperation? How can I watch my husband undergo three brain surgeries in one year and still rejoice? Where is the joy in a chronic, debilitating illness or a financial crisis?
  It all depends, I have discovered, on your perspective. 
 The first thing I need to clarify is that there is a difference between happiness and joy. We are happy when things go our way, when our plans come to fruition, when we are pleasantly surprised. Happiness is a good feeling based on our circumstances.

 Joy, on the other hand, is based not on the outward factors of our lives that can so often affect our mood, but on trust and faith. Joy is a positive confidence that things are going as they should.

So, James and Paul are not asking you to smile wide and dance a jig when, say, your spouse dies. They are, however, asking us to accept and rejoice in God’s sovereignty. We should, with the power of the Holy Spirit, display “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) in the midst of our difficulties,

 But how do we get to this point? Let’s finish looking at James:

 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

The ultimate goal of every believer should be to become more mature in the Christian walk—to become more like Christ, reflecting His nature more and more precisely. It should be the desire of our heart.

Trials are often the way the Lord develops Christlike character in His children. As we persevere through the difficulties of life, as Jesus did during His time on earth as a man, each struggle we go through, each experience we face, has the potential to make us reflect His Son more and more clearly.

 Financial loss can help us appreciate what we have, making us more empathetic and generous with our belongings. Physical illness helps us to lean on and trust the Lord more, and give us many opportunities to share God’s faithfulness with others. And the list goes on.

So, I can rejoice in my difficulties because God has used them to reach a sinful world, in part by developing Christlike character in me, as well as others around us. I can truly say that, because of the trials the Lord has taken me through, I have become:
  • A more loving and respectful wife 
  • More adept at “making the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16) 
  • A more powerful and willing witness of the Lord’s power and love 
  • More likely to exhibit the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) 
  • More willing to give God, rather than myself, the glory 
  • More willing to put others before myself (Philippians 2:3) 
  • A better encourager 
Of course, I am far from a perfect reflection of my Lord. But for every millimeter closer I grow to that Perfect Model, I know that God is causing it. And with my understanding of Him from His Word, I can certainly trust that it is for my good and the good of His Kingdom.

For the purest joy, in its truest sense, will only be found in His presence. And anything that brings me closer to that time is certainly cause for joy.

 He is in control. He won. All will work out for the good of His children (Romans 8:28). My suffering is temporary and serves an eternal purpose. Pure joy.

Heavenly Father, thank You for using whatever means are necessary to mold us into the image of Your Son. Help us, Lord, to keep our eyes on You, and to rejoice in the work You are doing in each of us, no matter how hard it may be. Help us, Father, to look beyond the temporal difficulties, sorrows, and struggles, trusting Your sovereignty, and Your promise that all will work out for our good. Lead us to trust You, and to rejoice in Your love and watchcare over us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
**
How have trials in your life brought you joy? Does seeing this difference between happiness and joy make the verse clearer to you? Do you still struggle in this area? (I know I do!)

Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!
  
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/16/12

Finds for Fridays: March 16

  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!

When it Comes to Getting an Agent... By Wendy Lawton at ACFW Blog (about tips to getting an agent)

How I Learned to Stop Wasting What I Love by Kristen Schiffmann at Exemplify Ministries (about treasuring what you have)

Lucky Kim by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today (about what we're training our kids for)

The "Why" Factor by Mary Vee at The Writers Alley (about questions to ask about your plot)

I need to say that ALL FOUR of these posts completely blew me away. I wouldn't miss a single one - and I'm sure I'll be back to them later. Don't miss these!

Have a great weekend!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/14/12

Just When We Needed It - 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
When your husband is suddenly out of work, with little to no chance of finding another any time soon, life can be tough.When he's out of work because he has a brain tumor, it's even tougher. It affected us emotionally, spiritually, physically, and, of course, financially. But we were NOT abandoned. And here is just ONE example of that. (taken from an OLD draft of Ailing Body Nourished Soul, by the way)


“I don’t know about this bill.” Marc held our bank statement in one hand and an envelope and piece of paper in the other.

I walked toward him, the baby resting on my hip. “Don’t understand the charges?”

He sighed. “Not sure how we’re going to pay it without digging into our savings, which is pretty depleted as is. We just had a couple huge bills to pay.”

I bit my lip. “This is the kind of thing savings is for, isn’t it?”

He groaned. “I just hate going into it. Who knows how much longer this will go on, and how long what we have will last.”

I rested my hand on his shoulder. “I know.” I glance at the bill: $98. I knew it won’t be a huge cut into savings, but every bit made a difference.

Marc put the paperwork down and reached for his baby daughter. I passed her to him.

“I’m gonna run out and get the mail: okay?”

He nodded, playing peek-a-boo with Annika. “Hopefully no more bills today. Where’s Andrew?”

“Napping. He should be fine for a while.”

I walked down our driveway, pondering the situation. Thank You, Lord, that we have the money in savings to cover this bill.

I grabbed several envelopes out of the mailbox. One in particular intrigued me. I didn’t recognize the handwriting on the unusually light envelope, and there was no return address.

I tore open the flap as I walked into the house. A gasp escaped my mouth. Inside were five twenty-dollar bills, and not even a note to indicate where it came from. Tension in my shoulders - tension I didn't realize had been there - disappeared.

“Marc?” I said around a chuckle.

“What? What’s so funny?”

I put the envelope down next to him. “Guess what we got in the mail?”

 His eyebrows crinkled and his head tilted.

“Money to pay that bill.”

“What?”

“One hundred dollars in cash.”

He stood up, placing his daughter on the floor. “Serious? From who?”

“Not a clue.”

He picked up the envelope and counted the money inside, then glanced at the outside of it. His trembling hands returned it to me. “Does the writing look familiar?”

“Maybe, but I can’t place it.”

He smiled. “Thank You, Lord.”

I kissed him on the cheek, then picked Annika off the floor, leading her in a bit of a waltz. “Amen. Just what we needed, when we needed it.”

**

I still wish I knew who sent us that money. But, in His view, I actually know the answer. God did. 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

3/12/12

Is It Really the Easy Way?

I'm at the Internet Cafe today, talking about changing plans, the hamster wheel, and God's place in it all. Stop by and check out The Best-Laid Plans, if you would :)


 You Americans-who-are-not-Arizonans (and a few others) - did you forget to turn your clocks ahead on Saturday night? Were you late for church? Did the 6pm news come on at 5pm last night? Are you tired?

Daylight savings time Pictures, Images and PhotosI will admit to answering yes to at least one of those questions. Which one? I won't say ;)

In one way, turning clocks forward in the spring is a lot easier than turning them back in the fall. For many digital clocks, all I have to do is press one button once, and voila! 7:14 becomes 8:14. Or 1:38 becomes 2:38. When I turn them back, however, I have to push that button 23 times. A hassle, as far as I'm concerned.

Yet, the ramifications of the two are the opposite. As relatively difficult as it is to turn clocks back an hour, the "extra hour of sleep" is wonderfully positive. And as simple as it was to advance my bedroom clock an hour, I would have gladly given it back to sleep just 60 more minutes.

Sin is like that too, sometimes. In fact - most of the time, if we're honest. On the surface, just like clicking the "hour button" once, sin looks easy. Too tired to work for your keep? Just take what you need. In a bad mood? Go ahead and scream - self-control is hard. Television already on an inappropriate program? It's much easier to just leave it on than change the channel (or turn it off). Tempted? Give in - it's certainly simpler than resisting.

But the consequences of the "easy way" are not so easy, are they? From arrest to hurt feelings to a quenched spirit to loss of fellowship with friends (or God!), we will almost always regret it. The simple way in the beginning doesn't generally end that way.
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 NIV
**


How often do you take the "easy way out?" Do you not see the consequences ahead of time, ignore them, or simply figure you can deal with them? How hard is it for you to have a long view of life? And, of course, were you late to church yesterday? (wink)

Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!





Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/9/12

Finds for Fridays: March 9

I'm over at the Barn Door today. Weather this week has been crazy (snow one day, 60+ degrees another), but I still know that winter is almost over. How? Check out my post to see. :)  
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!

Author Theology by Cynthia Ruchti at the ACFW Blog (about God's control over our writing life/gift/timing)

A Divine Obsession by Edie Melson at The Write Conversation (about the passion to write - beautiful)

Betrayed: But What About Me? By Wanda at The Watered Soul (about where our focus often is - and where is should be)

Three Simple Steps to a Successful Synopsis by Linnette Mullin at Seekerville (just what it says. FABULOUS post!)

Thoughtful About...Calming the Storm by Roseanna White at Writing Roseanna (about God's love of us, and desire for our lack of fear)

Hope you enjoy, and learn from, these posts. I know I did!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/8/12

Writing Craft Recap for February

2012 is my "learning the writing craft" year. And once a month, generally on the first Thursday of the month (this month the second, since the first Thursday was the 1st), I will share some highlights of what I learned. And here I go.

My main writing craft education for February came from one intensive, time-consuming, but AMAZING class. And below is just the highlights of what I learned.

From Empowering Characters' Emotions by Margie Lawson:

  • Every component of a scene can carry emotion.
  • White space is a writer's BFF.
  • Visceral emotion by the POV character has a LOT of power when used when it counts. It is, in fact, the strongest reader hook. But it should be used sparingly.
  • Showing body language (in a creative way) is a great way to deepen your characters' emotional response.
  • Cadence is more important than you think.
  • If you have showing and telling in the same sentence, try cutting the telling part.
  • Include power words where needed - and backload (end a sentence or paragraph with one) when you can.
  •  Lips can show more emotion than eyes.
  • Write fresh (avoid cliches!)
  • Be sure the scene is set (and your characters are clothed!).
  • Make sure you don't have too much internalization.
  • Have lots of tension and conflict.
  • Make sure your characters' emotions come across as authentic to the reader.
  • ALWAYS read your scenes out loud.
  • Use all the senses.
This is just a touch of what I learned - and i will be USING all of it, and more, in my writing.

Watch for my March "Writing Craft Recap" post, where I'll be sharing details on my CURRENT Margie Lawson class - "Deep Editing:  the EDITS system, Rhetorical Devices, and More!"

Questions? Comments? Observations?

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/7/12

Crossroads - 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


 My "Christian fiction writing" officially began in the FaithWriters Writing Challenge. I posted my first piece close to six years ago, and entered nearly every week for two years, and continued to enter occasionally after that. Often, my stories were about God's presence in the midst of difficulties - and perhaps none so much as the biblical fiction I began writing a few months in, and that has become one of my passions. This piece (which I wrote almost exactly four years ago) is a favorite of mine, and I hope it blesses you, reminding you that God is ALWAYS there.

Crossroads
By Joanne Sher

"Oh, how I love you, dear Mahlon." She caught the lump in her throat with a gulp, as tears misted from her brown eyes. "Whatever shall I do?"

The stiff body before her did not answer. She continued staring as it was lowered into the ground.

The delicate hand of Orpah touched her shoulder. She reached up and gave it a squeeze.

"Now I understand, Orpah," Ruth whispered. "Now I understand."

The two widows held each other tightly, until matronly arms engulfed them both.

"Mother," the ladies said in unison.

"Ruth. Orpah." Naomi sighed. "What a month this has been."

Friends and family bowed their heads as the women left the burial site together.

**

"Nothing. Nothing left in this land." Naomi kicked the dirt beneath her feet. "Barely enough grain for a loaf of bread."

Ruth, grinding the wheat, shielded it from the dust particles. "We will make do, Mother. Your God will provide."

Naomi sighed. "Perhaps. He has provided dear daughters-in-law to this old woman."

"And to us, a wonderful mother," Orpah said, entering the home from the outside.

The three grinned.

**

"She has been so good to us. She has lost a husband and both sons. How can we deprive her of daughters as well?" Ruth sat in the corner beside Orpah, her voice barely above a whisper.

"We are a burden on her, Ruth," Orpah retorted. "Two more mouths to feed and no man to help her with it. If we go back to our homes, we will be provided for. We may even get new husbands. We are still young, you know."

Ruth held back her tears. "But what about Naomi?"

Orpah smiled. "She is returning to her people. Perhaps they will take care of her, as our people take care of us."

"Perhaps." Ruth shuddered. "Or perhaps not. Who knows what will meet her in Bethlehem? The least we can do is help her-go with her and aid her in her new start. Would she do less for us? Think of how supportive, how loving, she has been toward us--enemies of her people--for all these years. What an amazing God she must have to treat us that way. Do you really want to go back to our old way of life, our old gods?"

Orpah rested her chin on her hand and sighed. "I suppose you're right. She would certainly appreciate the help."

Ruth rose from the ground and grabbed a bulging satchel leaning against the wall. "Then we need to make haste, so we can catch up with her before it is too late."

**

Once the girls caught up with Naomi, the three strolled together in silence. After a few minutes, they reached a divide in the road. Naomi stopped and looked both Ruth and Orpah in the eye.

"Go back, each of you, to your mother's home. May the Lord show kindness to you, as you have shown to your dead and me. May the Lord grant that each of you will find rest in the home of another husband.*" Naomi embraced and kissed both of them, and they wept together.

Ruth looked up at her mother-in-law. "We will go back with you to your people.*"

Naomi dismissed the idea as nonsense.

Orpah leaned into Ruth and whispered, "She has a good point, and we would be a burden." Backing away, Orpah kissed Naomi on the cheek. Wiping away tears, she left Ruth and Naomi, trudging back toward Moab.

Ruth, however, clung to Naomi, swearing to follow her wherever she would go, and claiming Naomi's God as her own. I will help her through this struggle. And, God willing, she will help me through mine.

**

Naomi put out her arms eagerly, receiving the wiggly, giggly bundle and pulling him close to her heart. "Little Obed," Naomi cooed, "What a wonderful family you have been born into."

Ruth and Boaz looked down at their child with glowing, love-filled eyes. "Thank you, Mother, for loving me, for supporting me, and for encouraging me in my grief to reach out to this wonderful man." Ruth's eyes left her child's and rested on her husband, then her mother-in-law. "You have helped me discover the beauty from my sorrow."

Naomi handed Obed back to Ruth. "It is you I should thank, sweet Ruth. You have given me help and hope. And, perhaps best of all," Naomi ran her hand through Obed's hair, "you have given me a son."
This story's empty spaces can be filled in by reading the Old Testament book of Ruth, Chapters 2-4.

References (from NIV):
Ruth 1:8-9, 10
From Genesis to Revelation, from the beginning of time to today, God 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

3/6/12

Giving the 'Puter a Break

(and me too - but still LOL)



Yup - it's time for my Tech-Free Tuesday (the first Tuesday of the month). I've got Ladies Bible Study in the morning, plus I plan to spend pretty much the rest of the day cleaning and looking for my diamond. All without the help of my computer OR texting.

See ya Wednesday!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/5/12

I Get That Woman - and a FaithWriters announcement

I know a lot of you folks are FaithWriters' folks, and I wanted to do something I generally don't. Many of you know I'm the blogger for the FaithWriters blog, but rarely do I point you to that blog. Today is different. Many of you may have heard that FaithWriters is now under new ownership. Well, there is an interview with the new owners, Michael and Bea Edwards, on the FaithWriters blog today. I'm very excited about them, and the future of FW - please stop by and get to know them!
The Parables Pictures, Images and Photos
Photo credit
Jesus shared many of his lessons as parables. A story you can relate to is a great way to bring a message or truth home. And the stories Jesus told were right out of the lives of his contemporaries. He told tales of nets and fish to fishermen. To farmers, he spoke of seeds and weeds and vineyards. He told of sheep and banquets and landlords to those who dealt with those aspects in their own lives.

But I'm not a fisherman. Or a farmer. Nor have I ever tended sheep or been invited to a banquet. It's not that I don't appreciate these parables - or understand them. I just can't necessarily relate to them. Perhaps you're like me in that way.
But this past week, a parable that I'd often overlooked became extremely real to me.
Which one, you ask? Well, it is found in the book of Luke, in chapter 15, verses 8 through 10. The parable of the lost coin.

And why? Because I lost something very precious to me.

On Thursday morning, as I was doing my morning Bible reading, I turned my head from His Word to my left hand. And my mouth dropped.The large diamond in the middle of my engagement/wedding ring - the ring that had been passed down to my husband from his paternal grandmother - was gone.

My gut sunk. My body trembled. My brain freaked. I got down on my knees and searched. And searched. And searched. As I took my children to school, I thought about nothing but where else to look.

Can't see it too clearly - but that's the ring
I called church and told them not to vacuum (I'd been there the night before helping out in AWANA). I spent over an hour there, looking in every nook and cranny, with and without a flashlight, trying to find that diamond. Nothing else would enter my mind.

I looked and relooked in just about every place I could think of. And as I looked, the woman with the lost coin would not leave my mind. Her singleminded desire to find that coin - which many say was likely part of her dowry - became incredibly real to me. And I hoped for nothing more than to join her in her "rejoicing" when she - and I - found what we sought.

Jesus said this was the feeling the angels had when one sinner repents. And the search, it seemed, was just as passionate as that woman's - and mine.

I still haven't found my diamond (and tomorrow - my tech-free day - is going to be consumed with the continuing search), but even if I haven't got that, I DO get that woman's passion - and perhaps Jesus' too - for finding what is lost.
**


Have you ever had a parable "come to life" like this one did to me?
Do you think you have a good grasp of how much Christ wants all of us to be saved? How has His Word spoken to you in a very specific way lately?

Comment below, and/ or stop by Living by Grace and we can chat a bit!



 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/2/12

Finds for Fridays: March 2

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!

Toeing the Line by Billy Coffey at What I Learned Today (about being strong for your beliefs)

Married Solo/Single Mom - Just a few thoughts from my perspective by Cathy Tilburt at Tilburt Family Adventures - Our Journey Through Multiple Sclerosis (about being a "married single mom." Enlightening!)

HELP! (And a2z take 2post) by Nikki Turner at In Truer Ink (about Him being there in our struggles)

 Hope you enjoy these. Thanks for stopping by!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

3/1/12

Marching into March - A Goals/Progress Update

Even though this was a short month, I STILL can't believe February is over! It FELT like a good 29 days - but let's see how I did on my goals.

And here they are - direct from last month's goals/progress post:
  • 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)
Hmmm - well, I definitely kept up (and learned A TON) from Margie Lawson's class. I'll be doing a post - likely a week from today - about some of what I learned, and hopefully, I'll have a GUEST POST FROM MARGIE LAWSON on the FaithWriters blog some time in the near future. You do NOT want to miss it. She's fab!
 

I did finish reading through Ailing Body, Nourished Soul - but I'm still contemplating what to do with it. I'm wondering if it needs to "go on the back burner" until I have other writing under my belt. Or if it needs to be in  a different format. Or if it was my "practice book." OR if I need to "Margiefy" it (almost definitely) and try again as I originally was going to sell it (perhaps). ANYhow - that baby's up in the air.

And as far as applying stuff I've learned to my writing - not bad. I have NOT written a new short story, but I've been working on "fixing up" Handmaiden to a Princess. So - not bad.

But what about March, you ask? Well, here are my goals:
 Okay - that looks good. Thanks for reading along, and cheering me on!

Do you have goals for March? What are they?

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

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