Introducing Guest Author Colleen Coble

Colleen 2012 Black

Write Who You Are

 

I’d always wanted to write from the first moment I wrote a story in first grade. That dream went underground for a while when raising our children, but I’d take it out and blow the dust off now and then. When my brother Randy was killed at 37 in a freak lightning accident, I knew I had to follow my dream.

I’ve always read a lot and during the 80s and 90s it seemed there was no hope in any of the books I was reading. If I was going to write, I wanted to leave readers with a sense of hope. I don’t want to preach at them—I want to write a really compelling mystery story without language or sex scenes. And I’m a Christian, so my worldview is automatically going to come through the stories. My characters usually struggle with something I’m struggling through. And that’s the way it is with any author. You can read Stephen King or Dean Koontz and understand their worldview. It’s impossible for the author to hide it.

Readers often ask me why I write intrigue and mystery into my romances. I love the puzzle of a murder mystery and the thrill of a heroine in danger. I grew up on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and loved pretending I was Nancy Drew on the trail of a mystery. I’m all about relationships too, so I love watching my characters work out their internal issues as they fall in love. But I have to have that mystery element in there too.

After puzzling through it for a long time, I finally realized it’s my strong sense of justice that compels me to have my heroine up against seemingly insurmountable odds and facing danger at every turn. In this world we don’t see much justice. Murderers go unpunished. Bad things happen to good people. But I know that justice is sometimes just delayed in this world. In the end, God will make sure that justice prevails. In the meantime, I can create a world of justice in my books! I can make sure the murderer gets what he deserves, that the hero saves the day, and that the heroine prevails against the problems she’s been working to overcome.

Beneath Copper Falls cover comp 2

Beneath Copper Falls is exactly that. My heroine is running for safe haven back to Rock Harbor, but she finds out you can run from trouble. J My Rock Harbor series has been a favorite with readers since the first book, Without a Trace, came out, and it was fun to go back there for me too!

How about you? If you read romantic mysteries, what draws you to the genre?

Colleen Coble

USAToday bestselling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has nearly 4 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com and connect at Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/colleencoblebooks?ref=hl

 

 

 

 

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Community by Tara Randel

As I get ready to attend the Romance Writers of America annual conference next week, I can’t help but get excited about seeing so many wonderful writer friends. I’m looking forward to visiting with women I only get to see once a year and catch up on their busy lives and careers. Authors spend a lot of time alone, so being part of a group that can understand our needs is valuable. I’ve called on my writer friends when I’m having trouble with a work in progress, need industry advice, or just want to chat about the writer’s life. It’s great to know I can pick up the phone and chat with such great friends.

We all have groups of people, communities, if you will, that help us in different areas of our lives. If you are in the medical profession, there are associations that keep you up-to-date on the latest technologies. If you work in an office, there are those you can rely on for problem solving or might be task-oriented to help you get that proposal or work project in on time. Maybe it’s a group of friends you meet with once a month for dinner or some kind of social event. You can see where I’m going with this, the list goes on and on.

As much as I love my professional and social friends, I could never get through life without my Christian friends. Those who walk with me in the day-to-day of loving and serving God.

About a year ago, after our church merged with another, so many of my friends scattered for various reasons. We tried to stay in touch, but it didn’t seem to work. But those of us who had prayed together in an intercessor group decided meeting once a month was important. We still pray together and now meet regularly for a Bible study. These are folks who know my heart, know the love I have for God, know the heartaches and victories I’ve experienced with the Lord. And I know the same about them. It binds us together.

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12

Communities are important. Friendship is invaluable. Linking arms to serve God together, pure joy. So hug the people in your community today and remind them how important they are in your life.

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in the Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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Something New by Hannah Alexander

0421171814I look at the title above and feel overwhelmed just thinking about trying something new. Life gets so complicated that the very thought of taking on yet another project numbs my brain. These kittens in the picture? They’re a big reason for my stress level. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy just raising them and seeing to it that they’ll someday go to a good home and will be polite and appealing to their new people.

They have, however, kept me energized and laughing at their antics as they’ve grown into adorable, playful young cats. Despite the trials of raising four kittens (actually five if we count their mother, who is still a kitten herself) we have been blessed with a new outlook on life.

We live near the old trails west, Oregon and Mormon among them. There are places where the wagon wheels became so embedded into the earth that they’re still there over a century and a half later. I haven’t been to see them yet, because I don’t like ruts.

As an introvert, I can easily get into a rut and stay home and avoid people. But after we’ve lived here for ten months, one kind lady from a church we visited actually invited me to meet her and some friends at the community center to play pinochle.

Now, I didn’t even know how to spell the word, much less play it, but I went last week. I learned the game. I felt welcome, and I discovered that I’m climbing out of the little rut I was in for months.

If you find yourself in a rut lately, even if you’re overwhelmed by work, you might consider trying something new. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time, but I think you’ll find that if you meet a new person, read a book by a writer you’ve never read before, or even take a walk in the rain, you could leave that rut behind for a little while.

 

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Life’s Unexpected Detours

Last weekend my daughter, granddaughter, and I had to make a trip out of town—not for anything fun, but to complete some business. On the return, I was eager to get home. I’m on deadline with my current book, and wanted to get back to work. We were about halfway home when my daughter asked if I’d like to stop at a Moon Marble Company, a small factory and shop where they make and sell marbles in Bonner Springs, Kansas. She’d mentioned it to me on a couple of occasions thinking it would be a fun place for all three of us to visit.

I’m going to be honest—I really didn’t want to make the stop. However, I went with the majority vote and agreed. It was one of those unexpected detours that turned out to be much more interesting and fun than I anticipated. I love anything that has the slightest connection to history, so when they announced they’d be making a marble just like they did it in the “olden days,” I was hooked.

Granted, they didn’t use bellows and forge, but even with the propane tank and electric kiln, it was fun to see the process. Believe me, I didn’t realize that creating handmade marbles was so time consuming and required such skill. Nowadays, most are machine made, but there are still craftsmen creating some lovely marbles. This is one of the larger marbles that was created by an artisan at Moon Marble Company.

Later, as I considered our little detour and how much I’d enjoyed it, I was reminded of some of the many detours I’ve encountered in my life. Not all of them have been ones that turned out as pleasant as my trip to the marble factory. However, each of them taught me a life lesson and drew me closer to the Lord. I’ve discovered that when I’m going through those tough detours, choosing to draw near and depend upon the Lord has deepened my relationship with Him and ‘grown’ me in my faith.  I won’t go so far as to say that I’ve always enjoyed the process, but if we walk through those detours with the Lord at our side, we can be formed and shaped into the creation He intended.

May you find joy as you walk with Him.

Judy

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Getting Away, If Only In Your Mind…

vacation

Its vacation time, and some of you are making travel plans for your summer getaways. Whether it’s a tropical beach somewhere, or a breathtaking mountain retreat, getting away from the day to day grind, even if it’s just for a little while, can help us to relax, rejuvenate, and refresh our minds.

But sometimes, taking a vacation just isn’t possible and we must find other ways to refresh. This is case for my husband and me this year.

With vacation not an option, we’ve come up with other ways to beat the Texas heat.

This year, we’ve set up our 15 foot, blow up pool around at the back of our house, and we spend time every afternoon there, enjoying the cool water.

But there are other ways to “get away” too, whenever you can’t actually get away. Or maybe you don’t have a blow up pool.

You’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this. A good book can take you to places you might never get to go otherwise.

No matter why type of books you enjoy reading, getting lost in a good story can make the days just fly by. And before you know it, when you reach “the end”, you realize you’ve taken a vacation without ever leaving your chair.

So, what’s your favorite book vacation?

 

Deadly Memories – Available now at Amazon

WOMAN WITHOUT A PAST

Amnesia may be keeping Ella Weiss from remembering her past—but not from saving the little boy who’s been her fellow prisoner the last seven years. After managing to escape her cell, all she wants is to find where little Joseph is being kept. Instead she runs straight into CIA agent Kyle Jennings. Kyle isn’t sure if Ella is actually a kidnap victim or if she’s working for the gunrunner he’s been after. One thing he is certain of is her uncanny resemblance to the wife he thought he’d buried. To save a child’s life and stop a terrorist from slipping through his fingers, he’ll need to uncover the secrets of Ella’s past—and whether or not she’s really the woman he’s never stopped loving.

 

All the best…

 

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

 

 

 

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Novel Retreat by Yvonne Lehman

For those who like to read of other’s accomplishments, or interested in becoming a part of the writing profession, or simply like to read and know about authors, I wanted to share this with you.

AMERICA’S WRITING TEACHER
by Lynn M. Brown

Jerry B. Jenkins (Left Behind) says that Dennis E. Hensley is like a utility player on a baseball team—he’s the guy who can do it all.

“Doc Hensley can write curriculum, devotions, novels, short stories, interviews, articles, columns, hard news, speeches, and stage musicals,” says Jenkins. “And, what’s equally amazing, he also can teach it all. I’ve never had a writers’conference that I haven’t asked Doc to be the keynote speaker.”

Hensley holds a Ph.D. in literature and linguistics from Ball State University, and for the past 20 years he has been the director of the professional writing major at Taylor University, where he holds the rank of full professor. Each year he serves as a judge for the Christy Awards, the Christian Book Awards, and the Evangelical Press Association Awards.

“I feel my career is divided equally between being an active writer and training others to be writers,” says Hensley. “I have 72 full-time students in my college writing program at Taylor, and I also teach at eight writers’ conferences each year, write a column about writing for Christian Communicator, and write textbooks about aspects of professional writing.”

Recent releases show the balance between author and teacher. Hensley’s novel Pseudonym (Whitaker Publishers, 2016) and his short story collections, Jesus in the 9 to 5 (AMG Publishers, 2014) and Jesus in All Four Seasons (Bold Vision Books, 2015), verify his talent as a fiction writer. His book Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects (Bold Vision Books, 2017) is his tenth writing textbook.

“I was a newspaper reporter for the Muncie Star at nights and on weekends during the four years I was doing my Ph.D. studies,” explains Hensley. “I was writing fast, hitting deadlines, and learning to investigate a wide range of topics. Simultaneously, I was studying the great classics of world literature. For a career in writing, it was the best of both worlds.”

Hensley is in constant demand as a keynote speaker at writers’ conferences. Eva Everson, director of the Florida Christian Writers Conference, says, “Doc Hensley brought the house down the five times he addressed our attendees at our 2017 conference. He’s hilariously funny, but he always provides solid, useful, valuable content related to improving one’s writing skills.”

Similarly, Amy Munnell, director of the Southeastern Writers Conference (St. Simon’s Island, Georgia), says, “Doc Hensley’s 2017 appearance is the fifth time he has served as one of our workshop leaders. He always has fresh material to present. He recites poetry, tells funny anecdotes, shares valuable writing examples, and always takes time to work one-on-one with our conferees.”

Dennis and Rose Hensley have been married for 45 years, having met as teenagers while enrolled at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan. They have two grown married children, Nathan and Jeanette, and four grandchildren. During 1970 and 1971 Dr. Hensley served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army and was awarded six medals for a year of duty in Vietnam.

“During my years at Taylor I have taught more than 1,200 students, and each has become a published writer. Many of my graduates are now in key positions in the world of Christian publishing. For example, Estee Zandee is an editor at Zondervan, Amy Green is an editor at Bethany House, and Katie Jameson is an editor at Focus on the Family. In 2015 my student Chandler Birch won the Simon and Schuster college novelist of the year award and received a $3,000 advance and a publishing contract for his novel The Face Faker’s Game. It’s gratifying to see my investment in my students pay off so well.”

As the author of 63 published books and more than 3,500 articles, interviews, columns, and short stories, one might wonder what is left for Hensley to be challenged by.

“Oh, there are always new developments in professional writing,” he says. “When I initiated the writing program at Taylor in 1997, there was no such thing as ebooks, blogging, smart phones, iPads, Nooks, Kindles, online publishing, Skype, or news streaming. I’m continually having to reinvent myself as a writer. It’s invigorating!”

Dr. Hensley writes a weekly blog related to writing on his web site of http://www.dochensley.com.

Dr. Hensley, obviously, knows how to write and teach the writing craft. Come and take advantage of his vast experience October 8-12, 2017 for the Blue Ridge “Autumn in the Mountains” Novelist Retreat (Novels, Craft, Movies, Social Media).

For more information about the retreat go to: http://www.yvonnelehman.com (Novel Retreat)
Or http://ridgecrestconferencecenter.org/event/novelist

I’d love to have you join us! Best wishes, Yvonne (Director) yvonnelehman3@gmail.com

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Vacation or Staycation by Tara Randel

In just a few weeks, I’ll be heading to Orlando for the annual Romance Writers of America conference. It’s not very far away, but after spending the last couple of months writing and meeting deadlines, it is definitely a mini-vacation. I get to visit friends I usually only see at the conference, room with friends I love to hang out with, and visit my editor, who I normally only communicate with through email or a phone call. It’s always an exciting time and while thinking about getting away, this question popped into my head. Vacation or Staycation?

With temperatures in the 90’s here in Florida, I vote for staycation. As much as I love the beach, the thought of roasting in the sun is not appealing.

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But there is always the pool to consider. If it gets too hot, there’s the option of going back indoors to the very appreciated air conditioning to watch a movie.

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Usually my husband travel to the mountains in the fall. I love to see the changing leaves and experience the crisp air, but right now, the idea of hiking through the woods or rafting down a cool river is very high on my list.

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When it comes to time off, either traveling or staying home can meet your needs. Jetting off to some exotic locale or driving across the country is an adventure, but sometimes staying in your own backyard and visiting new restaurants or catching a summer blockbuster movie can be just as fulfilling. That’s the thing about vacations, there are tons of places to see in this great big world. You can do just about anything you put your mind to.

Have a great summer!

Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, as well as books in the Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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FREEDOM by Hannah Alexander

I read a post recently that said many people don’t know what the July 4 holiday is all about. Maybe that’s true, and if it is, it’s tragic. We have so many freedoms in our country, and those freedoms have been paid for by the blood of warriors. They need to be honored and remembered.

We have another freedom I exercise daily–the freedom I have in Christ. The blood of Jesus Christ freed me from the eternal consequences of my own sin. He deserves my honor and love.

I thank God for our freedoms today, and honor those who fought and died.

 

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Those Specific Prayers by Julie Arduini

Those Specific Prayers_edited

Those Specific Prayers by Julie Arduini

Last year was not my finest hour. I knew things would be busy as I transitioned from small publisher to my own writing and speaking ministry, Surrendered Scribe Media. I was aware I had one book to re release, one to release, and another to write to finish the series.

I was preparing myself to tackle the time frame, formatting what really was 4 books because both releases needed formatting for electronic and soft cover. I was observant that looming over all of that was one son’s wedding and another son’s graduation.

None of us was prepared for the toll it took.

I was so consumed by meeting the release deadlines I made for myself I forgot to drink. You would wonder who would do such a thing?

Well, me.

I forgot to drink and eat for hours and hours. I became very dehydrated and ended up in a lot of pain. I think mentally I pushed myself so hard that I re wired my hormones, because everything flipped on me. I’m of that middle age where things change, but menopause is something I’ve dealt with for years. Whatever that was, it was scarier than anything you’d find in a suspense movie.

This was a scenario none of us forgot, so when the deadline for ENGAGED came into view. I decided to be proactive. I picked up on my devotional reading, adding The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz to the mix, as well as Esther Fleece’s No More Faking Fine. Those pages were anointed and did so much to not only heal things I didn’t even know where wrong, but prepare me for everything on my plate.

We also take one dinner a week and pray as a family. It’s an extended time where we share praises and requests and we press in together. I was honest to say I was nervous about the deadline and didn’t want to turn into whatever last year was. I asked for supernatural peace. I didn’t want any emotion or reaction I could manufacture, but all resources from Him.

And He delivered. Instead of having an all or nothing mentality when it came to formatting, I took things in increments. I set a deadline to finish each day, and then I did other things. I remembered to drink. My emotions were steady and I felt such peace.

When we shared praises and prayers this week, our daughter in her prayer thanked God for “Keeping Mom sane when finishing the book.” I smiled, but it really is a legitimate praise. I often equate writing to my husband’s favorite hobby, golf. There are days that are so tough you want to toss the laptop and walk away. Then there are the times, like writing and releasing ENGAGED, that go so smooth, you want to walk on air.

If you have a lot going on and you are feeling stressed about it, I challenge you to take every single thought to Christ. Lean on Him hard and be specific in what you need. He is for you, and He will deliver the best plan for you. If you aren’t sure what to ask for, I always ask for wisdom, discernment, the Armor of God, and the Fruit of the Spirit.

While I’m “chatting” away, ENGAGED is now available for electronic devices. If you don’t have a Kindle, no worries. Download the FREE Amazon app and you will be ready to read your favorite eBooks. The print version will be ready in early July. This is Trish’s story about surrendering failed dreams for God’s plans.Engaged

If you’d like Book 1, ENTRUSTED, it is a FREE eRead at juliearduini.com. I even added a bonus novella, MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN for those that sign up for ENTRUSTED.

Lastly, I was a guest at Wholly Loved this week, and the post is similar as far as me sharing vulnerable places and how God came through. I believe it will encourage you!

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The Beauty Of Change

time-for-a-change-2015164_960_720

Okay, I know what you’re saying…change can be beautiful? No way. I’m inclined to agree with you. I’ll be the first person to say I am not a fan of change. It can be disruptive and overwhelming to your peace of mind. But in life as in writing, change is inevitable.

So when I recently had an unexpected change occurred in my life, I found myself searching for a way to find something good about change. And what I found was not only good, but beautiful.

First I thought about the changing seasons. If you live in the north where it snows a bunch, you probably love it when winter changes to spring. My favorite season is the fall. By the end of a long hot Texas summer, fall is a welcoming change in both temperature and scenery. Good thing…right?

Then I thought about change in my family life. I’m a grandmother of three beautiful girls and I can’t imagine my life without them enriching it. Each are special and different in their own way. But if I’d never met my husband, who knows where my life would be. I thank God every day for those blessings.

I considered the changes I’ve seen at my church in the years that I’ve attended. We’ve seen pastors come and go. Each brought value to our church. Youth pastors have moved on to serve other churches and members have gone to be with God. My life has been blessed by each of them.

Then I thought about my writing. I’m so happy to be called a Christian writer, but if I’d never taken the chance to enter a Love Inspired writing contest would I still be searching for my place to serve God? Getting my first Love Inspired Suspense contract confirmed what I believe God wanted me to do with my writing.

In my latest Love Inspired Suspense, Deadly Memories, both Ella Weiss and Kyle Jennings’ lives are changed forever when they meet per chance outside of a destroyed compound in the desert of Afghanistan.

Will it be for the better? Find out. Deadly Memories is available at Amazon:

So, if you are going through change in your life, or your career, take a moment to look back on the changes you’ve gone through so far. I bet you’ll see the fingerprints of God throughout it all.

While change is always hard and can turn your life upside down, as I’ve looked back on my life, I’ve realized change has always moved me toward good things. And looking at it now, I can see God’s hand through it all.

deadly memories

A little about Deadly Memories:

WOMAN WITHOUT A PAST

 

Amnesia may be keeping Ella Weiss from remembering her past—but not from saving the little boy who’s been her fellow prisoner the last seven years. After managing to escape her cell, all she wants is to find where little Joseph is being kept. Instead she runs straight into CIA agent Kyle Jennings. Kyle isn’t sure if Ella is actually a kidnap victim or if she’s working for the gunrunner he’s been after. One thing he is certain of is her uncanny resemblance to the wife he thought he’d buried. To save a child’s life and stop a terrorist from slipping through his fingers, he’ll need to uncover the secrets of Ella’s past—and whether or not she’s really the woman he’s never stopped loving.

All the best…

 

Mary Alford

www.maryalford.net
 

 

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As if Jesus is Coming Tomorrow

51ewa3mJJsLCamy Tang/Camille Elliot here! Every other month, I like to have brunch with my friend, Christian novelist MaryLu Tyndall. The other weekend we were talking about God’s plan for our writing, and she mentioned that she felt burdened for the people who consider themselves Christians, but who do not live their lives for Jesus. She feels that her purpose in her writing is to get people to wake up and start giving their all for Jesus rather than just drifting along, doing their own thing.

We got to talking about the Second Coming of Christ, and it reminded me that we should be living as if Jesus is coming tomorrow. I find myself becoming too comfortable with this world, but really, this isn’t my home. I should be fixing my eyes on the new Heaven when Jesus comes again to collect us all to Him.

And then, as usually happens, God spoke to me on the same topic in my quiet time devotionals a couple days later. The passage was Luke 12:35-48 (ESV):

(Jesus speaking) “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”

The passage reminded me that I need to remain faithful in my work for God up until the very moment He returns. If Jesus comes tomorrow, will I have given my all today to do His will? Will He be pleased with me?

I know that I often get lazy or live selfishly—it runs in cycles, I find. But I need to be disciplined and diligent to be doing God’s will for me at all times, no matter how lazy I feel, because I don’t know when He’ll return. Just because He’s not physically here on earth now doesn’t mean I can forget that I have a purpose for my life. Instead, I need to be serving Him every day.

I think I need these reminders in my life that 1) this is not my home and 2) I should give my all for Jesus as if He’s coming tomorrow. I find that it changes not just my attitude, but also what I choose to do each day.

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What’s under there? Underwear!

Did my title get your attention? I hope so! Today, I thought I’d “slip” back in history and discuss a little about underwear. Since I’ve been going through some of my fashion and clothing books to complete a bit of research, I thought I’d share a little about the history of women’s undergarments—the bustles, chemises, and crinolines. However, I quickly changed my mind when I discovered a cartoon of a man tying on a pair of “artificial calves,” an accessory introduced around 1770. The purpose was to accentuate the shapeliness of the male calf of the leg, which below the tight breeches of the period was regarded as ‘captivating.’ Who knew men’s calves were once considered captivating! Then again maybe they still are, and I just don’t know it.

After discovering the artificial calves, I couldn’t curtail my curiosity. I continued through the pages of men’s underwear and accessories and soon discovered the inventory of a gentleman’s linen consisted of more than nightshirts, nightcaps and drawers.  During this same time period, men often wore corsets. Yep—you read that correctly: men wearing corsets. I discovered a quote from The Hermit in London, dated 1819 that states “He was dressed in the ultra pitch of fashion, collared like the leader of a four-horse team, and pinched in the middle like an hourglass, with a neck as long as a goose, and a cravat as ample as a tablecloth.” Doesn’t that paint quite a word-picture? Several pages later, I discovered another cartoon—a man gripping a bedpost while being laced into a corset by his butler. Amazing what a bit of research will reveal!

While at a historical writer’s retreat several years ago, I had the experience of being laced into a corset. I must admit that I wasn’t brave enough to have myself “pinched in the middle like an hourglass.” Instead, I opted for the shape of a Mason canning jar. The corset held my spine nice and straight and certainly changed the way I sat and walked. I think that’s why women of yesteryear always looked so proper. They couldn’t move, so they sat and smiled. Worst of all, my corset wearing experience took place at lunch time. I soon discovered you can’t eat much while wearing a corset.  Talk about a bad case of acid reflux! You can rest assured that I insisted upon being unlaced before dessert was served.

In today’s world we’re bombarded with pictures and discussions of the perfect body image. Research proves this obsession with the perfect physical appearance is nothing new. We need only peek at a few history books to realize that both men and women have been striving to attain that perfect image for thousands of years. What if we spent as much time “clothing” our inner-selves by spending more time in prayer and studying the Word? We’d please our Lord, and the world would become a much lovelier place for all of us.

Blessings as you strive toward inner beauty.

~Judy

 

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Reading Places by Tara Randel

Yesterday I was part of a Facebook party. I posed the question, where was your favorite place to read when you were a child?

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do during the summer was to go outside and read. For most kids my age, summer reading was a real chore. Not for me. There were trees on the side of the house and I used to throw out a blanket and sit under the shade, losing myself for hours in faraway places with compelling characters who captured my attention. When I close my eyes, I can still feel the breeze, smell the freshly cut grass and feel of the book pages. I still love to read and can be swept away pretty much anywhere I open a book.

I started reading with the Bobbsey Twins. Remember Nan and Bert, Flossie and Freddie? Then I moved on to Nancy Drew. I was always drawn to mysteries or, when I got older, a good romance story. I can’t recall the hours I spent in the library during the summer, leaving the building with a stack of books in my arms. I either ended up locked in my bedroom, lounging on on my bed as I poured through a book, or back outside under the trees. What is it about fresh air and reading going hand in hand?

When I got to college I really didn’t have time to read anything but school books. Not exactly page-turners, but for that period of time, very important, so I buckled down and stayed away from fiction.

My husband is also a big reader, so when we got married we exchanged mysteries or thrillers. Then the kids came along and although I kept up my reading habit, I also read to the girls from the time they were babies. They never complained when I plopped them in the wagon and lugged them to the library. It opened up a whole new world of reading for them.

The backyard is still a place I  love to curl up with a good book.

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and then there’s the beach…

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Today I spend my days creating stories, but at night, I still hold a book in my hands. My husband laughs and asks how I can read after spending the day looking at the computer screen while writing my own book. I tell him, I’m reading someone else’s novel and it helps me relax. I couldn’t imagine a life without books. How about you?

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Tara Randel is an award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifteen novels. Family values, a bit of mystery and, of course, love and romance, are her favorite themes, because she believes love is the greatest gift of all. She is currently working on new stories for Harlequin Heartwarming, The Business of Weddings series, as well as books in the Amish Inn Mysteries. Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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Healing the Wounds by Hannah Alexander

Being linked to the medical profession by my husband, I saw a lot of sick people, injured people, and people struggling with mental illness come through our clinic. They all had one thing in common–if the injury or illness was bad enough, they could have died. Emotional and physical pain are both debilitating. I’ve endured and seen both, and my heart breaks especially for those suffering with mental illness. Depression is a devastation. I’m addressing this subject because some people I love have been hit hard by a suicide recently.

Ever since the back-to-back suicides of three friends when I was a teenager, I have believed that death from suicide is the result of a mental illness, not of human action. That illness invades the mind and controls the thoughts until a person is blind to logic and to love. I’ve seen a depressed mother shut out her own child and turn a deaf ear to her cries. That woman was not in control of her actions. If she’d been in her right mind and not fighting depression, she would never have hurt her child in that way. I’m convinced that mental illness is as debilitating as a heart attack or stroke or cancer. It’s a literal illness of the brain, not a weakness of personal will. One would not blame an Alzheimer’s victim for losing his memory, or an accident victim for his injuries. I believe this with all my heart, and would never say otherwise to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide. My hope today is to offer comfort to those affected by suicide.

Depression runs in my family. I have had periods of depression so dark that heaven seemed to be calling me. Honestly, when a person’s final destination is heaven, it might seem logical to go ahead and get there as soon as possible, right? Who wouldn’t prefer heaven to the suffering we have here on earth? All I can say is that God is the only One with the right to decide the day of my death. I belong to Him. Sometimes it has been my love for those who loved me here on earth that kept me from committing that final act. I don’t believe I’ve suffered the depth of depression that others have endured, but I cannot imagine anything more painful.

After moving to the wild west last year, I noticed billboards along the roadsides with suicide hotline numbers. The problem is addressed here much more than it was where we used to live. I don’t know why. There are fewer people here in the Panhandle. I wouldn’t expect to see as many suicides here as in a more populated area. There is such a strong sense of community in this place that I wouldn’t expect to see people drop through the cracks quite so often, but someone obviously saw fit to address the problem. Maybe those billboards will be instrumental in saving some lives.

Do you suffer from depression? You are not alone, it just feels as if you are. Depression can raise its ugly head in a multitude of ways, and it can catch you or a loved one unaware. Sadness might be a symptom of depression, but I’ve found that it often it asserts itself in rage, paranoia, self-loathing. Any negative emotion you might imagine, from fear to hopelessness, can be a sign of depression.

Uncountable books have been written on this many-pronged mental illness, and there’s no room to delve deeply here. I can only write about what I’ve experienced. Depression can combine with PTSD and destroy relationships. The heroes who have fought for our country, the police, the firemen, emergency workers, all are more prone to attacks of PTSD and depression than the general population, but certain personality types are also more prone. If you or a loved one struggle with these issues, I would strongly suggest seeking a counselor who can help you.

I found a surprisingly helpful treatment for PTSD, depression, and several other mental illnesses, and it doesn’t take years to see the results. The initials for this treatment are EMDR and it involves eye movement. I was a total skeptic when I first read about EMDR, but I called a Christian friend of mine who operates a mental health system, and he assured me that EMDR has been helpful for many patients. A few years later, when PTSD popped up in my own life, I decided to seek help through EMDR.

The therapist I met with was compassionate and understanding. She assured me I wasn’t “going crazy” and that she could help. She had been studying EMDR, and I asked her to use me as a guinea pig. She did some basic walk-throughs, and I realized this was something I could use on myself at any time when I had trouble. Within a few weeks I was much better and was equipped to help myself. Of course, I’m not on the front lines of emergency services or war; I’m simply someone who witnessed too many deaths in a short period of time.

I’ve sought out several ways to address depression, and each time I find something that helps me, I want to share it. When you are in the middle of depression it’s hard to see a way out. That’s the hopelessness. But there is hope.

I have prayed for God to take me home. He did not. Please know that there is hope no matter how helpless you feel. There are drug therapies, wild green oat supplements (yep, using it now), behavioral therapies, and there should always be someone who will listen to you. Call for help. Seek it until you find it. God is your first line of defense against depression and mental illness. He has given many gifted people the ability to help you. Let them.

 

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A Message to My Father by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, A Message to my father

It is often said that we don’t truly appreciate what we have until we’ve lost it. The core truth in that became evident to me the day my father passed away. Like most daughters, he was my hero—the yardstick by which I measured every other man, and in many ways still do.

 

In the months after his death, I relived many of the conversations we’d shared. Things he showed me, taught me, projects we did together. He was engaged in all things, open to discussing all things.

 

Even today, I hear his voice. I hear his encouraging, his warning, his wisdom, and his guidance.

 

One year, my son gave my husband a wall hanging. It reads: “The greatest gift I ever got came from God. I call him Dad.” That was over twenty years ago and still today it hangs on the wall beside my husband’s favorite chair. Still today, on occasion he speaks of it, reads it, mentions it. It has been a source of rededication to him. A reminder to him during hard times and good times.

 

Fathers are such a critical part of childrens’ lives. And so long as their children live, and their childrens’ children live, their role never ends. For the lessons they teach are then recalled and taught. The lives fathers shape go on to shape the lives of others.

 

That is a great gift—and a treasured blessing.

 

And for it, today and every day, thank you, God, and thank you, Dad.

 

 

 

 

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