Unnoticed Moss by Nancy J. Farrier

Multnomah_Falls,_Columbia_River_Gorge,_OR_2006_(6506556421)

By inkknife_2000

 

We have seen so much devastation in recent weeks. Hurricanes. Fires. Flooding. Since I live in the West my focus has been on the horrible fires. Lives have been lost, homes destroyed, beautiful forests ruined. A heartbreaking loss for so many.

 

This past week my daughter shared an article with me about Multnomah Falls in Oregon. I love visiting the Fall—as do over two million people who go there every year. This landmark is closed indefinitely. Not because of the beautiful trees that burned. The Falls is closed because of the moss that burned. Moss? There was moss there? I remember seeing moss along the roadside and on trees, but didn’t pay much attention. Why would the moss be such a big deal?

 

According to the article, moss is the glue that holds everything together. The rocks overlooking the Falls, and the roads leading to the landmark, are suddenly missing a key element for stabilization. Vibrations can now make the rocks tumble to the pathways and roads putting people in danger. Big chunks of falling rock could come down at any minute. All because of something we normally don’t pay attention to, but that is a key factor in holding everything together. Moss. (You can read that article here.)

 

This got me thinking about the moss in my life. Those elements that are not usually seen, but give me stability in my everyday life and in my writing life. What is that glue I so desperately need?

 

In my life:

Prayer/Bible study: I know these are two separate areas, but they go hand-in-hand. Without Bible study my prayer life flags. Without prayer, my Bible study is shallow and without the depth I crave. Romans 12:12 tells us to be, “continuing steadfastly in prayer.” I may not be on my knees praying all day in the literal sense, but in the figurative sense I try to maintain this attitude and an open line of communication with God.

 

Family: My family is a constant source of encouragement. Yes, there are times of hardship and discouragement, but the good outweighs the negative. I love my time with them and don’t know what I would do without them.

 

Church: My soul needs the refreshment I find at church. Not just from attending once or twice a week, but from serving too. This glue is not all about me and what I need, but is strengthened when I reach out to others and lift them up in whatever way I can. I love serving God and helping my church family. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells me to consider others and to not forsake the fellowship of others.

 

Work: Ephesians 2:10 tells me God has prepared the work he wants me to do. Being obedient and working hard for Him keeps me focused on what is truly important. Whatever work he calls me to, I find that when I do that job there is satisfaction I never anticipated—even with the jobs I dread or don’t think I can do. God is amazing.

 

In my writing life:

Writing is one of the works God has called me to do and in order to do it right I must make sure the moss or glue is in place. What is this moss? It is very similar to what I need in my everyday life.

 

Prayer: I start my day with prayer and end my day with prayer. I pray before I write and when I write. I pray for God to give me the words I need, and I pray for those who will someday read those words, that their lives might be touched for Him. Bob Hostetler from the Steve Laube Agency wrote and excellent blog about writers and prayer. You can read it here.

 

Bible Study: If I am going to represent God as a writer and in my books, I must study His word and know His truth. With each book, I ask what He wants me to say and what truths He wants to come across in the story. Without the Bible, my writing would be nonsensical and not worth reading.

 

Family: Once again, my family is supportive and encouraging. I am blessed that way. They are a part of my glue.

 

Church: Without the soul food I get each week, I would not be the person I am. Whether I am helping someone else or being helped there is strength involved. The worship, the message, the hugs and greetings. All are combined to keep me glued to God, which is where I need to be.

 

My Writing Community: I love writers. So often, when I am discouraged, one of my friends will write a blog or post a work of encouragement that is just what I need to hear. We share the ups and downs of what can often be a lonely profession.

 

What about you? Have you ever thought about the moss that holds you together? Those little things that often go unnoticed, but are essential to who you are? Think about them. Even though no one else notices, take the time to be thankful for those gifts.

 

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WAITING by Marilyn Turk

I’m not good at waiting. Okay, so maybe I’m impatient.

My husband, on the other hand, can wait forever. Plus he has a lot of patience.

My husband is retired military. Waiting is part of his training. In fact the unspoken rule of the military is “Hurry up and wait.” I asked him how he dealt with that routine. Did it bother him? Did he question it?

His answer was that waiting was part of being ready. If he was required to be dressed out by 5:00 a.m., he was expected to do so, even if after he arrived, he waited an hour to be given the next order. Bother him? No. What good would that do? Question it? Yes, but the answer was that in case of an unexpected delay, there was time built in for preparedness.

Lately, I’ve contemplated how many things require waiting. Despite a society that thrives on instant gratification, there are still times that require waiting.

For example, humans take an average of nine months from conception to a child’s birth. Seeds planted in the ground require time to produce flowers. Fruit and vegetables require time to mature, to be edible.

Writing, too, requires time. When I first entertained the notion of seeing my writing published, I heard stories of how many years it took for most authors to be published. In traditional publishing (not self-publishing), this is still the case. But of course I thought I would be an exception to the rule. I figured as soon as I got something written, it would be published.  Not so.

Why? For one, before I submitted to a publisher, I asked experienced people in the business to look over what I’d written, Naturally, I’d expected accolades, praise that I’d written something so wonderful. But even though I thought I was literate enough to write, I lacked experience and knowledge to make my writing suitable for publication. And how does one gain experience and knowledge? It takes time. And time requires waiting.

So when my writing finally got to the point where it was acceptable for a publisher, I submitted it. And then I waited for a response. Publishers aren’t usually quick to respond because there are many writers submitting to them, as well as many people at the publishing company that weigh in on decisions.

Finally, a publisher accepted my work, then I had to wait for a contract.

After the contract, many other things had to happen before publishing occurred – editing, editing and more editing of my “perfect” work, then production scheduling which included formatting and cover design.

Meanwhile, I waited.

Writers often compare bringing a story or book to its final print is like having a baby. And that is so true. Much as I want to hurry the process, I want the baby to have every opportunity to develop correctly.

And so I wait.

As I write this, outside my window are plants that are three feet tall. Each of those plants has multiple stems, and each of those stems has flowers — beautiful, colorful, unique flowers. Butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy those flowers as they flitter from one to the other. And I’m reminded that the flowers weren’t always there. Once they were tiny seeds I poked into the dirt.

And then I waited.

With flower seeds or book publication, I have no control over the outcome. I do, however, have control over my attitude while I wait, and what I can do in the meantime.

For me, it means turning over my desire for control to God and trust Him with the outcome. There’s a Bible verse I like that relates to this process. “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”    Psalm 5:3

 

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Blennerhasset Island, a Novel Idea

I love history so my vacations always include visits to any historic site or museum I can locate in the area. On one of my treks to West Virginia, I had the opportunity to visit

Blennerhassett Island located across the Ohio River near Parkersburg, West Virginia. My first stop was the Blennerhasset Museum where I snapped pictures like crazy. Most of the artifacts are from the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. What a treasure trove of artifacts.

After the museum visit, I rode the Island Belle ferry across the Ohio River where I stepped onto Blennerhassett Island. The day included the ferry ride, a tour of Blennerhassett Mansion, the Putnam Houser home, and a horse-drawn wagon tour of the upper end of the island. Our group returned to Parkersburg at 5:00 p.m. for a wonderful dinner at the Blennerhassett Hotel.

I learned a bit of history about Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, the island, and an unexpected connection to Aaron Burr. If I’d ever heard about the Aaron Burr conspiracy in history class, I had forgotten, so I was captivated by the story.

The mansion was constructed by Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, a wealthy Anglo-Irish couple. The Blennerhassett Mansion became known during its brief existence as the Ohio Valley’s most beautiful private residence.  Beyond its extravagantly landscaped lawns and gardens lay a dark wilderness broken only infrequently by scattered log cabins and a few small settlements.

Harman and Margaret sold their 7000-acre County Kerry estate in 1795 and emigrated to America, landing the next year in New York City.  By the spring of 1798, they had located on the upper end of the Ohio River island two miles below the present-day Parkersburg, West Virginia, and started the construction of their new American home.

When they moved into their house in the late summer, 1800, it contained 7,000 square feet of (daily living) interior floor space and a frontage of 186 feet, making it one of the largest homes in the country.  It was designed in the Palladian style with walkways and attached wing buildings curving upstream from a central structure like arms welcoming approaching river travelers.

The Blennerhassett estate appeared so splendid it was nicknamed “paradise,” “Eden,” and “the Enchanted Island.”  But it proved a tragically short-lived haven for those who created it.  Harman and Margaret became entangled in the ill-fated Aaron Burr Expedition to the Southwest (1805-1807) and fled their island home December 1806. Burr had been arrested and charged with treason. The prosecution alleged Burr intended to take New Orleans by force and make it the capitol of his new western empire. Though later exonerated, Blennerhassett was considered suspect because Burr had visited the island on several occasions during the planning of his conspiracy.

The house burned to the ground in 1811 remaining only a romantic legend until reconstructed by the State of West Virginia as the centerpiece of its new Blennerhassett Island Historical State Park.

So there you have it—a man-made creation of beauty laced with tragedy—fine fodder for a book, don’t you think? I’ve placed it in my “idea folder” for a future project.

May you find joy as you explore God’s creation. ~Judy

Judy’s most recent novel, Chapel Car Bride, is now available online or at your favorite bookstore.

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Researching the Everglades Was Fun! By Margaret Daley

Researching the Everglades Was Fun!

By Margaret Daley

A couple of weeks ago I went to Florida for the NINC conference in St. Petersburg. It’s a great writer’s conference. A friend and I decided to do some research while we were in Florida. We stayed overnight in Naples before the conference and spent the next day in the Everglades. We weren’t sure we would get to see much because of the Hurricane Irma a few weeks before. The Everglades National Park was partially open, but Big Cypress National Preserve was still closed due to the hurricane. Thankfully we found a place that had recently opened back up for business, and we were able to take a tour of the Everglades off Highway 41, which cuts across the lower part of Florida and goes to Miami.

Everglades-bird

I learned so much from our guides into the swamp. What not to eat and what I can eat. For a writer that’s great information to have for a romantic suspense book. I saw a lot of down trees, but also how the Everglades was bouncing back. The high waters were starting to recede and the animals that fled to higher ground were returning. I got to see an alligator in the wils and tons of beautiful flowers and birds. I thought being outside a lot I would have problems with my allergies, but I didn’t. I believe one of the reasons why was the air plants that littered the Everglades. Some were destroyed in the hurricane, but there were still many in the remaining trees to purify the air. It was a perfect day. I held a three-year-old alligator and talked to a man who handles alligators. Again, wonderful research for a book! But the best part of the trip was traveling into the Everglades on a dirt road. My friend and I didn’t see another human being for almost two hours. The road was narrow (one car only), and the swamp came up on both sides. There was no cell reception, so we tried not to think about what would happen to us if we broke down, but a lady at the Everglades tour company told me about the scenic road. She was right. It was great!

Everglades-alligator

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I’m NOT Pointing Fingers

By Hannah Alexander

IMG_3503

Forgive me if I seem self-indulgent here. I’m not trying to be. I’ve been arguing with my conscience for quite some time, especially since the last big shocker from the entertainment industry in Hollywood. It breaks my heart to think that those young actors I loved in The Lost Boys and The Outsiders and many other movies endured horrific abuse in order to “make it” in the industry.

Call me clueless–many people do–but aren’t children supposed to be treasured by adults? Aren’t they supposed to be protected? Instead, children in the entertainment world are being exploited in every way possible. So now when I watch TV–and Mel and I watch far more than is healthy–I cannot help wondering if the characters I’m watching have been–or are being–abused by the adults who are supposed to be “in charge.”

I’m not pointing fingers at anyone else who watches television for entertainment at night after a long day of work. Sometimes we just need an escape, right? But now I’m having trouble enjoying these shows while I’m watching them. For instance, we just finished watching the first season of Stranger Things. I was drawn to it in the first place because those young boys were so adorable. By the time we watched the last episode, I had lost all enjoyment because I couldn’t help imagining those kids being manipulated by some sex-hungry adult lurking on the set.

But silly me. I was a child once–decades ago. I knew about those kinds of lurkers because I was a target, too. And it wasn’t just one isolated adult who targeted me. I learned when I was eight not to trust strangers–and sometimes I discovered I couldn’t trust friends of the family. For any child, wounded and hungry adults lurk in nearly every corner of every store, in every school, every park, even church.

Yes, of course all women are prey at one time or another–prey of both men AND women. We learn that early. We have to. And we learn how to avoid most situations if we can. I’m so thankful for the people in my life who did all they could to protect me. They weren’t aways around and they didn’t know what I knew, but if I spoke up, those staunch protectors–whether a teacher or an employer or a parent or friend–defended me with extreme prejudice.

And that’s just the real world, where the majority of adults really were safe. When it comes to the fantasy world of television and movies, not only do the innocent young and defenseless become prey, but we, as viewers, can become prey. Think about it. What kinds of messages are we receiving from producers, writers, directors, who live in a fictive world where anything goes and where those people in power abuse children? How are they influencing us as we watch their stories play out?

Have you watched a show lately where the jerk dies a horrible death in the end? How did that make you feel? Sure, I’ve killed the antagonists in my books several times. We all need to feel that justice will be done, if not in the real world, then in the books we read and the shows we watch. But last night when we watched the antagonist mutilated, the satisfaction I felt made me wonder. Was I exposing myself to something that would draw me from the ideals of forgiveness and redemption? Lately I’ve been seeking redemption for the antagonists in my books. Not all of them, because we have to be realistic–not everyone is going to repent–but I have begun to show more scenes of redemption, simply because I want to believe it’s possible.

What are we learning from the shows we watch? I’m not talking about the language, because that can be edited out with some programs, but what about the actual messages?

I think we can help one another become more aware of the influence moviemakers are having on our hearts and souls. I think that, for me, it’s time for a change. The lurkers have just changed hiding places, but even adults can become the victims of silent abuse. Beware.

 

 

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What Offends Us Today? by Vicki Hinze

Vicki Hinze, What Offends Us Today

 

The world has changed.  People… not so much.  We all laugh and cry, are happy and sad.  We all get angry, hurt feelings and other people hurt our feelings.  Sometimes they mean to hurt us and sometimes they don’t, but pain is pain either way.

The thing is, we can’t all walk around looking for things to be offended by; enough offense finds us on its own. And when you get down below all the clutter and noise, this is the truth:  We’re all the same. We all bleed red. We all offend and, at times, we’re all offended.

Some blame parents. When both work to pay the bills and aren’t hyper-focused on parenting, the family/kids suffer. When the family breaks down, the parent(s) aren’t sufficiently parenting, and the family/kids suffer.  Logically, we know we’re not super human. Parents with many obligations must divide their time and resources. In single parent households, the parent is often so busy keeping a roof over heads and food on the table, s/he can’t be or do everything he or she would like to do. Same goes for households where both parents are working or no parents are working. Nothing on the planet, and no one in this realm, is perfect.

The bottom line is parents are human. And even the best parent in the world, trying as hard as s/he can to be a great parent, is going to fall short and mess up. In all of humankind, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent and no such thing as a perfect child. While we human beings all have things in common, we’re all unique individuals, which means we have different needs, too. So we muddle through and parent(s) and children do their best. They succeed some and fail some and most hope and pray a lot that they succeed more than they fail.

Sometimes we forget that. We are bitter and angry because we’re not getting what we want or need. Or what we think we want or need. Sometimes we’re right about that—we aren’t getting what we need—but sometimes we’re not right. We’re looking at ourselves and not at all sides of the situation. We’re offended because we feel slighted. Because our world, as we envision what it should be, isn’t. We want our vision and don’t have it, so we’re resentful. And too often we decide that this shortfall is someone else’s fault. We cast blame, yet blame only complicates the challenges. And that brings us to the lesson our parents should have and might not have taught us.

That lesson deals with maturity. Mature people look at situations from all perspectives, through eyes that don’t cast blame but access.  Only after assessing as objectively as possible can one seek constructive solutions to any challenge.

One constructive solution is to realize, accept and understand that what seems really important at the moment likely isn’t important, or isn’t important long-term. That doesn’t mean there’s no value in it. It means there’s something to be learned about that value, and it’s what you learn and not the event offering the lesson that most matters.

Before you spiral into depression, ask yourself if you’re going to remember this event in five years. Is it going to change you forever? Should you be that angry, that devastated, that offended by it?

The thing is, most of the situations that really upset us are short-term. We need to remind ourselves that everything is not a crisis.  We also need to remind ourselves that if we’re old enough and mature enough to think about things in this way, we’re old enough and mature enough to know we can reason through the challenge.

We don’t wake up at eighteen or twenty-one with judgment. We develop it over our entire lives. Some things work well. We want to repeat them. Some things don’t work at all. We want to avoid repeating them. We have to learn. It is our good and bad experiences that shape us into the adults we become.

Sometimes people aren’t available for us. That’s reality. Sometimes they are dealing with issues and trials and obstacles we have no idea exist. The point is, others have lives, too, and their lives are demanding, just as ours are.

 

Sometimes we know what others are going through and sometimes we don’t. Some people consider specific things too personal to share. They don’t want to share them, don’t want to burden others with their troubles. They want to protect others. They want to forget. Whether due to shame or pain or another reason entirely of their own, they plead to forget.

 

If we remember that we never know someone else’s whole story, and we view their actions and what they say through that prism, we have deeper compassion for them and we are less inclination to be offended by that person’s actions or inactions.  We are able to understand the offense isn’t about us, but about them.

Being offended is easy. The problem is that what offends one person doesn’t offend others. We all bring our own gifts and our own baggage to every table. And what’s in that baggage and those gifts are different for every person at any given table. Today, we find more focus levied on being offended rather than on celebrating a diverse variety of gifts and understanding a plethora of baggage.

At times, it is impossible not to offend others. It’s impossible to live in a place shared with others where what offends is universal because the things deemed offensive are not universal. Oh, we pretty much agree that things like murder, theft, and abuse are offensive. But today, rightly or wrongly, people are offended by so much more.  It is common for what one person holds dear and cherishes to be deemed offensive by another.

The thing is when you live in a country that celebrates the freedom of speech and expression and choice, and you claim those freedoms, then you must also accept the responsibility to not infringe on those rights as they relate to others.

The responsibility part is one many of us seem to forget or ignore. Instead, we embrace the privileges and shun the responsibilities. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way it works. It would be fair to the embracer and unfair to all others, who equally share the privilege and responsibility.

The lesson from from all of this on offending and being offended is this:

 

Nothing in life is all about you and what you want or need.  Those things are important, but no more or less important than what others want or need. Everyone is equally important. And everyone has rights and responsibilities. They are a package deal, and one does not exist without the other.

To coexist peacefully, mutual respect is required.  Not warranted. Not an aspiration. Not an ideal. Required.

This requirement insists we seek to coexist peacefully. To understand and view actions and events honestly with understanding, compassion and mutual respect.

This requirement insists we seek to not be offended—and that is the lesson your parents have taught you about what offends us today…and every day.

 

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Introducing Guest Author Samantha Price

Samantha Price

I’ve always loved to read for as far back as I can remember. When I reached my teens I loved to read any romance I could get my hands on. 
Writing in the Amish romance genre was natural for me as I’d been raised in a strict Brethren (Anabaptist) household, which has similar roots to the Amish. 
My first books were in a series called Amish Romance Secrets, and I was overwhelmed with the response from readers. I have written over one hundred Amish mysteries and Amish romances.
The Amish Girl
One series I really enjoyed writing is the Amish Misfits series. I’ve always felt a bit of a misfit myself with my religious upbringing making me feel so different from others.  Book 1 is the Amish Girl Who Never Belonged. Book 6 in the series, Jeremiah’s Daughter, is due for release on December 1
Jeremiah_s Daughter
About Samantha:

 Samantha Price is a best selling author who knew she wanted to become a writer at the age of seven, while her grandmother read to her Peter Rabbit in the sun room. Though the adventures of Peter and his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail started Samantha on her creative journey, it is now her love of Amish culture that inspires her to write. Her writing is clean and wholesome, with more than a dash of sweetness. Though she has penned over one hundred and twenty Amish Romance and Amish Mystery books, Samantha is just as in love today with exploring the spiritual and emotional journeys of her characters as she was the day she first put pen to paper. Samantha lives in a quaint Victorian cottage with three rambunctious dogs.

Samantha loves to hear from her readers.
Connect at:
http://www.facebook.com/SamanthaPriceAuthor
samanthaprice333@gmail.com
Follow her on twitter @AmishRomance

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Lessons from the Wildfire

By Jim Denney

1A little less than a month ago, I was returning from a medical appointment, with a brief stop at Target. From the Target parking lot, I saw a thin plume of smoke in the distance. After I finished my shopping, I returned to the parking lot. The thin plume had become billows of smoke.

Uh-oh.

This is Southern California, and the mountains and hills were tinder-dry. It was windy — prime conditions for a wildfire.

I got in the car and pulled back onto the freeway. Traffic had slowed considerably while I was in the store. Firefighting helicopters were in the air over the freeway, as well as a DC-10 air tanker. This was serious.

4

On a normal day with normal traffic, I would have been home in about ten minutes, but the freeway was almost at a standstill. The brushfire was burning through a canyon on the back side of the mountain that faces our home. As I came even with the canyon fires, traffic stopped.

I saw flames advancing through the brush and trees along the right-hand side of the freeway. Cars weren’t moving, but the fire was.

After about twenty minutes of sitting in place on the freeway, praying and watching the fire spread, I was relieved when we started moving again.

2

I arrived home — the drive had taken eighty minutes instead of the usual ten — but everything was fine now. The fire was on the far side of the mountain from our home, so there was nothing to worry about.

5I put my Target purchases away, then got in the car to do some more errands — a trip to the library and a stop at the gas station. At each stop, I looked toward the mountain, which had taken on the appearance of a volcano. I thanked God for the firefighters who were on the job, and prayed for their safety.

When I again arrived home, my wife and I got dinner ready — then she looked out the window. “Jim, look at this.”

I went to the window and looked at the mountain. The fire that had been burning on the far side of the mountain had jumped to our side of the mountain. There was a small bonfire halfway up the mountainside across the main road from us. 

That changed everything.

“Let’s eat dinner,” I said. “Then I’m going to pack the car. If it spreads this way, we need to leave.”

I knew what to pack: a few changes of clothes, my laptop computer — and our photos and home movies. I had planned for years to get all our pictures and videos digitized, so they could be safely stored online, but there was never any time. Now I had boxes of mementos to load.

6

The neighborhood across the street was under mandatory evacuation. Our side was under voluntary evacuation. We chose to go.

As my wife and I prepared to leave our home, we wondered if it would still be there when we returned. I was fairly confident the firefighters wouldn’t let the blaze cross to our side of the road — but you never knew.

We drove away and got on the freeway. We passed a tractor-trailer rig on the side of the road, and the trailer was blazing. We learned later that an ember from the wildfire had ignited the trailer, and the driver had pulled off and escaped to safety.

Driving down the freeway, I was amazed that the authorities hadn’t closed the road. The fire had burned all the way to the freeway shoulder, and glowing embers were swirling across the road, driven by the winds. The fiery mountain and canyon looked especially scary at night, but it was soon behind us.

8

In the end, I lost a few days of writing time, but we didn’t lose our home. In fact, firefighters saved all the homes in the neighborhood across the street from us, though several homes were damaged. No lives were lost.

I gained a lot of empathy for people facing disasters, especially fire. My heart goes out to those in the Northern California fires — in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Santa Rosa, where thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, and forty-two people were killed.

The threat of fire makes choices stark and simple. You make decisions based on preserving what matters most. In those moments when we decided what to take and what to leave, all that mattered was life and memories. Everything else could burn.

I’ve never experienced anything like that before. I hope I never do again.

But I’m glad I had the chance to see what it looks like to have my life paired down to its essentials. In those highly compressed moments, I didn’t think about my projects and goals and deadlines. I thought about God and I thought about family.

When the fire is coming your way, you think about your life, the lives of those you love, and the life-after-life in eternity. Aside from that, what else matters?

___________________________________

battle-before-time-cover-1

 

Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.J.D.

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At Home with Lyn Cote

My favorite fall maple tree.JPG

Why I Live in the Boonies Lyn Cote here-

Of course, the boonies is short for the boondocks. According to the online dictionary, the origin of this word is: boondocks 1910s, from Tagalog bundok “mountain.” Adopted by occupying American soldiers in the Philippines for “remote and wild place.” Reinforced or re-adopted during World War II. Hence, also boondockers “shoes suited for rough terrain” (1953). Remote and wild?

Well, my cottage is in a remote area and there is a lot of wildlife around us. Wisconsin is where my husband and I and our two cats live now. We live on a lake in a pine, maple, oak and birch forest. Within fifty mile radius of our home, there are 2300 lakes. No wonder, it’s called the Lakeland Area. Two national forests, the Nicolet and Chequamegon are also nearby. Also, Sylvania Wilderness north of us is one of the few old-growth forest preserves in the Midwest.

I suppose that some might wonder why it is important to mention where I live. I think that is because most Americans live in many different places in a lifetime. I was born in Texas, grew up in Illinois, raised my children in Iowa and now live in Wisconsin. And I don’t think anyone can argue that where one lives makes a difference to a life. Whenever I plan a story, I always start with a place. What a person does for a living and where are a big part of a person’s life. Very few lumberjacks in Manhattan, right? Places draw certain kind of people. And the northwoods drew me–unexpectedly that is. Since the Lakeland area is also near Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, French fur traders in birchbark canoes arrived in the area in the 1600‘s.

I personally arrived here in the 1970’s when I became engaged to my husband who let me know that living here would be his first choice. It was not my choice at all. I loved it for a vacation spot, but had no intentions of moving north. In fact, I told him I never intended to live farther north than the Wisconsin-Illinois border. He married me anyway. 🙂 But times change. We were able to buy an old (and I mean built in the 1930’s old) fishing cabin on a rise over the lake near a swamp. (I know many use the nicer term ‘wetland’ but swamp does it for me.) Eventually we tore the old cabin down (that carpenter ants were feasting on) and built our present retirement home on it.

Due to a lay-off in the economic tidal wave after 9/11, we ended up “retiring” here in 2003, much earlier than anticipated. Many of my friends wondered at our decision to live in the boonies. I mean I have to drive over an hour to a mall. I can’t get cable TV or super fast Internet. Except for Walmart, all the stores in town are for tourists. So why do I live here? Well, blue heron, loons, sandhill cranes and other birds enjoy wading or swimming out in front of our cottage. Every spring at least one large (I’m talking 3 feet long and almost as wide) mama turtle climbs our hill and lays somewhere around 300 eggs in a nest in our drive. (With a snow shovel, we try to carry her to a less trafficky area but she gets really testy with us.)

And the northwoods Lakeland Area presents me with a unique setting for stories. My Christmas novella, “Loving Winter,” is part of a boxed set of holiday novellas, Sweet Christmas Kisses 4. It is one of 14 novella by NYTimes and USA Today bestselling authors.

Lyn

BLURB: Usher in the holiday season with 14 heartwarming all-new, stand-alone stories from New York Times, USA Today, national bestselling, and award-winning authors. Sweet Christmas Kisses 4 takes you from the Pocono Mountains to sunny Florida, and as far away as Portugal. Curl up with your favorite hot beverage and enjoy this sweet romance boxed set that’s sure to put you in the mood for Christmas.

Lyn Cote’s, “Loving Winter” At her cousin’s wedding, Winter Woodard, owner of her family’s garden center, isn’t expecting to meet her match in local football coach, Clay Dixon, (she isn’t IN to sports!) but he stands by her through a holiday season fraught with unexpected setbacks.  Click here to purchase.

So where do you live? Did you choose it or did you just end up there? Would your life had been different if you’d lived somewhere else? All good questions to ponder. I wish I’ll go out and sit on our porch and ponder it–but I’ll wear a jacket now. Ice will come soon! :-). ~Lyn Cote

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Still Dealing with Fear by Louise M. Gouge

We fiction writers enjoy making life difficult for our characters. Without some sort of struggle, some conflict, we would have no plot. E. M. Forster said, “‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot.” (Emphasis mine.)

Death_of_a_king._Oil_painting_by_E_L_Musso_(-)._Wellcome_V0017609

Because grief caused the queen’s death, we know she deeply loved her husband, and we want to know the rest of their story. How did they reach this point? Was this the ultimate end of Cinderella’s happily-ever-after? While sad, it would touch our hearts because, ultimately, we all want to love and be loved by a very special person.

(Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Without a similarly compelling plot, our stories won’t attract many readers. But what about our real lives? What do people read in my “story”?

Tuesday morning, I was facing some conflicts not of my own making. My computer had died the night before, and I couldn’t replace it soon enough to meet some writing deadlines, including this blog. Much more important…and worse, my husband had an appointment with his radiation doctor to discuss the results of his latest PET scan and x-rays to see what those spots were on the remaining third of his right lung. Had his cancer returned? Was more surgery in his future? Didn’t this mean the results were bad news? The doctor had called us in for a reason. Wouldn’t good news simply be delivered over the phone?

As with the hurricane I wrote about last month, I chose to affirm my trust in the LordDavid & Louise in front of cake table that He has all things under control. Yet I still (again) had a hard time sleeping as various scenarios played in my mind. In the dark of night, doom and gloom seemed to loom over me. Like the queen mentioned above, I would surely die of grief if the prognosis was bad. My beloved husband of fifty-two years is dealing with his second bout of cancer. I don’t want to lose him. (David and I at our 50th wedding anniversary party.)

So how will my story read to those who watch me face these uncertainties?

Let’s face it. Bad stuff happens. Christians are not immune to tragedy, and we experience grief. Christians are among those whose lives were shattered, even lost, during Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the wildfires in California, and the earthquake in Mexico. I am no expert on handling grief, and I would never try to school those people suffering those tragedies. But I do know that trusting the Lord is a choice. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes not.

And sometimes, when I’ve worried myself to distraction over possible tragedies, I’ve been surprised. So…I may have to temporarily do without a computer, my most necessary work tool for both writing and researching. So…my husband may have a serious problem requiring yet another surgery. Worry doesn’t change what will be. Worrying only makes me miserable and possibly sick, which will make it harder for me to care for him.

And what if there is a different outcome and all is well? I’ve wasted all my time with worry and made myself sick over nothing.

This time, for me, both situations turned out much better than expected. The doctor had only wanted to show us in person the results of the PET scan and x-rays, confirm that things were looking good overall, and ask if we had any questions or concerns. He’ll schedule a follow-up scan next month and will continue to monitor the former site of cancer.

Computer w TiggerAnd what about my computer, whose screen had gone to black the night before and nothing I did could bring it back? After returning home from the doctor’s office, I planned to call the manufacturer with my warranty information, but decided to try one more time to get it to work. I pushed the button, and it came up as if nothing had been wrong. A miracle? Maybe. All I know is that it’s functioning just fine now, and I’ve been able to write this blog. (The furry golden mass in front of my computer is Tigger the cat, who likes to help me with my writing.)

Conclusion? I lost sleep for nothing. Even if both situations had turned out badly, worry and anxiety wouldn’t have changed them.

As the Apostle Paul says, “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 KJV

So the lesson for me in this and to go deeper in my trust in my Heavenly Father. And let His peace fill me.

That is the story of my life I want other people to read.

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Swinging on Fish Hooks by Julie Arduini

Don’t you love those little a-ha moments God gives? Or if you’re like me, sometimes they are more like ahem. I tend to listen to a sermon or read a devotion and think how the material would be perfect for so-and-so. The reality is, the person who needs to receive and apply the information is me.

Our Sunday School class is studying James via a DVD study from Francis Chan. During the discussion we talked about temptation. The video session talked about lures and bait, fishing terms I’m familiar with. But temptation?

My mind wandered with the people I know struggling with it. And failing.

Then a scene came to mind. My kids, and okay, even my husband, find Spongebob Squarepants funny. I’ve seen many episodes and although I’m not the hardcore fan they are, one episode played out the temptation visual to perfection.

Spongebob lives in Bikini Bottom, so he’s surrounded by water. One day he found a hook. His boss, Mr. Krabs, told him to never go near the hooks. They look like fun, but they are death. The exact message Francis Chan was sharing about temptation.

Spongebob and Patrick come across another hook and the temptation is too much. Why would Mr. Krabs want them to stay away from a fun swing? Next thing you know they are on those hooks 24/7. They are so much entertainment Spongebob is missing work, and his job is very important to him. Mr. Krabs warns them, but they won’t stay away.

And then the hook grabs them and starts pulling them toward land.

What was great fun suddenly became a weapon of death.

Still, the memory didn’t seem personal. I’m a positive person who doesn’t struggle with language, gambling, or alcohol. God has done such a work through Christ in me with all these things and more.

Then yesterday hit. I had a lot of tasks around the house to accomplish and I took on more than I should have. When I am tired, I become vulnerable. When I have too much going on, I look for quick fixes.

Yesterday transitioned to a day starting with protein and exercise to a glance at a loaf of Italian bread set aside for dinner. I typically don’t eat bread. By dinner, I still didn’t eat bread.

I inhaled it.

It wasn’t just one piece or even two. It was probably four or five. Followed by more chocolate than I’ve probably had in months.

I didn’t just take the bait, I went swinging on hooks.

You might think that it was a harmless carb load, and for most people, you’d be right. Me? It is a descent into a lifestyle that leaves me even more tired, sick, depressed, and in need of bigger clothes. I have insulin resistance so the last thing I need is more sugar.

But, it’s the first thing I usually go to when I’m tempted.

Today I started the day in God’s word and this time I looked through the eyes of someone who needs to learn, not who else this might apply to. I’m trying to approach my choices through spirit led decisions, not my proud, fleshy ones.

How about you? Is temptation an issue for you? What helps you overcome or steer clear of it?
Here’s a YouTube snippet showing how easy it is to fall into temptation. SpongeBob Squarepants is a product of Nickelodeon/Viacom.

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Camping…

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If you’d asked me a few years back about camping, I would have told you it wasn’t for me. But that was before my husband and I bought our camper.

Now, there’s just something about sitting outside in front of a blazing campfire with a sky full of stars that makes you feel closer to God. His majesty and beauty is all around.

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We’ve gone camping in several different places since we bought the camper with good friends and our granddaughter and each time that I look up at the night sky I am reminded of Isaiah 40:26

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

So the next time you find yourself outside at night, look up! God’s majesty awaits…

All the best…

Mary Alford

http://www.maryalford.net

 

 

 

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Heartwarming Holiday Wishes by Tara Randel

Here was are in mid-October and already the countdown to Christmas has begun. Festive decorations are filling the stores and we’re in the last stretch of 2017. So what better time to announce the release of Heartwarming Holiday Wishes, 10 sweet, romantic novellas by USA Today and bestselling authors. Visit the wonderful folks of Christmas Town and enjoy the magic of Christmas. This year, a stocking brings a special holiday wish to each story. And the best part? The collection is only 99 cents!

In my story, The Christmas Window, widow CeCe Walker has her hands full taking care of her nephew and staging the holiday window decorations at Dockery’s Department store. The last thing she’s looking for is romance. Jace Keller is in Christmas Town to check out the window featuring his new sportswear line. Sparks fly when the two are at odds over his display, but with a little holiday magic, can this couple find love for Christmas?

The Christmas Window_Tara Randel (421x640)

Here’s an excerpt:

“I wasn’t going to come,” she said, her voice so low he had to lean closer to hear her.

“Why is that?”

She met his gaze. He was surprised by the depth of sorrow there. “Have you ever been married?”

He hadn’t expected that question. “Once. Divorced.”

She nodded. Her throat worked as if she was trying to work up the words she wanted to say. “My husband and I used to come here all the time when we were younger.”

He pulled back. “You’re married?”

“Widow.” Her voice caught as she said the word.

Ah. That explained so much. “I’m sorry.”

She nodded. Kept staring over the meadow. Something moved in the distance. A deer?

“Have you thought about starting over?” she asked.

“Thought about it. Never actually tried.”

“Mind my asking why?”

He leaned closer again as the wind picked up in a swirling gust. Leaves tumbled over the dry grass. “I was busy building the business. After the emotional mess that ended the marriage, I never took the time to consider a serious connection. And when I did look, no one caught my fancy.”

“So you aren’t interested in settling down?”

“I wasn’t.” He paused. Took a chance. His gloved fingers tilted her chin up so she met his gaze. “Until now.”

Moving slowly, he lowered his head. She didn’t move an inch. Barely breathing, he brushed his lips over hers. Once. Twice. Waiting for her to pull back or take off running.

One of her hands rested against his chest. The air misted between them. He kissed her again, his chest tight, his heart pounding in his ears.

She broke the kiss and shook her head, her hand covering her mouth. “I… This shouldn’t happen.”

Confusion and fear contorted her face. He knew the answer, but asked anyway. “Why not?”

Her gaze flew to his and her hand dropped. “It just shouldn’t,” she whispered.

“Because you don’t want my kiss or because you don’t want to admit you’ve thought about it?”

I hope you get caught up in this new heartwarming collection this year. If you fall in love with the folks of Christmas Town, stop by our website: www.heartwarmingchristmastown.com. Here you’ll find everything relating to Christmas Town, including character descriptions from previous books, blogs, freebies and more.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Heartwarming Holiday Wishes 3D (640x426)

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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. Look for her next Harlequin Heartwarming romance, HIS ONE AND ONLY BRIDE, available January 2018.  Visit Tara at www.tararandel.com. Like her on Facebook at Tara Randel Books

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The Emotional Life of a Writer

by Jim Denney

To me, writing is not so much a mental activity as an emotional activity. When I’m writing well, I’m not thinking about the words — I’m feeling the emotions, and those emotions pour out of me in the form of words spilling onto a page.

I wrote my Timebenders science fantasy series for middle grade readers from the fall of 2001 to the spring of 2002. I had just finished the first book in the series, Battle Before Time, and was about to start the second book when something horrible happened: the terror attacks of 9/11. That event cast a pall on my emotions that was far deeper than I realized at the time. Some of my writer friends stopped writing for weeks after the tragedy. I was on a tight deadline, so I had to keep writing.

I finished the first draft of the second book, titled Doorway to Doom, in January 2002. After I finished the draft, I went back, read it through, and made a startling discovery. More than half of the book took place in darkness — in a dungeon, in caverns, in catacombs, in a forest at night. The book was very, very dark, because I had written it in a time of dark emotions.

Jyrki Salmi - Jackdaw Alder Grove

“The Dark Forest Ranger,” a jackdaw in a dark alder grove, photo by Jyrki Salmi of Finland, used under terms of Creative Commons 2.0 Generic License.

I had to go back and rewrite the book, cutting out much of the darkness and writing in more scenes of light. By the time I had finished the third and final draft, I was very happy with the book, and especially its balance of moods. It remains my favorite entry in the series. In fact, I think my dark mood during the initial writing phase deepened the emotional intensity of the story. The final rewrite lightened the mood just enough, and gave it an emotional ebb and flow — from darkness to light, from fear to faith, from gloom to hope.

Though I love to write, I don’t enjoy writing when I feel gloomy or angry or sad. I have found that it’s important, as a writer, to have peace and joy in my relationships — both my relationship with God and my relationships with other people. Conflict and emotional upheaval interfere with my judgment, making it hard for me to know whether something I’ve written is good or bad.

We don’t always have the luxury of choosing our emotional state. Whether my emotions are in a good place or a dark place, I must keep writing. What do I do, then, when I’m in a dark emotional state?

The only thing that gets me through a dark place in my writing career is prayer.

I say, “Lord, please take these emotions out of my way. You know what needs to be written. I don’t feel I can write it today. Please come and write it through me. Silence the noise and distractions, shine Your light into my darkness, and give me Your peace that passes understanding.”

Then I look at my screen, think about what I want to express, and wait for God to answer my prayer. His answer always comes.

And as the sentences start to fill the screen, I quickly and quietly say, “Thank You, Lord.”

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Note: Battle Before Time, the first book in my newly revised and updated Timebenders series for young readers, has just been released in paperback. Click this link to learn more.J.D.

 

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A Weed or a Wildflower

A Weed or a Wildflower

By Margaret Daley

One of my granddaughters got me to think about how we look at things means everything. I know I should already realize that, but it was something she said to me that made me stop and really think about a person’s outlook could make all the difference in the world.

We were driving back to her house.  I saw a field carpeted in purple and said, “Look at that. Isn’t that beautiful?”

Joe Pye Weed Wild Flowers (Eutrochium)

Joe-Pye Weed wild flowers, Eutrochium, growing in a field

“They’re weeds, Grandma Margaret,” she said.

“Some people call them weeds, but others call them wildflowers.”

“Really?”

“Yep,” I said.

Later as I mulled over what I’d said to my granddaughter, I realized how important it was to look at something in a positive light—a favorable one. We don’t like weeds, but flowers are one of the things that add beauty to our lives. What I am going to strive to do is to look at a field full of wildflowers, not one full of weeds. I think I will be better off looking at the positive, not the negative, and every time I see a wildflower I will be reminded of that.

How do you see a field (or your lawn), especially in the springtime? Is it full of weeds or wildflowers?

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