The Birth of a Story

I sure spend a lot of time clinging to my safety nets, for one who talks so often about living God’s great adventure. Although, I do eventually drop them, and take that next step, and then the next, though my hands might be clammy and my legs may quiver every step of the way.

This was me, when our family joined our former church for a week-long mission trip to El Salvador back in 2011. My biggest angst? I hated flying. I’ve gotten much better, but back then, every trip felt like torture. While the other passengers slept or read books or chatted with one another, I’d obsess. On every plane crash I’d ever heard of, on every bump or dip as we soared through the sky, on how high our plane flew and how long it’d take us to spiral to our deaths.

Ah, the joys of the writer’s brain.

If only I’d been more diligent to “fix” my thoughts on truth, as Philippians 4:8-9 puts it. But I wasn’t. Instead, I fixed my thoughts on potential catastrophes and what-ifs, and instead of experiencing the peace that “surpasses understanding,” I worked myself into a near panic.

And let me tell you, fear is exhausting and self-defeating!

It didn’t help that our descent into the country was horrendous! Flying over the mountains and through a storm, it felt like someone had strapped us onto a roller coaster and were tossing and shaking us about.

That first night in the hotel, tired, and pushed out of my comfort zone in numerous ways, one thought dominated: “I want to go home.”

By the end of the week, with my heart full and broken simultaneously, another even stronger thought took hold: “I never want to leave.”

Saying goodbye and stepping back on that plane, with my pockets stuffed with letters from sweet orphan girls, was so incredibly hard. Our family returned to the states convinced God wanted us to go back, so we began making plans. My husband would take an early retirement, we’d sell our home, and we’d rent an apartment in El Salvador so we could help the orphan girls we’d fallen in love with learn English (a quick ticket out of poverty in that country).

But then I got sick. For a while, really sick. And suddenly, our plans were flipped upside down and inside out. Our hearts still ached for those precious girls. We still deeply loved El Salvador, its people, and their culture. I could’t believe God would stir then break our hearts for nothing, but I had no idea what He was up to.

He’s since shown us there’s a lot of ways one can become involved in His mission to heal, save, and restore. Some are called to go; others to support those who go. Some are called to adopt; others to support those who do. Some are called to raise awareness or work for life-transforming organizations behind the scenes.

The ways one can help, can be a part of life change, are as endless as God’s love for each and every orphan crying out to Him each day.

I write. That’s what I do. And so, that’s what I did–not about my adventure though an experience or two from our trip might have found its way into the story. But instead, I wrote about Brooke’s, a woman I can relate to in many ways. A painful event in her past has caused her to form a near-impenetrable safety net, one that has caused her to strive and grasp and fight for control.

But God has so much more planned for her.

Here’s the back cover text:

A news anchor intern has it all planned out, and love isn’t on the agenda.

Brooke Endress is on the cusp of her lifelong dream when her younger sister persuades her to chaperone a mission trip to El Salvador. Packing enough hand sanitizer and bug spray to single-handedly wipe out malaria, she embarks on what she hopes will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

But Brooke is blindsided by the desperation for hope and love she sees in the orphans’ eyes. And no less by the connection she feels with her handsome translator. As newfound passion blooms, Brooke wrestles with its implications for her career dreams.

Ubaldo Chavez, teacher and translator, knows the struggle that comes with generational poverty. But he found the way out – education – and is determined to help his students rise above.

When he agrees to translate for a mission team from the United States he expects to encounter a bunch of “missional tourists” full of empty promises. Yet an American news anchor defies his expectations, and he finds himself falling in love. But what does he have to offer someone with everything?

Can you relate to any of what I shared? When has God pushed you out of your comfort zone, and what was the result? When have you been convinced His plan was X, but He later showed you it was Y, and how’d you process that?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

Randomness From Across the Web

Talk about ironic. Or laziness. Not laziness so much as, well, it doesn’t matter. I’m about to break maybe every rule I wrote about on Seriously Write yesterday.

The title of this post stinks; my opening line reads more like a diary than an attention grabbing piece, and a chunk of what will follow will likely cause your eyes to gloss over. Although let’s be honest–you’re a blog post skimmer anyway, right? 😉 There’s no shame in that. I’m one, too!

Blame it on my early wake-up or the fact that I’ve already used up all my jelly beans (i.e. energy), or perhaps I could claim that I’m being inclusive and efficient. However you want to spin it, rather than presenting a new post today, I figured I’d point you to some other posts and articles I’ve written this past week. And as a warning, I might do this on occasion, because with my upcoming book launch, I’ll be visiting over 60 blogs between now and October. Figured maybe some of you would like to join me.

SF Front CoverBut first, I wanted to mention, Sweet Freedom a La Mode, book two in the Give God Glory series is out! Grab a copy for $0.99 here!

Back cover:

For some, the fourth of July is a celebration of freedom; for others it is a reminder of bondage. Of pain. Of fear. Of hopelessness. But there is a hope that is deeper, a love that is truer, and a freedom no one can ever snatch away.

How can one take a step toward that freedom when the road appears shrouded with insecurities and doubts? These pages contain numerous stories: a woman longing to start again but bound by the failures of her past; a young man who, upon reaching adulthood, must face his fears of death; a woman offered a chance of true love but held back by crippling insecurities.

Is God even there? Does He care…enough to reach down and pull these men and women from the messes they’ve landed in, some of them by their own hand?

Freedom. Peace-saturated, joy-infusing freedom.

We pray our stories demonstrate what it looks like in the day-to-day…and provide a little insight into how one grabs hold of that treasured state of heart and mind.

So, here’s where I’ve been this week:

On Internet Cafe Devotions, I wrote about relying on and trusting in God’s power and not our own. You can read it here:

It’s Not Up to You. (Oh, praise God for that!)

I popped by Seriously Write to share Five Steps to Effective Blogging.

I’ve been having fun creating a short story on Inspy Romance, titled A Princess and Her Gownbridalgowns-alfredangelo

You can read part one here, part two here, and part three on July 5th.

On Crosswalk.com I shared some ideas on how parents can help their kids fall in love with Scripture. You can read that here. Help! My Kids Don’t Want to Read Their Bible!

I’m also working on my next Crosswalk article, this one on maintaining imperfect friendships. The more I chat with women on this subject, the stronger I feel about writing it. I’m finding more accounts of broken relationships than those that persevere through human brokenness. Grace. Sometimes it’s easier to receive then give, but what a beautiful example of God’s transforming and redeeming power when we learn to maintain godly friendships, imperfections and all.

That’s it in my world. What about you? Has God been showing you anything, stretching you in an area, or nudging you to step out toward a new opportunity?

 

Week in Review

Happy, sunshiny, springy Saturday!

BurchadoptionThe biggest news in my corner is that it appears spring has finally sprung and might even hang around for a while. 🙂 Which is great, because I’m helping with a garage sale tomorrow hosted to help fund the Burch family’s adoption fees. You can read more about them and their adoption here.

If you’re in the Omaha Metro, stop by 5903 Longview in Papillion between 8am-3pm.

As an added bonus, my sweet and hilariously fun friend, editor of Novel Reviews, Kelly Klepfer will be there, too, selling (and giving away!) Arbonne health and beauty supplies! (Donating a healthy portion of the proceeds toward Burch adoption fees.) If you want to help bring these beautiful Columbian girls home and are in need of beauty products but can’t go to the sale, shoot me an email and I’ll get you and her connected.

Saving Grace Study and Daily Reading Guide is Available. For FREE!Scan0010

Cool, huh?

My church created a booklet to help folks understand and grab hold of God’s saving grace. If you’d like a copy (PDF version that easily loads on ereaders like Kindle), shoot me let me know and I’ll get one to you ASAP. 🙂

SweetFreedomCoverRemember Sweet Freedom?

I’m pretty sure I sent most of you a free copy. (If not, shoot me an email and I will.) Well, we received such a great response from this compilation, I decided to create another. The stories (great ones!) are already coming in–more fictional this time, although we’ll still have true life and devos. As an added bonus, we’re inviting YOU to share your freedom stories with us!

Details: Send a story/testimony of a time when you received emotional or spiritual freedom, and we’ll post it on Faith-filled Friends so readers worldwide can be blessed and encouraged. (You can remain anonymous if you’d like.) Then, we’re going to let y’all vote on your favorite, and the top three will receive prizes.

We’ll also be choosing three we’d like to fictionalize (with permission) to go into Sweet Freedom Book Two. Of course, the folks who submitted the testimonies we fictionalize will receive a free print copy of our booklet.

This booklet will also be available for free in PDF form and in ebook form for a time period allowed by Amazon.

New Release!A DOZEN APOLOGIES FINAL FRONT COVER

My friend Jennifer Hallmark visited Angela Meyer’s blog to chat about A Dozen Apologies.

I haven’t read this one yet, but it sounds awesome! I’ll have to add it to my TBR pile for sure! You can read more about this fun anthology here. You can purchase the book here.

On a personal note, my princess is taking an intensive glass blowing class this weekend. I’m pretty excited. I wonder if I’ll every tire of watching her explore new opportunities. I swear her laugh is one of the most beautiful sounds I’ve heard. Whenever my heart swells as a mom, I’m reminded of Zephaniah 3:17 that says:

“For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (NLT). 

I love watching my daughter, whether she’s studying, sleeping, laughing, or doing nothing at all. I have a feeling God feels the same way about us. 🙂

MD-Photo-BlockChristian Romantic suspense writer, Margaret Daley, has a new release as well, titled Deadly Hunt:

All bodyguard Tess Miller wants is a vacation. But when a wounded stranger stumbles into her isolated cabin in the Arizona mountains, Tess becomes his lifeline. When Shane Burkhart opens his eyes, all he can focus on is his guardian angel leaning over him. And in the days to come he will need a guardian angel while being hunted by someone who wants him dead.
Buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble 

 

Congrats to  Mary ConnealyKathleen Y’Barbo Turner,Tracie Peterson, and Cathie Marie Hake for making the ECPA best sellers’ list with their novella collection, Alaska Brides Collection, published by Barbour Publishing! Way to go, ladies!th

About this collection:

Experience five Alaska adventures through the lives of determined women who overcome the many challenges to build their lives in the wilderness. From the gold rush, through a diphtheria epidemic, to the building of the Alcan Highway, readers will enjoy the stubborn fight each woman displays as love comes into her life. Will the women also give up fighting God and let Him lead them through America’s last frontier?

Buy it here.

And if you haven’t read Laughing With Lily by Eileen Rife, now’s a great time!

Laughing with Lily coverOakTara, Eileen’s publisher, has launched an exciting program, “Today’s Great Read/Hot Bargain,” where readers can get fabulous new books in Kindle ebook for a price they won’t want to miss. My book has been chosen for a special promotion, beginning this Sunday 04/27/14.
Day 1 of the promotion: $1.99
Day 2 of the promotion: $2.99
Day 3 of the promotion: $3.99
Day 4 of the promotion returns to the regular ebook price (still a great value for a terrific read!): $4.99
Check facebook.com/OakTara on Day 1, when the book will be at its lowest price and best deal for you, or anytime during the promotion days. Then simply click on the link in FB to find the book on amazon kindle. If you would spread the word to anyone you know, I’d greatly appreciate it!

 

 

 

Week in Review

So much is happening lately, I’ve decided to use Saturdays for a “Week in Review”.

Book highlights:

ACFW Professional Relations Liason, Cynthia Ruchti, is a double finalist in Christian Retailing’s Best Awards–When the Morning Glory Blooms in General Fiction, and Ragged Hope: Surviving the Fallout of Other People’s Choices in Nonfiction:Women. Read more here: Christian Retailing’s Best 

BeyondIDocoverMy debut novel, Beyond I Do, is now available for pre-order! At a discounted price, even!

Many said they wanted to learn more about this book, so here goes:

Marriage . . . it’s more than a happily ever after. Eternally more.

Ainsley Meadow’s encounter with a woman, her child, and their abuser sparks a passion that threatens her engagement. Will seeing beyond the present unite her and her fiance or tear them apart?

Raised by a hedonist mother, who cycles through jobs and relationships like wrapping paper on Christmas morning, falls into a predictable and safe relationship with Richard, a self-absorbed socialite psychiatrist. But as her wedding nears, a battered woman and her child spark a long-forgotten dream and ignites a hidden passion. One that threatens to change everything, including her fiancé. To embrace God’s best and find true love, this security-seeking bride must follow God with reckless abandon and realize that marriage goes Beyond I Do.

Another highlight–I’m becoming more tech savvy by the day! I learned how to put the cover image in the sidebar of this site. (See right) I also started an author page on Amazon, and with help, I learned how to feed my blog into it. Hooray! (Check it out here.)

Libby Final front coverFay Lamb, a friend I lovingly call the Loop-lady, just saw the release of her latest novel, Libby:

Libby Overstreet can’t see herself as anything but shy and socially awkward. She’s nearing thirty, and she’s never even been on a date. Then she meets the man of her dreams, but Libby knows he would never be interested in a wallflower like her. All she wants to do is to buy that garden nursery on the outskirts of town and settle down with the life she has always dreamed about.

Evan Carter has been watching the sweet woman in the coffee shop for weeks when his friend tells him that the object of his affection plans to buy a garden nursery and needs Evan’s expertise as an architect/contractor. When they meet, Libby is more enamored of Evan and even more convinced that he would never look at her as anything but a friend. However, that’s far from the truth. Evan would love to get to know the innocent beauty God has placed in this path. Trouble is, he fears that a lovely flower like Libby will wilt under the sins of his past, and he’ll do everything in his power to keep that from happening.

Updated Wit & Wisdom cover 2014My sweet friend, Eileen Rife’s, kid quip book, Wit & Wisdom from the Wee Ones, releases in May:

Kids can take us right to the heart of God, one way or another. When they provoke frustration, we breathe a silent prayer for grace. When they incite giggles, we hear God’s laughter as well. When they stimulate an endearing moment, we sense God’s touch. When they utter a profound statement, we step back in wonder. What is this phenomenon a little one evokes? Bubbly ripples of laughter that transport us to another realm. Unabashed honesty that cuts to the chase. Joy splashing around our ankles, light spilling into shadow, awakening us to a childlike appreciation for the world around us.

If we take the time, if we listen, if we stoop to their level, we can go where kids go—straight to the heart of God. Wit & Wisdom from the Wee Ones is a collection of cute quips and quotes inspired by Eileen’s grandchildren. Along with other contributors, Eileen cracks the door to the whimsical, yet often wise world of the child. Lean in close . . . you may just hear God’s heartbeat.

On the web:

In the Christian living world, I’ve had two articles go live, one on Divine Silence and the other where I share one of my least glamorous yet most memorable moments in an article titled The Dangers of Negativity.

My sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, visited Seriously Write to discuss the pros and cons of joining a compilation project. Having compiled Sweet Freedom, and working on another compilation with my church, I found this post interesting. 🙂 You can read about this here.

Reality Church News:

The Art of Neighboring!

Following an excellent series on the “E” word, hubby and I are going to a seminar titled “The Art of Neighboring.” We’re hugely excited about this, because this is an area we really need to grow in! Plus, I’ll be sharing a neighboring story that really touched (touches) my heart.

mini big live logoThe Mini Big Live!

You may remember our massive tri-city serving event titled the Big Live. Well, we’re at it again, but on a slightly smaller scale. May 2-4, RC members will partner with 10 Omaha Metro ministries to bring God’s love and truth to a hurting world. We’ll serve the homeless, clean a park, organize and facilitate a fun run to benefit the local foodbank, will plant flowers at the Hope Center and will make beds for children who have none… among other things!

The highlight: My railroader hubby is leading a flashmob dance of Papillion Manor residents and RCers. To say this shoved him out of his comfort zone would be an understatement. ha! But I know he’ll rock it! Figuratively and literally. (We hope to have Youtube footage of the event. Of course I’ll share it with y’all!)

Saving Grace booklet!

I’m helping our Groups Pastor, Roger Graber, compile a booklet on Saving Grace. This will be used for discussion groups and will be distributed to everyone who attends our Easter service. It’ll also be available in PDF form, which means I’ll be able to share it with you!