"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

11/30/12

Finds for Fridays: November 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 I 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!

Three Big Takeaways from the My Book Therapy Storycrafters Retreat by Lindsay Harrel at The Writers Alley (about some great writing/plotting advice)

Is There Room at Your Inn? By Lisa Mikitarian at her blog (about loving the church and homelessness and what we can do)

Offering Representation - One Story By Wendy Lawton at Books and Such (about one person's fairy tale story)

He really does answer (but of course we knew that) by Andrea Mitchell at Under Grace and Over Coffee (about a perspective change I need as much as she does)

Hope these posts bless you. I know they did me!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/29/12

Madily In Love - Check It Out!

I don't do book tours/highlights very often. (Just not my thing) But when a dear friend has a new book out, sometimes, I just can't help myself. And so my dear FaithWriters/ACFW/local friend, Lynda Lee Schab, is here, announcing that the second book in her Madi series, Madily In Love, is now available.

What's it about? Here's the back cover blurb:

All Madi Lee McCall wants is to fall madly in love again…with her husband
 After a rough patch, Madi’s determined to get her marriage back on track. She’s even taking a romance class at church and getting great suggestions…that fail miserably. The distractions are plenty. She has just reentered the workplace as a health spa receptionist. Her 16-year-old daughter, Christina, is pushing the limits, and Christina’s twin, Max, has fallen hard for a girl who isn’t Madi’s picture of a perfect match for her son. Even younger daughter, Emily, is developing a teenager-ish attitude. 

When her mother-in-law moves in—temporarily, of course—the stress starts to drive Madi a little crazier than normal. What she wants, more than anything, is some peace among the chaos.
Sounds good, eh? Well, it is (yes, I've read it) :) Stop by here to purchase it, whether from the publisher, Amazon, Christianbook.com, or elsewhere. And it's also available for your Kindle! Lynda is also offering signed copies for just $12 (plus $3 if you're not local and need it shipped) - just stop by her blog to order one.

And now, a little bit more about Lynda and her book:

What is Madily in Love about? Tell us a little about the plot.

Madi McCall is just coming out of a marital rough patch (you’ll have to read Mind over Madi for that whole story) and she’s trying to get her marriage back on track. But that’s easier said than done, especially because her mother-in-law has moved in, Madi’s recently started working again after years of being a stay-at-home-mom, and her kids seem determined to do everything they can to turn her hair even grayer than it already is. Madi attends a Revitalize Your Marriage with Romance class at church and gets some great tips…that fail miserably. All she wants is some peace among the chaos. And some quality time with her husband would be nice, too.

What do you want readers to take away from reading Madily in Love?

Although this book has to do with the importance (and fun) of adding romance to marriage, the main thing I hope readers can take away is that even though life seems unmanageable, disorderly, and chaotic, God is always in control. One of the recurring phrases throughout the book—as mentioned by Madi’s counselor—is “Embrace this place.” In other words, no matter what you’re going through, recognize that it won’t last forever. And down the road, you might just look back and see just how that “unbearable” season was essential in moving you to a place of growth and necessary change. 

Are you planning another book? If so, what is the story?

 I am currently working on the 3rd and final book in the Madi series, due out in the fall of 2013. It’s titled, Sylvie & Gold. Madi’s best friend Sylvie is preparing for her wedding (and if you’ve read Mind over Madi, you know who she’s marrying). With just a few weeks before the wedding, Sylvie is dealing with a lot: Her meddling and feisty soon-to-be mother-in-law, her son’s sexting issue, planning her mom’s sixtieth birthday party, and her fiance’s ex-wife, who has come back to town after a seven-year absence. Sylvie is normally pretty calm and collected. But her stress card is quickly getting maxed out. The question is whether she’ll completely lose her cool or find the happily-ever-after she longs for.

Take a moment to brag about your family:

I’ve been married to Rob for over twenty-four years. He works for a dairy company (yes, that means free ice cream sometimes!) and is an all-around great guy. We have two teenagers, who both inherited my creative gene and love of reading. Zach is 18 and graduated from high school last spring. He’s taking a year off to work, but will attend college next fall. My daughter Lyndsey is a sophomore and plays the cymbals in the high school marching band drum line. She is a social butterfly and hopes to go into special education. 

How can readers connect with you?
 
My website address is www.lyndaschab.com. I also have a blog with various writing and reading-related material at www.on-the-write-track.blogspot.com. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter.

Lynda Lee Schab got her writing start in greeting cards (Blue Mountain Arts, Dayspring) and from there went on to write articles and short stories (Mature Living, Christian Home & School) and in many places online (including www.Examiner.com and www.wow-womenonwriting.com). As a freelance writer, she works behind the scenes at FaithWriters.com and is a regular book reviewer for FaithfulReader.com. She is also the Grand Rapids Christian Fiction Examiner and the National Writing Examiner for Examiner.com and a staff writer for www.SharedSorrows.com. Mind Over Madi placed second in the 2008 ACFW Genesis contest, chick lit category, received a highly commended award in the FaithWriters Page Turner contest, and was a finalist in the 2007 RWA Get your Stiletto in the Door contest. Madily in Love was a semi-finalist in the 2011 ACFW Genesis contest. Lynda admits she has a lot in common with the character of Madi. Not only are they both addicted to ice cream, chocolate, and computer games, they struggle with the same types of insecurities and continually require a hefty dose of God’s grace. Lynda lives with her husband, Rob, and two teenagers in Michigan.

So, have you bought it yet? Hurry! ;)

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/26/12

The Power of Choices

So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set 
out toward the east. The two men parted company. Genesis 13:11 NIV

Choices are a part of life. Some of the choices we make are pretty minor. My clothing choices this morning likely will not have a huge impact on the rest of my life, for example.

Other decisions, however, can be much more life-changing. Sometimes-perhaps even often-we have no idea how much of an impact a decision may have on our perspective, our future, our lives.

 One of these life-changing choices was made by the Old Testament character Lot, nephew to Abraham. Abraham had decided that the two of them, who had been living together, needed to part company and settle in different parts of the land. Abraham had given his nephew first choice. I'd wager Lot had no idea of the repercussions this one decision would bring.
 Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Genesis 13:10-12 
It probably didn't look like that important of a decision at the time. In hindsight, however, we know the results were disastrous.
Photo Credit

Lot was looking for "the good life" - he saw the well-watered plain, and knew his existence would be much easier if he set down his roots there. His sheep would be more satisfied, his men would be more satisfied, and life would generally be less painless. Or so he thought.

He forgot to consider his neighbors. Did you notice the very end of the 13th verse? "He pitched his tents near Sodom." Now, you might think that this is a case of hindsight being 20/20. (I know I don't have to tell you the problems with Sodom) But, that is not indicated in the text. The very next verse informs us that the men of Sodom "were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord."

So, perhaps we give Lot a cheer for not settling in the city. But that doesn't last long. By the time God's judgment is about to be meted on it, Lot is a resident of the city-and possibly even an official. And the damage has been done. Though Lot continues to follow God (he is, after all in the Hebrews 12 "hall of faith"), he and his family meet much disaster.
  • He stooped low enough to offer his daughters as sexual playthings 
  • His wife turned to a pillar of salt 
  • He had to leave a home, no matter how debased, that he wanted to stay in 
  • His daughters had incestuous relationships with him, birthing two nations that would eventually be Israel's enemies. 
What a bunch of tragedy from one choice. Have you made a choice like this? Did you consider your potential "neighbors?"

Seek the Lord: not the easy life. With Him behind each choice, you can't help but be in His will.

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the freedom to make our own choices. Help us, though, Lord, to make the decisions that You know are best for us. Help us to make Your priorities ours, so we will receive Your blessings and not the curses of the world around us. Help us to seek You in every choice we make. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen 


**

We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join me?

  
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/23/12

Finds for Fridays: November 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 I 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 Baker's Dozen by Nancy Sullivan at Jewels of Encouragement (about cookie-cutter attitudes)

ABCs of Writing: Understand Why You Use Those Writing Techniques by Scott Eagan at Babbles from Scott Eagan (about what it says :D)

Should we Thank God for Ordinary Things? by Dan Walsh at 3 Men Walk Into A Blog (about how thankfulness can change our joy)

A bit of inspiration, and some learning for the long weekend. So thankful for these posts - and those of you who stop by. Thanks!


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/21/12

Being Thankful: 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
You'd think that with all the many ways the Lord has provided for me, my husband, and my family over the past years, trusting Him, and being thankful, would be easy. I've seen Him provide so many times - in big ways and small - that appreciation would be natural. That I'd never get discouraged.

But it isn't true. No matter that He saved my husband from death in so many ways. I have to stress that He isn't going to provide that little thing I need. I worry, forget to trust, conveniently allow His goodness to slip from my mind.

Even during the week of Thanksgiving, when EVERYONE is supposed to be thankful, I major on what I don't have rather than what I do. And this optimist goes against her own bent and decides the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train.

ENOUGH ALREADY!

God is so good. Here's my list of just some of the things I am thankful for this week - that I can praise the Lord for.
  • An amazing school that has helped, and is continuing to help, my children grow in so many ways.
  • Not just one, or even two, but three different church families that have supported us in so many ways during our journey in Christ.
  • A mechanic who will not only have someone drive me home, but pick me up again and take me to the car rental place.
  • A husband who will be strong--and encourage me to do the same--when I just want to give in.
  • A functioning garage door opener.
  • Incredible friends - both local and far away.
  • Credit cards
  • Technology
  • That no matter how often I forget how many things I have to be thankful for, the Lord will still love me, and provide for me in ways beyond what I can imagine or think.
Whether I acknowledge it or not - whether I feel it or not - 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

11/19/12

The Running Season

“Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among
 the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 NASB

It's a busy time of year here in the Sher household.

Photo source
Doctor's appointments. Parent-teacher conferences. My son's choir concert. Haircuts. Field trips. Academic assemblies. And that's not even counting Thanksgiving, my daughter's birthday (and party - two different days), and Christmas preparations.

The past several weeks, I've felt just a LITTLE bit like that gal over there. And that is NOT a good thing. And if I were a betting woman, I'd wager that you have been feeling the same - or you will be soon.

It's definitely the running season. Running from this place to that one. Chasing options, kids, sales, and appointments. Working - striving - to get everything done before the holidays are upon us, the in-laws get here, the year is over, or fill in your own blank. For most, this is a fast-forward time of year.

But all this speed - all this running - isn't doing much for my health, whether we're talking physical, emotional, or spiritual. And feeling the way I have been (just ask my friends and family) is not what God wants from me.

It's hard to slow down. I know. And sometimes it isn't possible - at least not on the outside. But in your soul? That's different.

Most translations of Psalm 46:10 start with two words: "Be still." But there's something about the New American Standard Edition's rendering that grabs me every time.
Cease striving and know that I am God.
Stop trying so hard, it's telling me. Trust the Lord. Know who He is - not just what I can do. Quit running - chasing after things that will only wear you out, Stop trying to catch up with the Joneses, and just be His, and do His will.

Cuz when I'm physically still, often my mind is speeding by, striving. For what? Depends on the day. But it's doing it. Maybe yours too.

But if I can cease striving, even IN my running (yeah - that IS possible), I will truly know He is God, no matter how busy I  might be. And maybe I can give him a bit of exaltation.

Ya think?
**

We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join me?






Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

Watch For the Camouflage

 
Firearm Deer Hunting Season started this past Friday. And even though I am NOT a hunter, it got me thinking about camouflage - and not just when looking to shoot Bambi. Check out my post over at Jewels of Encouragement to see what I'm talking about - Watch for the camouflage! 



Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/16/12

Finds for Fridays: November 16

Yeah- I'm later than usual. At least it's still FRIDAY LOL. Just been a crazy week.

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 I 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!

In the Throes of Nonsensical Hysteritude by Catrina Bradley at Scattered Seeds (about weddings and hysteria and emergencies - FUNNY!)

Deep Into NaNoWriMo by Jan Dunlap at the WordServe Water Cooler (about how we write)

A Little Less of Me and a Lot More of Him by Diana Dart at Jewels of Encouragement (about God and our struggles)

Hope you enjoy these posts. They blessed me!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/14/12

Doctorese-English Dictionary: 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
 God provided so very many times in the midst of Marc's health issues. This is just one of them. I originally wrote this for the FaithWriters Writing Challenge. I've fixed it up a bit - but the message has NO need to change.

Doctorese-English Dictionary

The person on the other end of the phone line may not have known it, but he was the answer to my prayer. Another one of those perfectly orchestrated "coincidences" that only come from God. I was full of questions, and he, it seemed, had the answers.

Knowledge. I had more than I could manage, but still needed more. To be more specific, I needed information I can actually understand.

Craniotomy. Polycytic astrocytoma. Craniopharyngioma. Optic Glioma. Only a handful of the words I'd heard over the past several days, and whose meaning I barely grasped.

I consider myself an intelligent person, with a fairly broad knowledge base. Yet, these medical terms had me baffled - and when unknown terms are used in reference to your husband, baffled is not a comfortable place to be.

The neurosurgeon--another term I'd barely known until that week--was no specialist in plain English (or bedside manner, but that's another story). I'd gotten some literature on this assortment of terms, but it seemed to have been written for Ph.D. candidates. An Internet search was just as fruitless. All I knew was there was some type of mass on Marc's brain, and it was affecting his eyesight.

What I needed was a "doctorese-English dictionary," or someone who could do the translation for me. And, of course, the more this person knew about the brain and eyesight, the better. Unfortunately, I was confident there was no such reference book, and I didn't have any friends or family who fit the bill.

Well, except one: and he was at the other end of the receiver.

Ever since my mother died when I was seven, I'd been very close with my Uncle Buzzy (her brother) and his wife. They had two daughters - Debbie and Caryn -  who were a couple of my favorite cousins.

As we grew older and started our careers and families, however, we hadn't stayed as close, but still saw each other on occasion.

We had met Debbie's husband, Mark (with a K), before their wedding a few times , but didn't know him well. All we knew was he was a friendly, personable guy and he was studying to be a doctor. Now, three years after their wedding, he was in his residency somewhere in Texas.

Anyhow, just moments before I'd spoken to Uncle Buzzy about Marc's (with a C) health situation.

"Did you know, Dear, that Debbie's Mark is studying to be an ophthalmologist? I just talked to him about your husband, and he told me that the doctor he's training under specializes in neuropthalmology (eye function in relation to the brain)."

How's that for news I could use? Needless to say, I got Mark's phone number within minutes. Shortly thereafter, the answer to my prayer was on the phone with me. The best part was that I actually understood what he said. He was speaking in layman's terms about things totally incomprehensible to me not half an hour before.

Mark even offered to call my husband's doctor with specific "doctor questions" for us and get back to us with the answers. What is better in a stressful situation like this than a knowledgeable, helpful advocate of a cousin on your side?

God on my side--but we've got both. And some people say these things happen by chance.

**

No chance about it - God is in control, and provides. He is SOOO 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

11/13/12

What He Requires From Me


I'm at the Internet Cafe today, talking about a verse buried in one of the minor prophets that has impacted me greatly - and seems to be a pretty succinct list of what the Lord wants from us once we're His children. Hope you'll stop by and read about His Requirements.

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/12/12

When It Becomes Personal

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13 NIV

Some holidays, if I'm going to be completely honest, didn't impact me very much when I was a child. For much time growing up, they were simply excuses not to go to school (or have an assembly). I never really thought about Labor Day, Memorial Day, President's Day, or Veteran's Day for their actual meanings. Or even if I did, it was just a lesson in school or a book.

And as I grew into adulthood, some of these holidays gained new meaning, while others didn't. But no holidays changed as much for me in the past few years as Veteran's Day and Memorial Day.

Though yesterday was the actual date, as you likely know, today is the federal holiday of Veteran's Day. I've appreciated veterans for as long as I've known what they were, but that appreciation became much more real - more personal - when someone in my family made the ultimate sacrifice for my, and our, freedom.

Well, not in my BLOOD family. And it wasn't even anyone I knew very well (in fact, IF I met him, it was perhaps once or twice in passing). But this young man who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country just over three years ago was very important to some people who were very important to me. He was a member of my church family.

Nicky Roush
Army Corporal Nick Roush was killed on Sunday, August 16, 2009, at age 22, in Afghanistan when an IED exploded. He was a local kid, an attendee of my local church (at the time) since he was a boy.

Like I said before, I never knew him. But I knew - and loved - people who did. His sweet parents. His dear friends. Those who grew up with him, and those who grew up with his parents. And suddenly, the war, and its tragedies, were personal.

My daughter at the motorcade
I lined the road when the motorcade brought his body from the local airport to our church. I read every article I could find. I blogged about it: not once, not twice, but three times (yes - this makes four LOL). It clearly changed my perceptions - my perspective.

Christ is like that too. I'd heard of Him - barely in passing as a child, more as I grew older. But it wasn't until it BECAME PERSONAL that it changed my life. Until he was more than a person - until He became my Savior. My friend. Until I really and truly understood His sacrifice - and that He did it for me.

Sometimes it takes death to make something personal - meaningful - to you.

I will never be the same.
**


We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join me?
 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/9/12

Finds for Fridays: November 9

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 I 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!

Soul Quenching by Patty Wysong at Patterings (about finding refreshment and peace)

Detours, Billboards, And a Man Named Paul by Kristi Huseby at Broken and Redeemed (about God's billboards)

Called to Write by Rachelle Gardner at Books & Such (about the ups and downs of ANY calling - not just for writers!)

Hope these posts bless you - I know they did me. Be sure to stop by and give them a read!

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

My Fall Friend

The Barn DoorI'm over at the Barn Door today, talking about a new friend I picked up just for autumn. Unfortunately, I'm not sure he feels the same about me. Hope you'll stop by and meet, and learn a bit more about, My Friend George.


Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/7/12

When I Close My Eyes - 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
Thought I'd give you a bit of fiction today. I wrote this piece a few years ago for the FaithWriters Writing Challenge. This one tugs at my heartstrings every time - but it definitely has the hope (don't worry - you might as you go through). Praying it blesses you.

WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES

Even after three months, I still closed my eyes.

On a good day, closing them was enough to make me smile. It reminded me of hide-and-seek with my younger cousins, of the pictures I created in my mind before I picked up a colored pencil to create them for Mom and Dad. Darkness had always been where my imagination had best taken flight, where I had truly connected with God.

Today, however, had not been a good day. In the past, closing my eyes had also been a way to flee, at least to an extent, whatever was upsetting, distressing, overwhelming, or frustrating me. But now, it did no good. Whether my eyelids are up or down, the view is the same: pitch black.

The car crash took my parents. The emergency surgery took my eyesight. And today, my friend took my hope.

Photo Credit
I'd worked on my project all morning and had hung it up on the refrigerator, with help from Grandma. I could feel the texture when I'd massaged the paper with my fingertips. And, when I closed my eyes I could see what I'd drawn: Willow Lake, sunlight filtering through the trees onto its surface, reflecting the branches onto the backs of two swans.

"It's lovely, Amy," Grandma had gushed. "Just beautiful."

I hadn't considered at the time that Grandma might have been biased, or just acting polite. But now I can remember the hesitancy in her voice. And I know.

If only Grandma had been honest. Told me the picture was awful. Then I never would have put it on the refrigerator for Jessalyn to see.

She and I had been chatting, and Jess had gone to the kitchen to get juice boxes and cookies for us. Then she'd said it.

"Mrs. West, that picture is so cute! Did Howie make it for you?"

My heart stopped beating. Howie, my cousin, is three years old.

"Um...no, Jessalyn." Grandma lowered her voice, but I could still hear her. "It's Amy's."

The voices stopped. I hated that. Not only couldn't I see what was going on, as usual, but I also couldn't hear. So I tried to imagine. Didn't even bother to close my eyes. Like I said, it didn't change the view.

But I couldn't. It was like my brain was broken. All I could see, and all I could think of, was black. And only one sentence repeated in my head:

I draw like a three-year-old.

And then Jessalyn left the kitchen and started walking toward the living room. The squash of her feet on the carpet got progressively louder. I couldn't tell if she knew I'd overheard, so I forced my face to relax and even tried to smile.

"Hey. Should I put the cookies on the coffee table or hand them to you?" I could hear the smile in her voice. She was probably clueless.

Photo Credit
"Just put 'em on the table. Thanks." I turned toward her voice and faked a yawn. "Hey, Jess? I'm feeling kinda tired. Would you mind heading out and letting me take a nap?"

"Um...,sure, Amy." I felt her hand on my shoulder. "You sure you're okay?"

I nodded and fumbled for a cookie. "Really. I'm just gonna eat this then head up. I'll call you later. Okay?"

"Okay. See you later, Amy."

I held back a sob. "Yup." You'll see me, but I sure won't see you. Ever.

Once I was sure she'd left I sobbed silently, but only for a few minutes. Didn't want to worry Grandma. But what can I do? My dream of being an artist is shattered, and I'll never see again. I feel so lost.

So, because I could think of no other option, I figured I'd pray. And, even though it didn't make a difference, I closed my eyes.

Before I can speak, or even think of what to say, I can see again. Within my closed eyelids are the compassion of my grandmother, the love of my friend, and the light of God, shining through the darkness as the sunshine filters through the trees of Willow Lake.

Maybe my artistic abilities need some work. Perhaps the "real" world will always be black for me. But I know--God has assured me--that when I close my eyes, His eternal light, and the love of those I hold dear, will shine where everyone else sees only darkness.
 **
No matter the trials, God's light CAN shine in the darkness. 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

11/6/12

I'm Not Here Today...

Yep. It's that time again (YAY!). My monthly tech-free Tuesday. No computer. No texting. No Kindle Fire.

It certainly doesn't mean I won't be busy, though! Of course, I'll be VOTING (hope you USA folks will be too!) plus I have Ladies' Bible Study in the morning. Cleaning is most DEFINITELY on the agenda, and hopefully some research (in LIBRARY BOOKS!) for my Biblical fiction.

Sure - Wednesday will be a bit busier here online - but it is DEFINITELY worth it.

Do you take technology fasts? If not, why not?

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/5/12

Lessons from the Red Sea Crossing


They stood there. Waiting. In the dark. Their leader had told them to watch and see what God could do, so they watched. Some of them, anyway. Some looked back, I’m sure. To see where they’d come from. Who was after them. The “border” between them and their enemies: the concrete exhibition of His presence and protection over the past several days.
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long. Exodus 14:19-20 (emphasis mine)

So the cloud that had been leading them throughout their wanderings thus far was now behind them. But power was being exhibited in front of them as well—in the darkness of nighttime.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. Exodus 14:21-22 (emphasis mine) 
Photo Credit
I don’t know about you, but I never noticed before that the Israelites crossed the Red Sea at night, without the pillar of fire ahead of them. I wonder how much they could see. Even if the cloud/fire followed after them, there were A LOT of folks crossing. They were walking in the dark. The whole way (we do that sometimes too, don’t we?).

The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt." Exodus 14:23-25 (emphasis mine) 

So, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea with God’s light behind them rather than before them. And also behind them were the Egyptians. So, looking back could cause them both fear and hope. Just like, for us, seeing our past can both encourage and discourage us.

 So, they walked through the night, God’s pillar of fire and Pharaoh’s armies on their tails. Until every last one of God’s people had crossed to the other side. And then our God acted once again, as the sun came up.

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. Exodus 14:26-28 (emphasis mine) 

So God delivered as the sun came through the clouds, as the darkness of night cleared to show the brightness of day.

And isn’t this just like Him? We’re worried about our plights, and though God has cleared a way, we can’t always see to the other side. We look back and remember His faithfulness in the past—and those who are trying to stop us from staying on God’s path. But if we stick to it, when dawn breaks our enemies are vanquished and we can celebrate God’s goodness. (See Exodus 15:1-21)

Heavenly Father, thank You for always being with us, even when we can’t see You before us. Help us, Lord, to keep our focus on where You want us to go, no matter what may be following us. And when we are following You in the darkness, Lord, help us know exactly where to go, and to trust Your leading, even if it is from behind us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen 


 **
We're discussing this here, and at Living By Grace today. Won't you join me?
 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/2/12

Finds For Fridays: November 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 I 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 Sherlock Holmes Writing Method by Jason Black at Seekerville (an INCREDIBLE analogy/explanation for show not tell. Absolutely enlightening)

What I Learned From Reading Your Facebook Updates by Julia Reffner at The Writers Alley (about perceptions from what you post on FB)

It Started With A Bug by Kristi Huseby at Broken and Redeemed (about little things and how we allow them to distract us)

Daisy Faith by Lynda Schultz at Grains of Sand (about faith that believes no matter what)

Hope these posts bless you - I know they did me!

 
Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

11/1/12

Writing Craft Recap for October

Time to share some of what I learned last month about the writing craft! (learning the craft is my declared focus for 2012 - and it has been SO good for me!)

I had several sources of learning this month, including magazines, two different online writing classes, and a regional writing conference. Hope you learn something (and realize this is not ALL I have learned this month). This has probably been my best month yet as far as learning stuff I can use. So excuse the length of this post.

And here I go!
 
  • We need to let our characters find God in the difficult times of life.
  • Characters' pasts can and probably should create the problems and conflicts for them.
  • The best way to show a character is to get them very angry about something – especially from their past.
  • When in doubt about needing permission to quote something, ask for permission!
  • To find writing balance with the rest of your life, define your office, designate your hours, develop your style, determine your audience, and discover your vision.
From the November/December issue of Writer's Digest and the fall issue of ACFW Journal:
  • The problem causing writer's block used to be discipline – now, it's distraction. (If you can find it, read the article "Overcoming Writer's Block Without Willpower" from Writer's Digest. FASCINATING)
  • The creative and reactive parts of our brain are different – and many of us have reactive as the default setting
  • You're a writer if you write to the best of your abilities and enjoy it.
  • You must think up those plot events that will affect your characters enough for them to react with genuine change.
  • You need to engage the reader with the specifics of your novel: your protagonist, your situation, and your writing ability.
  • An antagonistic setting can challenge the protagonist to think and work harder to survive.
From Savvy Authors' class on Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (Jill Elizabeth Nelson, instructor):
  • When establishing GMC in your story, every character, with the possible exception of extremely minor ones, must have a goal and a motivation.
  • A character's goal must be specific and significant enough to generate action and mold the character’s thoughts and attitudes.
  • A compelling motivation should originate from the very core of the character and reveal something that provides emotional resonance for the reader.
  • Motivation is the hook that compels a character to action, so it must be positively gripping, utterly gripping, and absolutely inescapable, given the character's situation and personality.
  • The more clearly we can demonstrate for the reader why a character wishes to achieve a particular goal, the more readers will care whether or not the goal is achieved.
  • Conflict arises from obstacles in the character’s path that try to divert, discourage, or prevent the character from achieving the goal, thus leaving his goal frustrated and his motivation unfulfilled.
  • The more obstacles we can place between a character and his deeply-motivated goal, the more readers will feel the need to turn the pages and find out what happens next.
  • Motivation not only answers the question why a character wants to achieve a certain goal, it also contains either what the character stands to gain if they achieve the goal or what they stand to lose if they fail to achieve the goal.
  • Each sentence of our manuscript needs to maintain the logical sequence of events, and that comes down to writing the motivation and then the reaction from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph.
  • The villain's GMC needs to be in conflict with the hero or heroine's.
  • Within the GMC of your antagonist should be a sympathetic element-- something likeable and even something understandable and relatable to the reader.    
From the ACFW free course Creating Great Characters (Ginny Smith, instructor):
  •  In our novels, we want to draw our readers into a vivid and continuous dream so deeply that it becomes as real to them as the world that surrounds them.
  •  Characters are the vehicle through which a reader enters and lives in the fictional world of the novel. 
  • Only the characters who are absolutely essential to the story should be given a POV.
  • It's far more important to relay a character's personality than their physical attributes.
  • Physical details can also be used to convey a character's personality.
  • In order to understand what makes a character tick, especially a major character in your story, you have to know everything about him - but the reader doesn't.
  •  You should try to differentiate the dialogue of the different characters in your novel.
  •  Subtext makes a HUGE difference in dialogue/characterization.
  • Everything your character does, every action they perform, must support their personality. Their actions must be believable. 
  • It's important that your characters act rather than react. It makes them easier to relate to.   
Good stuff, eh?? So much excellent info to apply. Watch for my post NEXT month, when I'll share, among other things, what I learn from the free ACFW course on weaving the spiritual thread into your story.

Questions? Comments? Observations? What was most interesting/helpful to you?

Traveling Rough Roads With God's Strength

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