Godly Relationships by Tara Randel

Last night I attended a Girls Night Out at our local hospital. It was a wonderful community event that included vendors spotlighting their products, samples from local restaurants (YUM) and information about doctors and services available at the hospital. It was very well attended, especially if you considered the cupcake line. Longest one there!

I decided I didn’t want to go alone and invited a dear friend to come along. As Pam and I walked through the lobby, set up with tables for the vendors, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the women attending either came in a group or at least had a buddy with them. It got me thinking about how women thrive in a social atmosphere. I don’t know about you, but I love taking a friend along when I’m on an outing. I guess it’s the visiting and chatting that we enjoy, sometimes more than the event itself. Even after visiting every table at the hospital event, Pam and I went out for coffee, taking girl time to catch up on our busy lives.

As a society, we do love to gather together. It forms our community. Think about it, you probably love to be around friends, attend church or get together for reader or writer’s groups, just to name a few. We want to be a part of something. Something bigger than ourselves.

After I got home, I started thinking about relationships. My mind quickly focused on my relationship with God. It is so awesome to think that God created us because He wanted a relationship with us. Over the years of my Christian walk, I’ve gone from the early years of thinking of God as a hazy figure who sits on a throne in heaven, to understanding that He is my Father and my friend. I approach Him so very differently than I did in the beginning. There is an intimacy now when I go to God in prayer, when I spend my days talking to Him, when I spend my quiet time listening to his voice.

God created us for relationship. And because of Him, we have life. That is certainly something to praise Him for.

The Bible is filled with stories of people. People who had a relationship with God. People striving to get things right. Didn’t always happen, but God’s grace and the love of Jesus sure go a long way in making our walk here on earth special. Good times of bad, the spirit of the Lord is always with us. We are never alone.

Take a few minutes to think about the special people in your life. When you fellowship with your friends and neighbors, think about how much God loves us. He put those special people in your path. I know I plan on doing just that throughout the day.

Book Release Update by Julie Arduini

If you’ve read Christians Read for any length of time, you’re aware I was seeking publication. Earlier this year I signed with Write Integrity Press for a three book contemporary romance series based in the Upstate NY Adirondack Mountains. I can’t wait to share my friends from the fictional village of Speculator Falls.

I learned the official titles for each book and I’m excited. They reflect not only part of the plot, but the surrender journey the characters go through.

EntrustedJenna Anderson, sassy Youngstown, Ohio city-girl, plows–literally–into Upstate New York’s Adirondack village, Speculator Falls, with a busted GPS after agreeing with one phone interview to accept the senior center director position with the goal of belonging no matter how out of place she appears and how angry she makes town councilman and grocer Ben Regan.

Her new life is so rural there are no traffic lights, and when she learns her car isn’t equipped to handle the mountain terrain, Ben’s grandmother offers her late husband’s vehicle, further alienating the local businessman.

As she endears herself to the seniors at the center and creates a vision full of ideas, programs, and equipment, she ruffles Ben’s plans to keep Speculator Falls void of change, including the store his grandfather built.

The two work through community events and shared heartbreak only to face off in a town council meeting where Ben publically rejects her proposal for the senior center, causing Jenna to react out of her fears about belonging.

She returns to Ohio where she realizes she needs to surrender her plans for the center and fears about belonging and trust her Heavenly Father when facing fear, change, loss, and love.

Entangled—
A single mom and former Adirondack sheriff enters beauty school but creates split ends for the men in her life.

Engaged
Trish Maxwell returns to Speculator Falls with crushed dreams, egg on her face, and the chance to make a new start with the very people and places she used to make fun of.

Entrusted is set for release next month. I don’t have a cover to share yet so when I have updates, I’ll be sure to pass that on. I encourage you to consider Entrusted as a Christmas gift for the romance reader on your list.

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But wait! There’s more. I do have a cover for another book I’m co authoring with Jerusha Agen, Theresa Anderson, Joan Deneve, Marji Laine, Fay Lamb, Elizabeth Noyes and Betty  Owens. The Love Boat Bachelor is a sequel to last year’s A Dozen Apologies. This time readers pick who Brent Teague will propose to. I can’t say much more than that except for I love the premise and I am having a blast writing my chapters. Stay tuned for this romance as well.

As you can tell, setting is a big part in the books I’m writing. What’s a setting you enjoy? Have you traveled there?

 

 

Do You Want Restoration? Or Relief? by James L. Rubart

It’s been a tough year. Tree goes through house, living out of a hotel, dealing with insurance, contractors, mortgage company, wife going through PTSD, youngest graduates from high school and heads off to college (hello empty nesters) … you get the picture.

In the midst of the above, a friend of mine asked a penetrating question: When life is tough, and the end of the day comes, do you seek restoration? Or relief?

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The truth is I seek relief far more than restoration. Relief comes from flipping on the tube, going to a movie, grabbing that extra chocolate chip cookie. Those things DO bring relief. Temporarily. But not restoration.

Restoration comes from sitting in silence and solitude. From reading a book that draws us into the deep places of our soul. From immersing ourselves in music that sends our spirits to the Lord.

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But getting restored is much harder than getting relief. I understand that, believe me, I understand it.

Just wanted to let you know I’m struggling just like you to choose restoration over relief. But today, just today, let’s choose restoration.

As Paul says, it’s a race, and we want to run well.

How much is too much?

My work-in-progress, Indomitable, has a lot of–well, everything.

Action: wildfire

Reaction: how it impacts the threatened town of Redford, Colorado (from Indivisible and Indelible) and involves the firefighters, police, politicians, and townspeople.

New leads: Incident Commander Nash Crawford, Hotshot Eva Cruz and all their firefighting supporting cast.

Returning characters: Police Chief Jonah Westfall, his wife Tia, the baker Piper, her OCD beau Miles, search-and-rescue Trevor, Jonah’s sidekick Jay and his various officers–all these and more playing roles in the story.

Main plot, subplots, threads from the previous novels, threads that might spur a new novel or novella.

All of this forms a tapestry in which the four main characters interact with the people and events in their lives. It is, I suppose, an ensemble cast with a lot of little side stories that are in one way or another sparked by the threat and then reality of the fire–a little like the TV series LOST where each person brings his story and they interweave with the others.

So that brings me to my question. How much is too much?
Many fine novels have one main character, a single point of view, a love interest or villain and a friend or two. The Reacher novels by Lee Child. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. Compelling, uncomplicated. Very straight-forward.

Mine, too, has a beginning, middle, and end, yet it’s a spiderweb of interconnected filaments. What I really want to know is whether that appeals or overwhelms. What characters would you want included? Do you like the back and side stories? Would you rather it were streamlined. What makes for a rich, pleasurable experience? Here is your chance to help me shape this at long last. Any and all thoughts welcome.

Do You Have A Happy Place?

Not long ago my family teased me about going to bed so early. Okay, so they might have a point since technically I go “to bed” around 8:00—and in the summer months, that’s before the sun goes down. I also realize that’s when some people are just sitting down to dinner. In my defense, though, it’s all part of a wonderful routine I’ve established with my disabled son. He’s nineteen, but chronologically functions closer to a two-year old. I think of him as a handicapped version of Adam before the fall. He has absolutely no knowledge of evil, either doing something evil or thinking anyone else would do him evil, either.

Anyway, before I go farther off topic than that, my son comes with quite a bit of noise. He is the champion of “raspberries” which for him is a necessary sensory thing but for the rest of us is . . . well, annoying. A while back we introduced him to our Kindle Fire, so he can watch kid’s videos. And guess what? Putting on those earphones must be a balm to his sensory needs. It quiets him. Sadly, the earphones don’t seem to work during the day, when he can easily move from activity to activity. But by the end of the day he’s happy to be sitting comfy, and we’re happy to have him where he won’t drop the Kindle on a hard surface or . . . well, anyplace wet if you know what I mean.

So while he’s watching kids programming, I can read a book, work from my laptop or watch regular t.v. myself. My room has become my happy place, and our bed the “family bed” at least for a couple of hours on most nights. I suppose it’s a strange picture to imagine all of us together on this family bed: me with a book, my 19-year-old son with his Kindle and my husband either reading or watching something of his own choosing. But as a family with a handicapped loved one, it’s not the only strange picture we’ve created! More importantly, it’s the one time of day when we can enjoy the quiet. It’s a happy place for all of us.

Do you have a happy place? A room in your home or a favorite haunt that brings you peace? A place that offers comfort? Maybe it’s someplace outside of home, perhaps connected to special memories. Wherever it is, I hope you get to visit it often!

 

SH_Fall2014_coversUPDATED_200wP.S. On another note, I invite you to my website this Friday to take part in a Scavenger Hunt! The prizes are spectacular, from a Kindle Fire HD to books from 30 different Christian authors. The Hunt actually starts at noon (Mountain Time Zone) on Friday, October 17th and runs through Sunday, October 19th. It originates on Robin Lee Hatcher’s site. Many of us are running smaller contests within the Hunt, so it promises to be lots of fun – I hope you can join us!

Dear Hannah: Trouble in Paradise by Hannah Alexander

First, I have an announcement to make to those of you who have been missing James Rubart’s posts. You might recall he showed us a picture of his house after a huge tree fell on it several months ago. I happened to run into him at a conference recently, and he said he had a week or two more to get everything repaired. What a nightmare! So say a prayer for Jim as you think of him. It’s no fun to have your house destroyed.

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Now it’s time to suspend your disbelief with our advice to the lovelorn.

Dear Hannah,

I’m pretty devastated right now. After all Zack, my fiance, and I have been through this past year, we finally came to terms with our break-up, and we made up. It’s been wonderful until now.

Never take a job working for someone you love, because that can make all kinds of trouble for the relationship. Today he said he would have to fire me! And you know why? Because of a crabby woman on the hospital board who hates my mother and wants to take it out on me. Oh, sure, Zack says I need to speed up because I am, after all, a physician in an emergency department, and when we get busy I have to move faster and faster, but if he would look at the patient charts, he’ll see I’ve caught a lot of illnesses that would have been missed had I not been so thorough. I didn’t train to be an emergency physician, I simply took the job out of desperation. I never wanted to work for him in the first place, but he’s the ER director, and I needed the job.

I became so angry I told him I quit. Let him find someone else. Or let the bitter, controlling president of the hospital board beat the bushes for a doc who’ll want to work here. They can certainly use fourth year med students in the school attached to the hospital. I have to fulfill my duties for the next few weeks, but it’s going to be difficult dealing with Zack, knowing he was more willing to side with a bitter woman whose only reason for getting rid of me was to hurt my mother’s name in our small hometown. I’m trying to decide if I want to be married to a man who would turn against me like this. How would I be able to trust him after marriage?

Please give me some advice, Hannah.

Joy

 

Dear Joy,

Ouch! I can only imagine the pain you’re feeling right now, especially after dealing with the fallout of one breakup  with Zack already. Have I mentioned how vital it is to seek premarital counseling? This is especially important when you’ve had misunderstandings in the past. If I were you, I’d go back over the conversation and write down everything that was said during your conversation with Zack. Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to misunderstand, or respond with anger until the pattern escalates into one huge mess.

Talk to him alone, when neither of you will be interrupted. Turn off your cell phones and talk. Keep your voice quiet. Take slow, deep breaths to remain calm as you discuss the situation, and tell him how you feel. Don’t hurl accusations at him, just speak gently to him, no matter how difficult that might be. If the two of you can talk this out, and then if you can bring in someone you trust to counsel with both of you, it’s possible this problem can be smoothed over. But if he doesn’t have a good explanation for the way he treated you, it might be time to put off the wedding plans until you can both be at peace about this situation. And I don’t think you should ever work for him again.

Best wishes,

Hannah

 

Old words are new again

photo_30375_20140124When I was 13, I joined a teen Bible Quiz team at my church, and our group was led by a young married couple. Our quiz topic was the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and we needed to learn the books inside and out, chapter and verse.

We spent once a week for practice at Jean and Roger’s house, where we studied and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we learned. We practiced the questions, the answers, along with practicing with a buzzer set.

If you’re not familiar with teen Bible Quiz, here’s the short explanation. We competed against other teams from other churches and did some traveling around our district for contests. The matches would consist of three of us team members competing at a time for our team. A quizmaster would read the questions and we’d have buzzers in front of us to press for a chance to answer. The buzzers had wires running to a box with lights on the top. Whoever buzzed in first, would light up first.

Not only did we learn the Scripture references, but we had dozens of questions to learn along with their answers, taken directly from the books.

The rules were strict. No answering until recognized by the quizmaster, who’d verify the first quizzer to buzz in. You had a time limit to answer, and questions requiring a direct quote meant no varying or rewording of the answers. If you pressed the buzzer because you already recognized the question the quizmaster was asking, you had to finish the question and then give the answer.

It was fun, and I was a pretty good player. We knew who the top church teams were, and there was no shortage of egos among us. I remember us all eye-rolling when we saw one team whose boys wore matching watches, and as they took their seats at the quiz table, they’d remove their watches and lay them on the table in front of them in a nice little row.

I ended up memorizing most of those two books, although I couldn’t recite them today verbatim.

Over the years, I told people that yes, I was familiar with those books. I’d read them extensively, over and over again.

Fast forward, ah, a few decades, and I’m working through a Beth Moore Bible study, Children of the Day based on—yep, 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

All these years later, and I’m enjoying these books even more than I did the first time. The first time, I was learning the Scriptures and the facts. Now, I have the benefit of years of experience. I didn’t realize then how much Paul cared about the people he was writing to. You can hear the gentleness and exhortation in his words.

Back then, I was learning facts and quotables. Yes, those nuggets have stayed with me. But this time around, I’m learning more than I did then. Or maybe it’s that I’m adding to what I’ve already learned.

We’re only partway through the first book and I’m looking forward to what’s next.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever read or studied something when you were younger, and it seems new and fresh again when you’re older? Fiction, nonfiction, the Bible, or another book?

- – – – -

Lynette Sowell writes fiction for the inspirational market, from contemporary romance to mysteries. She’s always looking for the perfect recipe for a story–or a great dish–and is always up for a Texas road trip. Her newest release is A Grand Teton Sleigh Ride, a Christmas novella collection from Barbour Publishing.

When Childhood Stories Grow Up by Julie Arduini

I’m late to the party but my new binge watching hobby has been Once Upon a Time. I’m fascinated by the way the writers have taken beloved fairy tales and classic stories and put a modern spin on them. For the few people left who haven’t heard of the show, characters like Snow White, Prince Charming, Belle, Red Riding Hood, the dwarves, Hook, Aurora, Mulan, Rumpelstiltskin, Pinocchio and the Evil Queen are part of a modern town called Storybrook.

When the show begins we learn the town is under a curse and that the characters have forgotten their fairy tale roots. A little boy adopted by the mayor has a special book and believes everyone in Storybrook is from a story. When his biological mom comes to town, the clock in the village starts to work again and things start to change.

I’ve had fun thinking about the show, the original stories, and the new opportunities the characters have with a contemporary take on things. Often the characters are motivated by revenge, greed, or loss. When an episode ends, I realize even as an adult, there’s a lesson for me to take away. The pure bliss of such great writing keeps me pressing play to watch the next episode.
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Then I saw movie trailers for Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. This was one of my favorite books growing up. When I felt dramatic and wanted sympathy for a lousy day I’d open the pages and realize my life wasn’t so bad afterall. To see this updated and onscreen got me thinking again. This is another classic now updated and available for adults.

 

What other books from my childhood are out there as movies or other adaptations I enjoyed as an adult? I took a look and came up with:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Freaky Friday

Ramona and Beezus

Nancy Drew

The Grinch

What about you? Have you noticed anything on television or the big screen that was once your favorite book as a child?

For inspiration, take a look at this list.

 

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Choosing What to Read by Vicki Hinze

Choosing what to read, vicki hinze, christians read, books

Choosing What to Read by Vicki Hinze

 

I looked through a listing of books this morning and one snagged my attention. Migrations, Volume 1: Don’t Forget to Breathe by Ashim Shanker. I’m not sure what about it snagged my attention, really. The cover is black and gray, well, see for yourself:

Migrations, Volume 1: Don’t Forget to Breathe            Courtesy of Amazon.com

 

It isn’t the type of cover that would normally intrigue me into looking deeper. That’s not to say anything is wrong with it, only that it isn’t the type of cover on the types of books I usually seek. Maybe it is the arches, or all those doors… something about it intrigued me enough to focus on the title. Honestly, it isn’t a title that would snag my interest either, only it did, and so I clicked the link and viewed the book.

 

It’s classified as metaphysical. That’s not typically my cup of tea. But it’s also classified as “Free will and determination” and “philosophy.” I’m into philosophy, so that appealed. And I’m always trying to better understand free will. What Christian isn’t? It’s a gift to us from God, and we know the value of determination and there’s always more to be learned there. So I read on.

 

Oddly, I didn’t go to the book description but to the “About the Author.” Especially when we’re talking about things that impact thought and mind, well, I guard mine, so I like to know about the person I’m permitting to enter.

 

Here’s what I found on Amazon.com’s product page about the author:

 

“Ashim Shanker has never been, and probably isn’t yet, but certainly aspires to be. Surely, one day he MIGHT be, but there is no guarantee he WILL be. He was disappointed to find out yesterday upon waking that he still wasn’t, nor would he be for the rest of the day. But still, today has not yet passed. So we must wait and see. In the meantime,  we cannot rule out the possibility, however negligible, that he will have been at some point in the distant horizon. Yet, for the present, we are still faced with the bleak and disheartening probability that he never was, nor shall ever be. Whatever comes of such confusing matters, he nonetheless appreciates the interest of the reader and apologizes in advance for any time that is sure to be wasted in pointlessly deciphering the befuddling words of this trifling wannabe.”

 

Admittedly, I’m a practical idealist. There’s good versus evil, and good wins because it doesn’t quit and it chooses good over evil most often. Simple woman, simple outlook. But the writer in me was extremely intrigued by this paradoxical author’s self-view. Was this biography a deliberate attempt to manipulate? The sign of someone totally confused? Or someone trying to woo others with a mystical type of enchantment? Or was his purpose something else entirely?

 

I wasn’t sure. The Kindle edition happened to be free so I clicked it. That writer’s curiosity in me wanted to find out the rationale for that type of “About the Author” statement, and since there’s bits of the author in the books s/he writes, what better way to discover those answers than to read the work?

 

Only then did I go back to the page and read the book description and then the reviews. The description kind of made my eyes roll back in my head, but then I’m of the Twain persuasion—never use a nickel word when a penny one will do—and the reviews were mixed. Some accused the author of self-importance and useless bloviating, attempting to impress with his intellect. Others felt the work represented exactly what it said it would. One remarked that the author didn’t take himself too seriously and provoked thought. Humor was mentioned.

 

That’s a good balance, as reviews go. If everyone loves it or hates a book, okay. But it’s when there’s a mix of reviews on a book that I’m confident it touched people in some way, and being touched (versus indifferent) is success.

 

So I remained intrigued by this author and wanted to read his thoughts. As I said, I’d already downloaded the book.

 

And then I looked at the “also boughts.” You know, on the product page, down at the bottom where it says what other books customers who bought this one bought also.

 

Had I read it first—and just being honest here—I wouldn’t have downloaded the book. Foul language leaves me cold. But there was also a Jane Austen title. So again, a mixed bag.

 

Now, this discovery surprised me—about myself. The author didn’t write those other “also bought” books. Didn’t title them. They had nothing to do with this book. And yet I would have made a buying decision based on them.

 

That would have been unfair. So I guess that’s why this venture worked out as it did—to reveal that unfairness in me to me.

 

I shall read the first three pages of this book and then decide whether or not to read on.

 

Obviously, I can’t recommend the book since I’ve not yet read it. But I discovered, along with the admitted unfairness, I also do not choose what to read as a reader. I choose as a reader and writer. Maybe the two are inseparable. I’ll need to think more on that.

 

What’s fascinated me about this is I didn’t choose to get a book based on the book but because the author was interesting—characterization, I find fascinating. Is that common? I don’t know. Is it?

 

What makes you choose the books you choose?

 

That isn’t a rhetorical question. I really would like to know, so I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me in the comments.

 

Blessings,

 

Vicki

Divine Moments: God Uses Book to Touch Others by Yvonne Lehman

Divine Momemts Cvr YvonneOne can expect the unexpected when writers get together at a gathering or a conference. At the May 2012 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, Cindy Sproles told of a miraculous story of God showing up in a surprising way and place. I added my own story. Other conferees sitting around after classes, added theirs. I said, “Somebody…should put these stories in a book.”

 

Well, the word got around and eventually Terri Kalfas of Grace Publishing contacted me and asked how “My book” was coming along. So… that was the real beginning of what became 50 inspirational stories written by 37 authors in Divine Moments.

 

The authors did not get any compensation and all were eager to donate royalties to Samaritan’s Purse. Twenty-three of the authors did show up at the Blue Ridge in May (2013) to get their one-free-book! I’ve never seen such a happy bunch of people. We were experiencing the joy of having given. We were getting a great blessing.

 

But the blessing has gone far beyond our feelings. God is using this book to touch others. There have been many testimonies but this one I’d like to share with you:

One of the authors had talked for years to her family about accepting Jesus into their hearts but to no avail. However, upon reading her story, the family is receptive to talking about God and Jesus and one family member has become a Christian. In addition to that, the article was read by the woman who led the author to Christ over twenty years ago. That woman has invited the author to come and speak to her prayer retreat group.

 

There are wonderful stories that can be told by each of us about what God does in our lives. The next in the “Moments” series is Christmas Moments (to be released before Christmas). That too, has 50 stories with an inspiring faith focus.

 

At the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat (October 19-22), I will be announcing the opportunity for others to get their stories in print and have that inspiring, encouraging affect on the readers. The next one in the series is in the idea stage but will likely be Spoken Moments.

 

Some of you reading this may have a story about words having had a negative effect on you and how you overcame that, or words having had a positive effect and was a life-changing time for you. Some may have stories of God “speaking” to you through his Word, through other, through circumstances. If you would like to submit a story (500-2000 or so words) for consideration, without promise of compensation except joy, email me: yvonnelehman3@gmail.com

 

May your moments be blessed.

Yvonne

 

 

How do you use Goodreads? by Camy Tang

I’m in a Facebook group and we recently got into a discussion about how we each use Goodreads. I discovered that everyone seems to use Goodreads differently, so I wanted to ask you guys how you use Goodreads (if you’re on there at all).

Do you belong to groups on Goodreads? Which groups do you interact with the most and why?
Do you pay attention to the Updates tab on your home page to see what your Goodreads friends are doing?
Do you notice when your Goodreads friends add a book to their To-Read shelf?
Do you use Goodreads shelves to organize and catalogue your books?
Do you pay attention to reviews on Goodreads when choosing your next book?
Have you ever bought a book because someone on Goodreads recommended it, whether through the “recommend a book” feature or from a post in a Goodreads group?
Do you use the trivia? Quizzes? Quotes? Reading Challenges? Creative Writing community?
Do you enter Goodreads contests for free books? How do you decide which contest you enter? Or do you just enter a whole bunch of them since the chances of winning are low?

Personally, I mostly use Goodreads to interact on groups, especially Christian Fiction Devourers. I also really enjoy the Reading Challenges on Christian Fiction Devourers and have used the challenges to whittle down my TBR Pile this year.

I have a Camy Tang/Camille Elliot group–it’s small, but I always try to answer within a day or so if anyone posts.

I’m also on a few smaller groups like a few Regency romance groups. They’re not active, but the discussions are interesting, and I especially like the recommendations for new Regency romances.

I don’t really use Goodreads to catalogue my books because I already had several thousand books listed in my book catalog program (I use Booxter) on my computer before I started using Goodreads, and frankly, I’m too lazy to input all my books into Goodreads when I already have everything organized and catalogued in Booxter.

I admit that it is useful to put books in my Currently Reading shelf to remind me which books I should start next, because sometimes I’ll forget. So it’s not really my Currently Reading shelf, since they’re all books I haven’t started yet, so much as my Remember-to-read-this-next shelf.

I also admit that I don’t really pay much attention to my friend updates. I’ll read them, but the books they add to their To-Read shelf don’t really spark any interest in me because a lot of people add books to their To-Read shelves, especially when they enter a Goodreads contest. So To-Read shelf adds don’t interest me. Neither does the Recommend this book to a friend feature–when I get recommendations from my Goodreads friends, I usually ignore it.

But if someone on one of my Goodreads groups posts in a discussion thread about a book they really enjoyed, then I’ll pay attention and sometimes buy the book based on their recommendation. Also, if I see in my update feed a friend who reviewed a book, I sometimes read the review if the book looks like a genre I enjoy, and I might buy the book based on their review.

I sometimes enter contests, but only for books I think I’ll read. I like entering contests for books from new-to-me authors, so that I can try the book. I don’t often buy books from authors I’ve never read before–usually I only read books from new-to-me authors if the ebook is free. I just don’t have the money to buy so many books, and these days, ebook bargains are pretty commonplace so I can always find a free book that looks interesting.

Well? How do you use Goodreads?

Memoirs, Anyone?

I have a friend who reads almost no fiction. Although she isn’t much of a reader, when she does choose a book it’s either non-fiction or a memoir. I suppose she might secretly believe reading fiction is a waste of time, since it isn’t an account of actual happenings. Reading a novel, after all, takes a lot more time than escaping into a two-hour movie, so justifying that much time spent for pure enjoyment might not make it on the to-do list.

Being a fiction writer, I like to think there is a lot of truth between the pages of most novels. We can learn not only about various settings, historical or contemporary, familiar or exotic, but also about people and why they do things. Through fictional characters we can deepen our faith or expand our education, we can learn compassion for a different experience or point of view, feel emotions as we step into the shoes of someone entirely different from ourselves.

Memoirs can do this, too, but one thing I’ve come to warn myself when reading a memoir is that the author can fall into an easy pitfall – letting too much pride show, whether intentionally or not. In the memoir I’m reading now, the person is usually one step ahead of everyone else, recounting things that make her look just a tad bit better than those around her, either smarter, more selfless, or more brave. Of course memoirs are usually written by people who have admirers of one sort or another, so there is likely something to – well, admire – about that person to begin with. But when memoirs feel like the world spins with this person at its axis, that’s when a memoir stops working for me.

Maybe if more of us, myself included, ever wrote a story of our lives we too might be tempted to describe our experience as just a little bit better than reality. Or worse, depending upon the point of the memoir. We’re all so naturally self-centered, and of course memoirs feed this.

Can you guess I’m not the biggest fan of memoirs? I should probably apologize to those who love them. But there may be hope for me – perhaps I just haven’t read the right ones yet!

 

 

Dear Hannah by Hannah Alexander

Hannah Alexander logo

Are you ready for some more fictive advice for the lovelorn? Push aside your disbelief and read along. These may not be real, living breathing people, but you can pretty much count on someone in the world enduring what they’re enduring, and since I’m writing their stories, I can help them better than anyone. You can find these characters in a story set during Christmas in a book called Dandelion Moon.

Dear Hannah,

My fiance just fired me! Well, okay, he didn’t exactly fire me, I happened to overhear him explaining to a nasty woman on the hospital board why he hasn’t fired me yet. So he was planning to. I beat him to the punch out of self-preservation. We’ve had our differences. I mean, major differences, ones that broke up our engagement last year. I don’t want that to happen again. If it did, I think I’d give up on romance entirely. What’s the use? All that happens when it comes to romance for me is that I get hurt, or someone else does. Why bother?

Dr. Joy Gilbert

Dear Joy,

So you were eavesdropping and overheard something you shouldn’t have, then perhaps jumped to a conclusion? How can you know for sure? You didn’t give him a chance to explain? If you’re engaged to this man, do you think you might be able to guess what he’d have done if you hadn’t confronted him about it? Do you often feel the need to be in such control of your life that you force the issue to keep someone else from hurting you before you can defend yourself? I get the impression you don’t completely trust this fiance of yours after one breakup. Maybe the two of you need to spend a little more time together and get to know one another more. Time spent doing that might sound frustrating, but until a couple knows each other’s foibles and each can trust the other and still love them during the rough patches, time seems to be the best antidote for the questions running through your mind right now.

Why don’t you see if someone else might be behind this awful exchange? Is there someone who wants to hurt  you? Don’t automatically blame the fiance. Even in small towns like Juliet, there are mean people. Don’t let them win. Trust in love, and wait until it’s right. You’ll know.

I wish you the best,

Hannah Alexander

It’s a Smoothie Life

So I made this smoothie: Two little lemons–whole (peel, pith, seeds, you get it)–two palm sized broccoli florets, one whole zucchini, handful of baby carrots, kale and spinach…no, wait, here comes the sweet part: frozen mango, two bananas, and some thick berry juice. Blend it, blend it, blend it and voila! So refreshing. And I got to wondering, why does this work? Sour, bitter, pungent–shouldn’t that ruin the rest? Like a parking ticket ruins your day, or gossip ruins a friendship, or grief makes life hard to bear.

But what if it were only mango, banana, and berry juice? Where’s the tang, the nutrients, the fortification? The first taste of sweetness is a delight, but after a while it either loses its impact or cloys. There’s nothing for the other taste buds that just lie there unstimulated. That seems like a life with no risk, no sacrifice, no effort or even failure. But aren’t these what make us better–or at least try harder?

I read a booklet years ago called Conformity with God’s will. The premise was that we should delight equally in trials and triumphs because the whole of it is God’s purpose for us. The blending of the sorrows and the joys, the bitter and the sweet, the pungent and the pleasant prepares our souls for Christ.

I wonder what would happen if I embraced irritations, popped them in the blender with amusements. Heartache, in you go with ecstasy, because who can sustain either? But isn’t one better because of the other?

In Paul’s words to the Philippians: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Now, as I work my straw over the bottom of the glass, I’m fairly confident I’ll be healthier for it–and thankful that life has the richness and texture of whatever experience the Father knows we need.

Life’s Projects by Tara Randel

Last time I posted, we were beginning a remodel of our house. I’m pleased to say, the work is almost finished. My husband is putting down the floor and then everything will be complete. Or will it? After the floor, we have to install baseboards, then paint. Finally, my favorite part, we get to move the furniture back in.

It seems as though life is a never ending project. Just when we think we’re near the end of one thing, another project pops up. The only constant in life is our relationship with God. He is there, every step of the way in our journey, giving encouragement, strength and most importantly, listening. His shoulders are wide enough to carry our burdens and his love is deep enough to touch us no matter what is happening in life.

Psalm 24 is one of my favorite scripture verses. When I read this, I’m reminded that no matter what life throws at me, I will worship the Lord. With Him, I’m never alone. He is in control. And knowing this, I can move from one project or circumstance to another, through joy or sorrow, and share it with the Almighty God.

Throughout the mess of the remodel and the stress of having the house upturned and my schedule out of place, I found myself thinking about the Lord more than usual. Praising His holy name for who He is. Maybe getting out of my comfort zone was a good thing. Even in change, God is bu my side.

Enjoy reading this Psalm. Take the time to meditate upon it as you go about your day.

Psalm 24
The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.

They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior.
Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.
Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.

Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty—
he is the King of glory.

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