Putting things into perspective

Wishing each of you a Happy Thanksgiving! There is so much to be thankful for, yet much of it we take for granted. I am guilty of this even though I strive hard not to be. “I will go about Your altar, O Lord, that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works.” Psalms 26:6-7 NKJV

It has truly been a wondrous year. Rick and I received the gift of a trip to Israel, a strange and mysterious land; mysterious in that it looks desolate, yet it flows with abundance. We made many new friends within our tour group and were deeply touched by the love we all felt for each other. For the first part of our trip, our hotel was on the Sea of Galilee, and we reveled in the sights of Jesus’ ministry. We rejoiced in the beauty of the land where he fed the multitudes, delivered the sermon on the mount, cooked for His disciples, and performed many miracles. For the disciples, it was probably their happy place as it became that for us. We swam daily in the Sea of Galilee.

Then we went to Jerusalem and along the way, we began to feel fatigued. We arrived on Yom Kippur, a Jewish Holy Day, signifying the day of atonement. On that day, we had to walk because our driver wasn’t allowed to work. We walked eight miles, a lot for these senior bodies, uphill all the way! We walked to Old Jerusalem, saw where Stephen was stoned, the pools of Bethesda, and the Via Dolorosa, the narrow road believed to have been taken by Jesus through Jerusalem on his way to Calvary. My back cried out in pain, my feet hurt, my head ached, and Rick experienced pain shooting out from his knee. In my mind, I was complaining big time and had developed a strong dislike of my tour guide! And then the light-bulb moment in my brain – whatever I felt was nothing compare to what Jesus felt. We woke up each morning wondering how hard sightseeing would be that day. We visited the Tower of David, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.

As awesome as seeing these sights were, Jerusalem had somehow become the city of dread. Then I realized the lamb of God, the perfect lamb, the one that was slain for me; the one of which the Bible says “This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right of God”—it was the city of dread for Him, too. He had prayed and asked God to remove this cup, but added not my will but thine be done. He laid down His life that I might live. Jerusalem embodied the ugliness of man’s sin and the awful cost of redemption, the wailing wall and the atonement we desperately need.

I could see Jerusalem for its past, the crucifixion of Jesus and the persecution of Christians, yet it is the city of resurrection and will become a new and glorious city; Mount Zion, the city of thy Great King.

 

 

An Embarrassing Tale!

Melissa's Fate Final Cover

Melissa’s Fate, my new romantic fiction novel, is now available! I wanted to reveal a little known fact with you. The story Beth shares during the interview with Joan on page two is partially true. I wrote Melissa’s Fate twenty-five years ago. When I queried agents (by actual mail), I assumed they would all be thrilled to represent a book from a new “up and coming” author such as myself! You can imagine my chagrin as I received one rejection letter after another.

I belonged to a writer’s group, and one of our published authors was represented by an agent from the William Morris Agency in New York. This agent visited our group, affording me the chance of a lifetime; an opportunity to pitch Melissa’s Fate to him in person. I was so nervous I couldn’t complete a coherent sentence. Lucky for me, he had read the first ten pages and already knew he was going to ask for the full manuscript. I was elated and wasted no time sending the large envelope to his office along with an SASE; self-addressed, stamped, envelope.

I waited impatiently. One month turned into several without a word. Meanwhile, I continued to receive rejection letters from other agents I had queried and was becoming totally discouraged. As a last resort, I asked the published author if he knew anything about the status of my book. His response was, “Oh yeah, he can’t sell it. Children are taboo in romance.” My heart sank. I was devastated. And the agent didn’t even contact me! He should have rejected my work himself.

Fast forward twenty years – I’ve had one biography/memoir book published and a second one waiting so I’m looking for family pictures to include with it. My husband is searching boxes in our closet when he says, “Honey did you know this box has manuscripts in it?”

“Probably,” I answer. “I have manuscripts everywhere!”

“No. These are from New York and San Francisco and they’re not open.”

My ears perk up and a full-fledged mystery unfolds. I reach for the first large envelope. The return address is from the William Morris Agency in New York City and the postmark is from twenty years ago. I rip it open and, upon first glance, believe he must have hated it because there are notes all the way through it. Not so. This agent from the most prestigious literary agency in the country had line- edited my book, mailing it to me so I could make the changes and send it back. He’d attached notes like “good plot twist” and “really liked the ending.” One of his notes said, “probably not a blockbuster but a really good love story.” He even sent a list of what publishers he planned on querying.

Now, I don’t know why I never saw the envelopes before now. Both contained Melissa’s Fate and both agencies were interested. For some reason, God didn’t want it published then, and His timing is perfect.

Thanks to Cynthia Hickey and Forget Me Not Romances, an imprint of Winged Publications, and Stephanie Hansen of Metamorphosis Literary Agency, publication of Melissa’s Fate is finally a reality. I hope you will pick it up and read it, and I sincerely hope you’ll be blessed by having read it.

Struggles; Are They Troubles or Blessings?

I’ll admit sometimes my patience wanes, and it feels like God has forgotten me! Are you struggling? Do you feel like you’re missing God’s blessings? Today, while reading in Matthew chapter 5, I realized there are characteristics defining “The Blessed.” I will be blessed if I mourn and am meek; if I desire Godly principles and extend mercy; if my heart is pure and not deceitful and I don’t promote strife but am a peacemaker. So, I thought about how these things are reflected in my life.

Blessed am I if I mourn. It’s okay for my heart to break because it means I have loved. If I grieve over a death or if I mourn as a result of sin, either in my own life or the lives of those around me, then, I can receive God’s blessing.

It’s not always easy to be meek, but it is a fruit of the Spirit. The things I say and do have power to affect others. If someone cuts in front of me in line, I don’t want to do what my pre-k grandson did, which was stab him with his pencil! Instead, I should extend to them the grace of being first. Sometimes, I am so caught up in my own problems, I forget to consider others before myself. Everyone has problems. I’m not the only one.

What is it that motivates me? What do I hunger for? Is it my own selfish desires, like an eagerness to advance my finances? Or to have things that make me feel good? Is it me, me, I, I? “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” says the Word of Truth. I should hunger after righteousness in my own life and in the world around me. God and His will must be first above my other thoughts or desires.

I believe I am merciful when it really counts. But, am I? When someone does me wrong, am I willing to forgive and extend mercy? Maybe that person hasn’t admitted they’re wrong. Should I forgive anyway? Absolutely! I hope everyone that I have wronged has forgiven me anyway. All of humanity is fraught with frailties. We all make mistakes, sometimes while thinking we’re doing the right thing! Remember, Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him.

Matters of the heart are indeed complex. What exactly is meant by a pure heart? I believe it has to do with following Jesus, a daily walk of endeavoring to follow His teachings. But this is where it gets tricky, in walking that narrow path, I can become prideful, almost pharisaical. If I’m not careful, my heart becomes deceitful as I fool myself and those around me. May my heart always reflect truth.

I have known people who love to stir up strife. If I am a peacemaker, I will not be among them. I will be the one who infuses light, love, and mercy into such situations.

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Some are easily recognizable and others are disguised. For example: Michelle Qureshi, the widow of the late Nabeel Qureshi author of Seeking Allah; Finding Jesus, shared a post about placing their house on the market and not having many showings. Instead of seeing that as discouraging, she refers to it as “a personal gift from an all-knowing God” even though she has already purchased a smaller home!

Last and not least, if I am mocked or suffer because I love the Savior, then I am blessed beyond measure. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my Savior. I don’t believe I’ve been persecuted for His name sake, but if that time comes, I pray that I will stay the course for great will be my reward.

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

 

Waiting Patiently?

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The story of Melissa’s Fate remains in limbo as “my baby” rests in the publishing world’s hands, awaiting their decision. Patience is not my strong suit and it’s been over a year. I know, “those who wait upon the Lord…”, but I believe God may be going overboard in teaching me this virtue! He planted this story idea in my head over twenty-five years ago. I wrote it within a few short months and after many rejections, it was buried in a box in my closet for twenty years!

I’m aware He may have had His purpose in resurrecting it at this appointed time. It’s packed with lessons for this day and age. A life can be changed with a fresh look at abortion, the affects of sexual permissiveness, lying, deception, materialism, and the role of faith in love.

Beth, a young woman whose father’s poor health preempted her college plans and compelled her to join the labor force in New York City, unwittingly falls in love with a man who has deceived her about his identity. She finds herself pregnant at the same time she learns he’s the president of the company where she works and he has plans to marry another. Feeling betrayed and alone, she flees without telling him she’s pregnant. Not once does she consider abortion, but after being raised by two devoted, loving parents herself, she desires for her child to know that same environment—a home with a mother and a father. Wouldn’t it be best for all if she placed her baby for adoption and kept the whole affair a secret from those she loved?

Phillip Drake ceases all efforts to locate the woman who stole his heart when he learns she left of her own volition. Unlike others he’d known, she wasn’t motivated by money and pretention—a breath of fresh air in his driven world. What did he do wrong? He didn’t even have the chance to tell her who he really is. Now, he must forget her; she’s given him no other choice. Perhaps he should marry the beautiful socialite, Victoria, as his father and the gossip columnists expect.

After eighteen months, through a series of events, Beth discovers her baby’s location and realizes she’s made an awful mistake. Her daughter, Melissa, may be in danger. When her efforts to save her little girl fail, she must return to New York and recruit Phil’s help.

Just when Phil decides to move on with his life, Beth reappears with shocking news that sets his world spinning. He will never forgive her, but he’ll do anything to save the little girl he never knew. Phil is a man accustomed to wealth and privilege, controlling those around him and the order of his life. Ever since Beth’s return, he is thrust into situations beyond his control and he doesn’t like it. Still, he must marry her and fight together for custody. He is completely helpless as the whole of Melissa’s fate rests in the hands of the judge.

Please tell me what you think. Although, my first two books published are biography/memoir, this is “my baby,” the first book I ever wrote, a work of fiction. Is it a story line worthy of publication? If you think so, should publishers stop stalling on it? It did win first place in Ozarks Writers League’s unpublished manuscript category! For months, I’ve waited patiently to announce its home. Oh, the woes of being a writer. All in God’s good timing, I suppose. I remain trusting in Him.

Born to Die

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Born To Die

(The following is short, sweet, and contains zero words from me! 100% God’s Word. Merry Christmas)

Fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto us is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. For, all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God. The wages for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through Him. For God so loved the world that He GAVE his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (For) God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. For with the heart, man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made. For whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen

 

The Thing You Cannot Inherit

 

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One day, I started thinking about the things I can’t take with me when I depart this life. I made a list of my possessions and who is to receive them. Most of these items only have sentimental value, some having belonged to my mother or grandmother. But, I was soon in a quandary as I thought about my most important possession and about how in the world would I be able to pass it down. How could I possibly leave it for my loved ones, those who hadn’t even been born yet? There is but one thing I cannot give my descendants. Alas, I was filled with sorrow. It seems – you can’t inherit spiritual life. The assurance of spiritual life can only be acquired by a personal decision. It is not mine to give away, not even to my children, grandchildren, family and friends. I can’t pass it down like the deed to a house.

I asked God, what was He thinking? What provision had he made for my offspring? He assured me He had not forgotten, but part of the responsibility fell to me and my children. He reminded me of Joel 1:3 “Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.” This did not satisfy me. What if I’ve told my children and they don’t tell theirs?

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Do you remember the story of Jonah and the big fish? God wanted Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell the people to repent, but Jonah didn’t want to go. He went sailing instead, ended up in the sea and was swallowed by a big fish. Jonah spent three days in the belly of that fish before he decided to go to Nineveh as God commanded. The fish expelled him and off he went to Nineveh. Jonah preached repentance to a sinful Nineveh and the people repented and God saved them. This gentile city came to know the one true and living God. What a privilege! And, they and all their generations lived happily ever after…NOT!

Later, in the Old Testament, in the book of Nahum, one hundred years later, all the people of Nineveh had returned to their wicked ways. How could this have happened? To know God is to know true love. How did they lose something so valuable? They failed to pass down the stories; to teach repentance, observance, and the importance of sharing with the next generation. Because of their wickedness, God wiped them from the face of the earth.

Redemption cannot be inherited. Oh, my children, be alert. For the sake of your children, open your eyes. Because of my love for you, read below and heed my advice.

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When I was a little girl, my father used to tease me, telling me I had to go to school to learn the three “R’s; reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic! He was joking about the essentials of an education—learning to read, write, and the compilation of arithmetic, or numbers. Still, there is a lesson there. Truth is—for my family after me, I’d like to challenge them with the three “L’s – Listen, Live, and Love.

Listen to obtain faith – “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”[1] Jesus said, “I have come not to judge the world, but to save the world.”[2] “He who has ears, let him hear.”[3]

Live for Jesus – pick up your cross daily and follow Christ, for “he who shall gain his life will lose it, and he who will lose his life for my sake will gain it.”[4]

Love – “God is love.”[5] You love God “only because he first loved you.”[6] Get to know God so that you may know love. “No greater love hath man than that he gives his life for another.”[7] “The greatest of these is love.”[8] “They will know you are my disciples if you have love one for the other.”[9]

In these three “L’s” is a more abundant life—one not only anticipated in eternity, but lived here on earth as well. This is the definition of spiritual life, one I acquired by asking Jesus to come into my heart and to forgive me of my sins. Through His death on the cross, He made it possible for me to decide to follow Him.

If given the choice between life and death, how many would choose life? All of us! Yet, many are the numbers of those who don’t. It’s a mystery to me. Listen, Live, Love and pass it down.

[1] Romans 10:17

[2] John 12:47

[3] Matthew 11:15

[4] Matthew 16:25

[5] I John 4:8

[6] I John 4:19

[7] John 15:13

[8] I Corinthians 13:13

[9] John 13:35

Days Gone By

My mother was forty-two when I was born. She told me many stories of a time and a place that no longer existed. I loved hearing about horse-drawn wagon rides into town, nickel ice cream cones, and box supper auctions.

pic 2 days gone byMother lived through the Great Depression. Those who lived in rural areas at that time learned a “particular set of skills;” how to make a meal out of milk, eggs and a little bit of flour, how to stretch a dime (that’s right, a dime; dollars were scarce, and so were dimes, for that matter), and how to reuse everything!

pic3 days gone byPeople examined every item, that would normally have been thrown away, to evaluate a new purpose for it. Feed sacks made fashionable dresses, any type of paper could be used again for wrapping gifts, and if they weren’t sure what to use an item for, they placed it in a box or drawer. Then, when a purpose presented itself, they would have it.

pic 4 days gonMany household staples had to be rationed, like sugar and coffee. Farmers woke up before dawn, milked, plowed, planted, harvested, canned, and shared; working until the end of the day before resting weary bodies on straw mattresses or pallets made on floors. People strained every bit of time out of the day in order to provide sustenance and were true survivors!

lowerPicsDaysGoneByIf you’ve read my first book, Pathways of the Heart, then you’ve had a glimpse into the life of one such family, mine; that is, my mother, Clella, and her first six children before I was born. Through the years, one thing remains true–walking down the aisle and saying “I do” is the easy part. Then, life happens and things become harder.

5Not only did Clella struggle for survival, but she dealt with the same things people have dealt with since the Biblical age – a husband who drank, gambled, and was unfaithful. As hard as she tried, like many marriages today, hers found itself shipwrecked on the rock of neglect. The storm’s waves swept her up and into the arms of another.

6Some would consider her times “old fashioned.” If “old fashioned” means innovative, caring, hard-working, God-fearing, and patriotic—then yes, that period was “old fashioned.” But, with time, even definitions evolve.

Whenever I talk to my grandchildren today, I realize that I have many stories to tell of a time and a place that no longer exists. It’s different from Mother’s, but gone never-the-less. Only a vapor remains of the Santa Fe, Burlington Northern, and Union Pacific railroads, that clickety-clack of steel wheels on rails, a mode of transportation I enjoyed frequently. Even the days of sleek ’57 Chevy’s, Elvis’s Teddy Bear, the Beatles, and Motown aren’t appreciated by today’s youth. From Saddle Oxford’s and poodle skirts to go-go boots and the flower child, my era has faded even out of the background.

7It’s important for us to share these, for only we can make our history come to life. I challenge you to record your tales, for our pasts should not go away quietly into the night. In Pathways of the Heart, I told Mother’s stories so they wouldn’t be lost, to preserve a life whose example can inspire and teach us to rise above our trials and choices.

In All That Matters, not only my mother’s story comes to life, but mine as well, and depicts how a loving God protected and guided us through some of our most difficult trials. From the simpler days of one room schoolhouses to beyond the fretful days of Y2K, both books provide a looking-glass back into the twentieth century and reveal, when all is said and done, the only thing that matters is eternity.

8“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” Isaiah 48:17-18 NIV