Experiencing Peace When Encountering “Problem” People

Woman experiencing a headacheRelationships can be hard and rewarding, stressful and comforting, this time of year especially. We all probably have at least one person we’d must rather avoid but whom we tend to find ourselves sitting directly across from during Christmas dinner. If you’re anticipating some unpleasant conversations and interactions this season, I hope you’ll find encouragement in my guest Andrea Chatelain’s post.

Experiencing Peace When Encountering Problem People

By Andrea Chatelain

Envision the person you’re least looking forward to seeing this Christmas holiday. Even thinking about them may make you uncomfortable or irritable. Their words may sting, their actions leave disastrous wakes, or perhaps they’re simply insensitive and rude. Perhaps flying to Florida for the holidays sounds pretty good right about now. How can we make sure unenjoyable people don’t ruin our special day? The answer centers less on who we’re annoyed with and everything to do with our relationship with Christ.

When negative thoughts regarding a family member or acquaintance swell, I have to ask myself some questions to get back on track: How has God shown me compassion and patience? How has He forgiven me recently? And how is He asking me to bear with the person I am annoyed with?

I had to do this recently. To be honest, sometimes I get weary of forgiving the same person over and over. I get angry when I stew about their choices and actions. I think it would be easier to avoid them and move on. But when I answer the questions above and ponder the way Jesus has handled my offenses, I’m so grateful He’s ready to pour out an abundance of grace and patience when I mess up? He always gives me another chance.

When I want to love others like Jesus, I remember Colossians 3:12-15. In this passage, Paul, an early church planter wrote, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness,woman in winter gear with quote on "wearing" Christ and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, NIV).

Woah. That one packs a good truth punch. When I want to engage in a disagreement, put someone in their rightful place, or walk away from a relationship out of annoyance, I have to remember I’m chosen and loved, and called to show compassion to others when they don’t deserve it. I’m to forgive others as Christ has forgiven me. And in doing so, I put on love and help bind my family together in harmony.

When I’m right with Jesus and in tune with all the gifts He gives me, it impacts how I respond to those who annoy me. I’m more gracious and patient because I’m empowered by God’s Spirit and living out of His kindness.

That’s not to say we should never set boundaries for ourselves and our children. Sometimes we do indeed need to distance ourselves from unhealthy behavior. But even then, we must continually check our hearts to ensure we’re following Christ’s leading and not reacting out of bitterness or resentment. We can forgive from afar, love others without inviting or accepting abuse, and  hold tough conversations with grace.

But when emotional or physical safety isn’t involved, when we’re simply dealing with someone we don’t particularly enjoy, Colossians 3:12-15 can help us love well this season.

If you’re struggling with potential holiday encounters Christmas, reflect on the kindness and grace God’s shown you. How can you bear with others in that same compassion and love? Let’s commit to surrendering to Christ in the face of grievances this Christmas so our hearts can experience His peace.

Get to Know Andrea!

Andrea Chatelain’s mission is to meet women in their struggles and love them forward with God’s truth. She’s a Midwest mom of three, faith and family writer at Glory Be, writer/speaker for Wholly Loved Ministries, and college English instructor to immigrants and refugees. She loves connecting with women to remind them they can find everything they need in Jesus.

Let’s talk about this! What are some ways you stay grounded in peace and fitted in love during difficult or stressful situations? Share your thoughts with us, and make sure to grab a copy of Wholly Loved’s Christmas devotional, which Andrea contributed to, Intentional Holidays:

cover image for Wholly Loved's DevotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle; to trade striving and performing for resting and rejoicing.In our photoshopped, Instagram, hyper-publicized culture, it feels like the bar is always rising. Not only must we create that memorable Thanksgiving meal, but it must look Pinterest worthy when we’re done. We rush to find the perfect gift and that gown for that party we feel obligated to attend and wonder how we’ll pay for it all or find the time and energy to get everything done. But Immanuel—God with us—is indeed with us in the middle of our dinner fails and celebrations.This holiday season, each morning, no matter how busy our day or frazzled our heart, God is drawing us near so that we can live filled. We can experience peace in the middle of our crazy through the Prince of Peace, our Savior, Immanuel.

Additional Resources:

The Key to Experiencing Christmas Peace in Your Life Today by John Piper

Finding Peace in the Chaos of Christmas, on Proverbs 31 Ministries

Five Ways to Exchange Panic for Peace This Christmas, Lifeway

Christmas Dysfunction or Growth and Peace–Your Choice, by Jennifer Slattery

Finding Strength to Love Well This Christmas

Quote on showing Christ's love with Christmas background

Unfortunately, when I most need Christ’s strength is often when I’m least apt to seek it. When I most feel rushed and overwhelmed, somehow I deceive myself into thinking I can handle the situation and my responses. And perhaps, for a while I can, but the more I rely on myself, the weaker and less loving and grace-filled I become.

As the bustle of Christmas approaches, along with the obligations and gatherings frequently attached to it, I’m reminding myself of this long-verified truth: I am hopeless and helpless without my Savior. Whenever I forget this and allow busyness to steal those precious, soul-fortifying moments I know I need, I reveal though I claim He’s the source of everything good and right within me, somewhere deep within I’ve believed a potentially destructive lie: That I’ve got this, whatever this may be. The longer I operate in that falsehood, the weaker I become and the closer I edge toward hurt and regret.

About five years ago, our family learned a local youth would soon be out of a home, so, though our schedules were full, we took this child in. Though we anticipated challenges, the arrangement proved exponentially more difficult than we could’ve imaged. The teen was hostile, rebellious, and prone to angry outbursts. Our once peaceful home soon morphed into one frequently filled with yelling and slamming doors.

I knew every destructive behavior this teen displayed came from a place of deep pain. I knew Jesus was the only One able to heal this child, and I so longed to continually point to the life-transforming power of Christ. I longed to reveal that power within me, through my words and actions. The problem was, I routinely felt overwhelmed, chasing one responsibility from the next, I had little time for anything other than what I call “shout out” prayers—those frantic requests tossed heavenward as one runs from problem or obligation to the next.

Whenever I put off my time with Christ, I quickly regretted this. I’d respond in frustration rather than grace, reflecting back what I’d received from the child rather than the love of my Savior. Yet each time I pulled away to rest in God’s presence, whether for a moment or ten, His peace washed over me, strengthening and refreshing me as He spoke tenderly to my soul. And almost always, He cleared my vision, giving me a depth of understanding, and with this, compassion, I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Jesus put this it this way: “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me” (John 15:4, NIV).

Christ’s words make me think of Galatians 5:22-23, which says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (NIV).

Notice, the writer didn’t say, “Now the Spirit helps Jennifer produce love and joy and self-control.” No, text pulled from post with an image of woman standingit says the Holy Spirit produces these traits within me. As I yield to Him, His power expands within me, giving me strength in place of weakness, patience in place of frustration, and self-control where tempers once flared.

Christmas will be busy. I’ve long since succumbed to this truth, and likely events, recipes, and relational interactions won’t quite go as I’d hoped. I can’t prevent the oven from breaking, my neighbor from fuming, or great-aunt Janice from throwing a fit when traditions aren’t followed as she desires. But I can always draw near to my Savior and yield to His love and grace, flowing first within and then without, me. I’ll likely regret numerous things this holiday season, but I know with certainty I’ll never regret that.

Let’s talk about this. How do you stay connected to Christ during busy and stressful seasons? What are some ways you plan to prioritize your time with Him this Christmas.

You might find Wholly Loved’s latest Devotional, Intentional Holidays: Finding Peace in the Prince of Peace helpful:

cover for Wholly Loved's devotionalThis holiday season, God invites us to slow down our hustle and to trade our striving for resting and rejoicing. Immanuel, God with us, encourages us to hit pause in the middle of our crazy, beautiful, and not-so-glamorous moments to experience Him. No matter how busy our days, fragmented our minds, disrupted our plans, or frazzled our hearts, God beckons us to draw near so that we can live filled and refilled. We can experience peace, no matter our circumstances, through the Prince of Peace, our Savior.

Grab your copy HERE.

Additional resources:

Preparing Our Hearts For Christmas, Wholly Loved’s latest Bible reading plan on YouVersion:

This holiday season, take some time to slow down and reflect on God’s goodness and the precious gift of Christ with us.

Find it HERE.

Christmas dysfunction—or growth and peace. Your Choice

text from post with lights in background

If my Christmas feels out of control and produces more anxiety than joy and peace, I’m probably to blame. Nine times out of ten, when I honestly evaluate those things that cause me the greatest stress and anxiety, it’s my fault. I’ve failed to establish and maintain clear boundaries, have given other people’s behavior and opinions power over me, or both.

Most often both.

Let me explain using a parenting example. When our daughter was in high school, she went through the messy phase that seems inherent to adolescence. I’d nag, cajole, pester, and remind, and yet, dirty clothes remained on the floor, dirty dishes on counters, and piles of randomness cluttered nearly every surface.

As this problem continued, my frustration grew, until one day I realized … the situation was largely my fault. Though I’d stated my expectations, I lacked direct and clear follow-through. In getting upset, nagging, or running around tidying things up, I’d taken ownership of my daughter’s behavior.

I had three options:

  1. Communicate natural consequences and follow through.

(And if I do that, there’s no reason to get upset. I simply enforce the consequence and move on.)

  1. Remain perpetually frustrated.
  2. Determine to let the situation go.

Though this holds true year round, our lack of boundaries and unhealthy responses are felt most strongly over the quote pulled from text with Christmas wrapping and items backgroundholidays when obligation, expectation, financial strain, and reduced availability magnifies and reveals every dysfunction.

And whenever God allows something unhealthy to come under the spotlight, He’s giving us the opportunity to align ourselves and our lives more closely with truth and bring increased wholeness to what is now broken.

I think we probably know this, at least in theory, but many times, we’re afraid of what our healthy decisions might cost. We may know Great Aunt Leola’s expectation that all families, regardless of their schedule, commitments, or personal needs and desires, attend her Thursday night dinner, are unrealistic and unfair. But we fear, should we do what we feel is right for ourselves (our sanity!) and our family, we’ll lose the relationship or create uncomfortable tension.

Therefore, we determine her feelings and perceptions, regardless of how unjustified, and lack of conflict are more important than emotional and relational health. Than true peace, which, biblically speaking, means wholeness. We can’t set a boundary unless we’re willing to stand by it, regardless of how things play out and others respond. Otherwise, our boundaries are merely suggestions that will likely leave us feeling more frustrated and defeated than before.

The other morning, I spoke with a group of single moms on pursuing healing and learning to recognize what is and isn’t about them—what to take ownership for and correct and what to “shake off” in a refusal to “own” someone else’s opinions and poor behavior. The question that followed: How?

I think what they were asking is, “How can I stop getting so emotionally entangled in other people’s opinions, behaviors, and perceptions (which usually means, when evaluated at its root, how can I care less what others think about me)?

To which I responded: What gave them the right to hold that power? What did they do to warrant this, and what makes them—their opinion—more important than you and your emotional health?

That’s a question we have to ask ourselves each day, because until we’re able to say, “Nothing and no one gave them that power,” we’ll likely remain victims. Worse, we’ll teach our kids to do the same, and we’ll all suffer for it, the person with the poor behavior included.

Along these same lines, if we’re the ones attempting to override someone else’s boundaries, we must ask ourselves: Who gave me that power? Who gave me authority to force my dysfunction onto others? And what might Jesus have to say about that?

Because as the saying goes, truth without love is hurtful and abrasive, and love without truth is deadly. It kills relational intimacy, personal integrity, robs us and our families of peace, and perpetuates a cycle of dysfunction.

But truth and love combined? That’s power. The power of life, transformation, hope, and peace. True, biblical peace, not simply the momentary conflict avoidance that has killed way too many happy holidays.

Let’s talk about this! How much of your current stress is caused by lack of boundaries? What areas might God be wanting to bring wholeness to this holiday season? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those in the Omaha Metro area, fun news! I’ll be leading Wholly Loved’s new Bible study, Becoming a Princess, this January at Wildewood Christian in Papillion. I hope you’ll join us each Tuesday from 6:30-8:00pm as we learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His peace and power in our most challenging circumstances, rest from our striving, and daily live in God’s grace. I’ll share more details along with a sign up link soon!

When God Uses Christmas to Point us to Something Bigger

Image of woman holding cash
2002 started as a guilt-ridden Christmas but resulted in one our family will always cherish.

A month before the holidays, we feared our daughter would suffer the consequences of our bad choices. After years of careless spending, we’d depleted our savings and maxed out our credit cards. We knew we needed to make drastic changes but feared doing so would hurt our daughter.

Yet we could no longer ignore God’s prodding, not without becoming willfully disobedient. He wanted first place in our hearts Quote from postand asked us to purge those things, like materialism, that had occupied His rightful place.

And so, that November, we cut up our cards, tossed out our catalogs, and I set about making our daughter hand-made gifts.

A couple weeks later, my husband arrived home with a large, plastic garbage bag filled with stuffed animals—all with their tags still on. Through this, God provided the perfect gifts for our stuffed-animal loving daughter. But He did much more than that. He showed her that He sees her, loves her, and can provide for her through the most unexpected means.

As we sought to honor God with our spending, we experienced numerous miracles. Free plane tickets that allowed us to visit family when schedules prevented driving. Upgraded vehicle rentals when the economy car never would’ve been enough. Grocery sales when milk and veggies ran low.

For nearly a year, He helped us stretch every penny, so that we had neither too little nor too much. Here’s the interesting part—those miracles didn’t continue, at least, not to the same extent, once we had our finances managed. I’m convinced that’s because we no longer needed them. God continued to show up in our lives, but rarely in such obvious, material ways.

Honestly, I believe His purpose extended far beyond our financial blessings. With each stuffed animal and rental car upgrade, He taught us to trust in Him. He shifted our focus off our efforts and planning and onto Him, the One who held our future and our family in His hands.

God used our lack that Christmas and unexpected blessings to point us to the greatest gift of all, one that would outlast the season–Christ Himself.

Quote pulled from post

Some 3,500 years ago, God brought the Israelites on a similar journey. After centuries of oppression in a pagan land, He liberated them from slavery then led them on a forty-year trek through the wilderness. With every step, God taught this emerging nation to trust in Him for protection and provision. Their role was simple—surrender and obey. He took care of everything else.

Scripture tells us, each morning, He rained down cracker-like wafers from the sky, giving each family exactly what they needed for that day. Here’s the part I found cool: once they entered the fertile territory He’d long promised, the wafers stopped coming. Abruptly.

From that moment on, Scripture says, they ate the produce of the land. Daily, they discovered, they had more than enough. They saw, in a tangible way, God alone had the power to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Each day, through difficulties and blessings, He leads us through similar lessons. When life hits hard or provisions abound, it’s easy to focus on all the material objects that bring pleasure and security, but with every need and gift, God is pointing us to something greater—Himself.

I don’t know if God will provide for you in the same way that He did for us, but I do know He will always and only do what is for your best. We tend to focus on our immediate needs and desires, but God knows where true fulfillment and peace are found–in Him. Our relationship with Christ is a gift that will bring joy long after we’ve packed up our tinsel and decorations.

Let’s talk about this! Are finances tight this Christmas? How might focusing on God, your provider, help reduce your anxiety and give you peace? How has past difficulties increased your trust in Him? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

For those who are local, fun news! Wholly Loved Ministries has announced their first live Bible study, written by myself, Susan Aken, Dena Dyer, and Cheri Cowell. Join me at Wildewood Christian Church in Papillion where I’ll be teaching live.

Location: 2081, 1255 Royal Dr, Papillion, NE 68046

Dates: Jan. 15th-March 5th (with Feb. 12th off)

Times: Tuesday evenings from 6:30pm-8pm

Can’t make it to the winter study but want to join us? No problem! I’ll be presenting the study again at an Omaha church starting in March. (Details pending.)

Becoming His Princess: A 7-week Study on the Life of Sarah

Bible study cover imageDo you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and what their bank account or how accomplishment list looks like compared to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah, a woman from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her and her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, shame, and all her striving and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.

As we read about her experiences, we’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence through our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

Want our team to come to you? Contact me HERE. 

God Revealed Through The Gift

quote with Christmas night sky backgroundWrapped within the tinsel, lights, and candies of Christmas, there’s a thread of anticipation as, daily, children eye the presents tucked beneath the tree, daydreaming about what might be hid inside. They shake the boxes, test their weight, analyze their shape, hoping that special toy or gadget lies inside.

Ever since paradise was shattered, mankind has anxiously awaited a gift–one that would make all things right and undue the mess we’d become. The one, the Person, who would empty Himself for the world He loved, presenting us all with the most precious gift imaginable–life.

My guest today shares a cute Christmas memory that reminded her of the Creator’s gift of God incarnate.

God Revealed Through the Gift by Linda Rondeau

author Linda Randeau's headshotI’ve often wondered why people feel a need to disguise a gift. I expect they want to enhance the element of surprise by making the receiver wonder and guess. Most likely this was how my brother felt on his twelfth Christmas as he placed the humongous box labeled “For Dad” under the tree.

I shook my head as I remembered the laborious efforts my brother undertook to make certain Dad could not identify his gift before opening the package. He found five boxes that fit one into the other, placed the gift in the smallest one, wrapped it, and then placed the box into another box until the belt was inside my brother’s version of a Scandinavian puzzle. After two hours and six rolls of wrapping paper, he was satisfied Dad would be delighted … like digging for buried treasure.

When Christmas morning arrived, my brother asked Dad to open his present first instead of last, as was the custom. My father nodded, and my brother, pretending the box was heavy, dragged Dad’s gift over to him. My father shook the box, then stroked his chin. “Now, I wonder what this could be?”

As Dad made the first tear in the paper, my brother could contain his excitement no longer. “You’d never know it was a belt, would you, Dad?”

The memory of the Great Belt Guffaw always brings a smile. It’s one of my favorite Christmas memories. But, I’m also wisemen following the starstruck with a reminder of another gift, God’s son, his greatest treasure. Only, God didn’t conceal the promised birth with vague innuendos, mysterious wrappings, or pretense. No obscure disguises. He prepared the world, so the Messiah’s arrival could be recognized.

Even evil Herod discovered the Promised One would be born Bethlehem, an event that was shared by shepherds and kings alike. Angels sang, and a star lit the sky for all to see. Rather than hide his perfect gift in layers of distractions, God wrapped his love in revelation.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20 NIV).

***

Let’s talk about this! As I read Linda’s post and her brother’s excitement to share his special gift with his dad, I thought first of mankind’s anticipation for the Savior, and had to ask myself, to I approach God incarnate with the same joy? I also thought of God the Father, the ultimate gift giver and wondered, does he gaze down on us with that same anticipation, waiting patiently, lovingly for us to unwrap the precious gift He gave through His Son? What about you? What resonated most with you as you read Linda’s post? What are you doing to build hope-filled anticipation for time with Jesus this Christmas? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

For those navigating relational challenges this Christmas, I encourage you to visit Wholly Loved to read about how to find peace in the middle of relational dysfunction.  

You might also enjoy What Kind of Love–A Mother’s Look at God Incarnate. 

I also encourage you to sign up for my free, quarterly newsletter to receive inspirational content sent directly to your inbox. You can sign up HERE.

Get to know Linda!

Award winning author, Linda Wood Randeau writes to demonstrate our worst past, surrendered to God becomes our best future. A veteran social worker, Linda now resides in Hagerstown, Maryland. Readers may visit her web site at www.lindarondeau.com. Contact the author on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and Goodreads.

Check out her latest release, Miracle on Main Street:

“Christmas is a time for miracles,” Ryan McDougal tells his mother, when he is told that a long lost cousin, Millie, has resurfaced after nearly forty years, the cousin whose picture his mother clasped the day his father abandoned him. Though they occurred decades apart, he always believed the two disappearances were connected like opposite links of a chain.

With Millie’s arrival, perhaps he might finally receive the answers he so desperately sought. However, Ryan has a third thorn in his side, more devastating than any mystery. His wife, the love of his life, has left his arms and his bed. How long before she moves out of the house and takes his beloved son with her? He prays for his own Christmas miracle. Millie’s anticipated visit prompts Ryan’s mother to reveal secrets that bring all to light. However, when past and present collide, the truth is more than Ryan can bear.

Buy it HERE!

And for those still Christmas shopping, When Dawn Breaks, my novel reviewers have called hilarious and heartwarming, is currently on sale for under $5 (print version). You can check it out HERE!

Merry Christmas all! I hope you take time–make time!–to truly enjoy the best gift presented this season–God with us!

 

How Miss Perfect Stole Christmas

There’s only one way to introduce today’s guest and her post … Y’all, meet my sweet, hilarious, much-too-talented friend Tara Johnson:

And now, read her (real life) tale of how Miss Perfect Stole Christmas.

by Tara Johnson

I’m a beautiful mess this time of year. And I’ve learned that’s okay.

For years I lost precious sleep, valuable hair, and added circles under my eyes to achieve the perfect Christmas. For my kids. For my husband. For my church. For my own ridiculous ideals. Christmas is the mother ship for us perfectionist types. Correction, recovering perfectionists, because that’s what I am.

I wanted to give my family the Norman Rockwell paintings of Christmas memories. You know, something they could look back on and say, “Ah, those were the good old days.” I nearly made myself crazy in the process.

Ironically, the best memories our little family made have been from the things that went horrible wrong … the goof-ups, silly disasters, and laugh-out-loud mistakes. Those are the things my kids will remember. Perfection had no part of ornaments on rough wood backgroundthose special moments.

Living without grace can and will kill you. It’s a miserably hopeless existence. Not much joy. No freedom. It’s impossible to pull off anyway. Forget about the perfectly decorated tree, the swept floors, the homemade everything, the house that smells like cinnamon or the brightly wrapped packages that look like they were designed by Martha Stewart. During the past few years, I’ve slowly learned to the let that extra ‘stuff’ go. You know what I’ve discovered? Christmas is a much more joyful time of year for the loss of it.

God has birthed the simply joy and beauty anew in my heart. And He reminded me once again why He sent His Son.

I didn’t need a friend. I didn’t need a Being to impress with how well I’ve got it together. No, I needed a Savior. I’m a broken mess in need of the beautiful Hope only He can give.

I’m tired of bulldozing through Christmas like a Type A beast. All it ever did was make me a Grinch. It’s time to let go of the perfectionism. I want to remember the beauty that made the King of the universe lay down His crown to come to a broken world of desperate people. No greater act of love has ever been given.

How Miss Perfection Stole Christmas

woman dressed as Mrs. Clause decorating the treeEvery kid down in Coolville liked Christmas a lot, But Miss Perfection, who lived south of Coolville did NOT! 

Christmas drove her crazy. The whole Christmas season. Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. 

It could be because she wanted everything to go just right. It could be, perhaps, because she was overworked and uptight. But I think the most likely reason of all, was if she messed up, she’d feel unloved by one and all.

She’d fight the crowds with a sour, grinchy frown, and zoom in her minivan all over town. Shopping and baking and parties and planning, wrapping and photos while dreaming of tanning. 

The mess! The stress! Made her long to punch an elf in the midst of his chest! 

“If I could just disappear. But Christmas is coming. It’s practically here!” 

The children were fighting in their sleep-deprived state. She wasn’t faring much better staying up nights so late. “It’s part of the season,” she told herself time and again. But His still, small Voice began to whisper within.  

As the whirlwind of tinsel and glitter increased, her joy faded away. How could this be? 

“I remembered the ribbons. I remembered the tags. I remembered the packages, boxes and bags.” 

She puzzled for hours, till her puzzler was sore and continued to think as she entered the church doors. As the pastor read from Luke chapter two, she remembered how God came down as a Babe…and she knew. 

“I’m not perfect, I’ll never be. That’s why God sent a Savior for me. Jesus died to give me freedom from this kind of living. Instead of “perfection”, I need to be giving!” 

And what happened then? Well, in Coolville they say, Miss Perfection’s joy grew three sizes that day! She put down her ‘to-do’ list and played with her kids, laughed, made memories and closed her weary eyelids. 

The last thing she did that made her heart dance with light? Miss Perfection threw out her copy of Christmas Done Right.

My heartfelt thanks to Dr. Seuss for the inspiration.

***

Author Tara Johnson's headshotTara Johnson is an author, speaker and singer from Alexander, AR. A passionate lover of stories, she loves to travel to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.

Her first nonfiction book Hollow Victory: How to Identify and Disarm 5 Landmines that Make Victorious Christian Living Feel Like a Lie was released in 2014. Her first historical romance with Tyndale House Publishers will be released in the summer of 2018, and is the first of three stories set during the Civil War. She has won the Bronze Medal in the Frazier awards hosted by My Book Therapy and has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She and her husband Todd have been married for nineteen years and the Lord has blessed them with five children: Bethany, Callie, Nate, as well as Taylor Lynn and Morgan Lane who are with Jesus.

Visit Tara online at her Website, follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook, listen to her sing on Reverbnation, and follow her on Instagram.

Make sure to check out her debut novel, Engraved on the Heart, coming soon from Tyndale House Publishers!

cover image for Engraved on the HeartReluctant debutante Keziah Montgomery lives beneath the weighty expectations of her staunch Confederate family, forced to keep her epilepsy secret for fear of a scandal. As the tensions of the Civil War arrive on their doorstep in Savannah, Keziah sees little cause for balls and courting. Despite her discomfort, she cannot imagine an escape from her familial confines―until her old schoolmate Micah shows her a life-changing truth that sets her feet on a new path . . . as a conductor in the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Micah Greyson never hesitates to answer the call of duty, no matter how dangerous, until the enchanting Keziah walks back into his life and turns his well-ordered plans upside down. Torn between the life he has always known in Savannah and the fight for abolition, Micah struggles to discern God’s plan amid such turbulent times.

Battling an angry fiancé, a war-tattered brother, bounty hunters, and their own personal demons, Keziah and Micah must decide if true love is worth the price . . . and if they are strong enough to survive the unyielding pain of war.

Let’s talk about this! Did Tara’s post give you a chuckle? What about a heart prick? Do your most cherished memories resemble hers–the goof-ups and laugh-out-loud oopses? Share some of your favorites in the comments below!

On a more serious note, I invite you to pop over to my blog on Crosswalk to read about how God used a modern day crisis and mother’s heartache to deepen my understanding of His love and what Christmas cost Him. You can do that HERE!
And if you haven’t done so, sign up for my free, quarterly mailing to receive great content (short stories, devotions, image of cover for study based on 1 Timothyrecipes and more) sent directly to your inbox. Plus, as a thank you, I’ll send you (separately) a free, 36-lesson study based truths pulled from 1 Timothy (ebook). You can sign up HERE.

Squelching Our Inner Martha This Christmas

Messages encouraging us to slow down this Christmas  abound, but without a game plan and the courage to follow through, those inspiring posts and articles lead to little more than guilt. We know we need to focus on what’s truly important and most fills our heart and soul … but how? It’s one thing to desire–and even choose–simplicity; it’s another matter entirely to put our plans to action.

Change, especially when it comes to long held traditions and family expectations, requires courage.

(Insert background melody: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year)

It’s the most stressful time of the year
With kids fighting and yelling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most stressful time of the year

It’s the bus-busyest season of all
With the holiday shopping and mass-event hopping
And you must do it all
It’s the bus-busyest season of all

~ ~ ~

Did that song resonate with you? Do you feel so squeezed by all the expectations and obligations surrounding Christmas that you’ve lost the ability to think straight?

It’s hard to say no.

You may have heard the Mary and Martha story. Martha was a stressed out matron of the home who liked to throw perfect dinner parties, and Mary was the spiritual one—the girl who sat at the feet of Jesus—in the middle of said dinner party.

woman setting table

Photo by Simple from Unsplash

How many of you have hosted an important dinner? I have a few times. Now my husband begs me to order pizza.

Picture chaos, burned (or undercooked) food, and a massive mess. Always. Had I been serving Jesus, the Savior of the world, I probably would’ve had a major meltdown. He’s the last Person I’d want to serve hard potatoes and undercooked roast to!

Martha and I could’ve been twinsies, except we’d probably give each other a migraine. Too often, I allow my desire for perfection (eh, hem. pride) to overshadow what’s truly important. And everything turns ugly.

This certainly seems to be the case for Martha. I picture her as being quite passive aggressive—stomping about, clanking dishes, sighing every couple minutes while shooting Mary the stink eye.

Only Mary wasn’t paying any attention. She was too busy enjoying the special gift God had given her—His presence.

Although, she, and all their guests, must’ve heard Martha’s fuming. But Mary chose to ignore it.

Think about that for a minute. Mary chose to ignore the drama and do what she knew she needed to do.

Make no mistake, this took courage. You’ve probably been there—stuck in a situation where you knew what you wanted and needed to do, but were surrounded by others who acted as if you’re efforts or choice was lazy, irresponsible, or manipulative.

If we’re not careful, we can easily turn into Martyr Marthas, feeding our negative thinking and fueling our frustrations until we verbally explode.

This is precisely how I envision Martha acting–trudging about her kitchen, glaring at her sister, growing all the more irritable, until she’d had enough. Couldn’t anyone see how hard she was working, and how hard her sister wasn’t? Wanting to make sure they—Jesus especially—were fully aware of Mary’s poor behavior, she confronted the issue head-on, in front of all the guests.

“She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to You that my sister just sits there while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me,’” (Luke 10:40, NLT).

Imagine Mary’s humiliation—to be called out in front of all their guests. So how’d she respond? Did she hurry to do what Martha wanted? Argue with her? Nope. She let Jesus take care of the situation, and He did. He said, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:41-42, NLT).

Image of candle and background lights with text: there's only one gift that will leave us fulfilledIt’s easy to get caught up in all the details, especially during the holidays. Unless we take control of our schedules, we can become “worried and upset,” otherwise known as totally stressed out, and rob ourselves of the gift of God’s presence. But we are in control of us, and we get to decide what our Christmas looks like.

This holiday, we can approach it one of two ways. We can get so worked up over all the details, or we can create the kind of Christmas we and our families need, the kind that’s centered around Christ.

Let’s talk about this. Whenever I feel the need to make changes, especially if those changes impact others, I’m hesitant. It can take courage to change a tradition, or cut back on family commitments, perhaps to turn down invitations. But God calls us to please Him first. How can focusing on Him give us courage to put Him first? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive free, inspirational content (and recipes and craft how-tos) sent directly to your inbox. Subscribers also receive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE. And, for added fun, you can snatch Breaking Free and When Dawn Breaks for half off–with free shipping! Grab a copy for yourself or the book lovers on your list!

I also invite you to pop on over to my blog on Crosswalk to read about the unlikely Christmas cast and what it revealed regarding the heart of God. You can read it HERE.

*Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Pubilishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Has the Hustle Stolen Your Joy This Christmas?

This is the notoriously most stressful, and for many, most depressing season of the year. The pressure to buy that best gift, to create that perfect evening or morning for our loved ones, the urge to spend, to do, to plan … Then there’s’ the sting of unmet expectations or painful memories. In all that mess and stress, is it possible to experience the joy of Christmas? According to my guest, Carole Brown, yes, but it might take some paring down and refocusing.

Where’s the Joy? by Carole Brown

Word image with quote

My calendar—specifically December—said it was full and groaning under the weight of too many things to do and not enough time.

Shopping, Christmas programs, dinners, and decorating. I couldn’t fit anything else in. When had Christmas become so busy?

I had always loved Christmas and all that went with it but my emotions were stretched with stress and worry. I was being drained of all the joy of the season. The real meaning of Christmas.

Saint Luke tells us: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great JOY, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10, KJV).verse image with red star

Here’s how the verse spoke to me:

  • Fear not. Don’t be afraid to celebrate Christ’s birth the way God desires you.
  • Good tidings. What better news in all the world than when God sent his beloved son to earth for us? Indeed, The news is great tidings.
  • Great Joy. Christmas isn’t about how much we spend, or if every cookie variety gets into your jars, or even how many fun and well meaning programs you attend. It’s about Jesus and the real joy His coming brought.
  • All people. This celebration is for everyone. It’s a period to remember, share, love and celebrate the most wonderful gift in the world—Jesus.

In all the busyness of the season, in all my striving to cram everything that seemed important into our lives, in all my misguided notions that we’d “miss” something, I’d forgotten the most valuable item. Through my own good intentions, I’d robbed myself of the joy of the season.

Until one Christmas when I realized it all was too much and reevaluated what the season was about—that year opened my eyes to what really mattered.

Today, I pick and choose. The rest? Evaluation is easy when using the real reason for the season as the measuring stick.

  • I budget gifts on what I want to spend each year.
  • I plan my holiday meals ahead of time.
  • I do my favorite Christmas decorations and leave it at that.
  • I keep track of what events we’d like to attend and/or participate in and keep a tight rein on it.

However you celebrate the season, remember: it’s not about the busyness. It’s about Jesus. Only when we surrender ourselves to Christ, will the Spirit’s gifts be available. What are some of these gifts to a heart surrendered to God?

  • Peace that passes understanding. Trials, misunderstandings, disappointment and death does not affect the peace dwelling in a Christian’s heart.
  • Love that forgives, that never fails, that is kind and humble and never gives up—priceless and available to God’s children. (I Corinthians 13)
  • Joy that goes deeper than happiness, and only comes because of faith in the Redeemer. (Galatians 5:22)

Remember, works can not produce the fruits of the Spirit. Surrender, trust in our Savior, studying His Word, and talking with Him brings peace, love and joy. With those, we have the assurance that God is with us and working out His divine plan in our lives, and that knowledge makes it easier to focus on what truly matters and purge the rest.

Enjoy the season. Spend time with family and friends, but most of all, celebrate His birth. We have a reason to do so. God’s angel declared it to all mankind: JOY to the world!

***

Let’s talk about this! What resonated most with you as you read Carole’s post? Do you plan to imitate anything she’s done in her effortsimage of cover for study based on 1 Timothy to simplify her Christmas? What are some things you’ve done to reduce your stress and focus on Christ? Share your thoughts here or in the comments below.

If you enjoyed today’s post, I encourage you to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive free, inspirational content (and recipes and craft how-tos) sent directly to your inbox. Subscribers also receive a free 36-lesson study based on 1 Timothy (sent separately). You can sign up HERE. And, for added fun, you can snatch Breaking Free and When Dawn Breaks for half off–with free shipping! Grab a copy for yourself or the book lovers on your list!

***

 

An author of ten books, Carole loves to weave suspense, romance and whimsy into her books. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. They enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

Connect with her:

On her personal blog

Facebook

On her Amazon Author Page

And follow her on Twitter

Make sure to check out her latest book, A Flute in the Willows:

Both rebels in their own way, Josie and Jerry Patterson must figure out how to keep the other’s love…and keep the German enemy at bay.

She has two loves—her skating and Jerry, her husband. But when he returns home looking like a skeleton trying to return to life, she’s scared. What happened in Germany to change a man so much? Has another woman captured his heart?

Jerry has vowed to let Josie live her own glamorous life…especially after what happened in Germany. But when his wife’s life is threatened, Jerry realizes he can’t stand by and do nothing. Jerry has to risk all for the very soul and life of himself—Josie.

These two damaged, rebellious people learn the hard way that leaning on God instead of their own selves and abilities is the only true way to love and happiness.

 Description of protagonists:

Josephine Rayner Patterson, the second sister, is quite different from her older sister. She’s athletic and training for the Olympics once it’s resumed after the war, plays the flute, a little uncaring about her looks and is quite rebellious.

Jerry Patterson, dark, sardonic, sensitive and smart, he despises his overbearing, condescending and wealthy father and joins the service. Because of his sharp senses, he’s trained in subversion for the military and ends overseas in Germany but will the mistakes he makes while there cripple his and Josie’s lives forever?

A Nostalgic Christmas

Photo by VinnyCiro taken from Pixabay.com

Photo by VinnyCiro taken from Pixabay.com

First, to all my lovely and faithful readers: Merry Christmas! Some of you have been with me since way back in 2009, long before I signed my first book contract. Thanks for standing beside and behind me! I’m soaking up every drop of your support. 🙂 And I’m so very thankful for you!

I hope you will be spending time with people you care about, and I hope you’ll have lots of lazy, coffee-saturated mornings. I plan to!

Last week, I talked about the hard that, for many, can come with Christmas. Today I want to talk about the nostalgic. About the beautiful and heartwarming. I love snow. I love carols. I love the smells and sounds of Christmas, and the chance to celebrate what God did for us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Today’s guest, a sweet woman who diligently serves Christ from within her nursing home bedroom, manages to capture the wonderful and nostalgic of this holy time in every one of her Christmas novellas.

A Nostalgic Christmas by Darlene Franklin

When I wrote my first Christmas novella in 2008, I wondered how people could come up with new ideas for the hundreds that flood the stores. That story, Dressed in Scarlet from the collection Snowbound Colorado Christmas, took place during the worst-ever blizzard in Denver’s history, and I used a verse from the Bible that included snow: “She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed in scarlet.” I had a vision of a lady making hats and mittens from red long johns, and the story was born. I couldn’t imagine another snow story.

Seven Christmas novellas later, I can’t wait to write another one. I already know the theme for my 2016 entry and I even have a crazy idea to write a Christian fantasy where Santa Claus is real. Not sure how I’d make it work.

Multiply that excitement by the hundreds of other books and movies, and we get a sense of the season inspires us.

The Bible says God has created everything I can see or imagine.

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Photo by Prawny taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Even here at the nursing home, Christmas comes calling. A group of carolers stood outside our room, singing in four-part harmony. Christmas greens cover the nursing home. Lights twinkle up and down the halls. Christmas cards sit on my desk, and I’m reading a novella collection with eight Christmas stories. My son has already given me my first gift. My granddaughter showed off her lovely colored picture of Santa’s face, which was chosen as prettiest in the class.

Even my on-going study of Isaiah shouts of Christmas, with his many references to the coming Savior.

What do I feel? Love, joy, peace—even hope, my middle name.

Those are some of the things I can hear, see, touch, smell, and taste.

But God is also the creator of what I can imagine—a rich heiress and a poor Italian mechanic; a single mom and a vet; a retired Marine and a post office employee; a preacher’s daughter and a miner’s store owner; an apple orchard farmer and a scientist. The stories I write are also God’s creation—stemming from the imagination He gave me. I pray that people who read my stories also discover love, joy, peace, and hope.

Even our gift-giving, our imagination of what our loved ones want, comes from God—who of course gave us the greatest gift of all.

Thank God for all you can see and imagine at this Christmas season

***

Let’s talk about this! What are some of your favorite Christmasy things or events? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below and get entered into the drawing to win a free book! Darlene is doing a giveaway of Christmas Mail Order Brides, which includes her novella Jacob’s Christmas Dream. *Give-away open to those in the continental US and is contingent upon a minimum of five comments left on today’s post. 

FINAL MOA vol 1Christmas Mail Order Brides: A dying town populated by miners eager to settle down. . .but not a single marriageable woman lives in Angel Vale, Wyoming. The women of Merville, Maine, have lost too many men to the Civil War and to the sea. When the Ladies Aid Society receives the request for mail order brides, eleven matches are made. Enjoy the first six novellas in the collection by Darlene Franklin, Susan Page Davis, Cynthia Hickey, Brandi Boddie, Jennifer AlLee, and Teresa Ives Lilly.

Best-selling author Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to jan 21 15fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Oklahoma, near her son and his family, and continues her interests in playing the piano and singing, books, good fellowship, and reality TV in addition to writing. She is an active member of Oklahoma City Christian Fiction Writers, American Christian Fiction Writers, and the Christian Authors Network. She has written over fifty books and more than 250 devotionals. Her historical fiction ranges from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from Texas to Vermont.

Website and blog

Facebook

Amazon author page

Training by Example

ACFW 5

Shannon and I at the ACFW conference in 2009. Or 2010. I can never remember!

Moms, do you ever feel like the gimmees have infiltrated your home? Like your child’s main focus is himself? Since our ancestor Adam first bit of the forbidden fruit, mankind has been dominated by selfishness. Yet, according to many, this generation is the worst. I’m not sure if that’s true or if technology simply makes our character flaws more evident, but regardless of where we measure up compared to those who lived before us, it’s no secret, we’ve got a bad case of the MEs! Our children included. So how do we counter this constant pull toward selfishness? Today multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannattor shares her thoughts with us.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her romance novel, Rodeo Family, to a reader randomly selected in the comments left on today’s post.

But first, I want to announce last week’s winner. Pat Dyer, congrats! You won an e-copy of Stephanie Prichard’s novel, Stranded. I’ll email you shortly to discuss the best way for her to get that to you.

(Shannon, we need a new picture! Let’s plan to go to a conference together soon!)

Children Learn by Example by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

From the time my son’s motor skills were firing, whenever we went shopping before Christmas, I’ve given him money to put in the Salvation Army buckets. Anything from one to five dollars. I’ve always explained that the money is to buy Christmas gifts for kid’s whose parents don’t have any money. By the end of the season, we probably contribute $200.00.

Over the years, he’s kept me accountable. If I don’t have any cash, he gives me the I-can’t-believe-we-just-snubbed-the-bellringer look. When we check out, I add cash back to my total, so we can put money in on the way out. We also take coats my son has outgrown to the bellringers.

At thirteen, he tries to get me to put the money in these days, but I still make him do it. Hopefully, someday far in the future, he’ll teach his child to put money in the bucket.

For the last several years, our church has donated shoeboxes to the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child ministry. After all the money and items are donated, my son and I volunteer to shop for items with the donated funds. Before our shoebox packing party, he goes with me to the church and helps me sort all the items and set up tables by age and gender. At the packing party, my son packs shoeboxes for a boy his age.

The other night, we were watching Survivorman, one of his favorite shows. The host goes to remote areas and gives tips on how to survive if you get lost. Survivorman was in Papua New Guinea. He got sick and the villagers offered him shelter. They lived in huts with slatted walls you could see daylight through.

I took the opportunity to explain to my son that the kids who get our shoeboxes live in houses like that.

His eyes saucered. “Really?”

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Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

This past year, as the packing party neared, I had a horrible virus and was afraid he’d been exposed. We didn’t get to do the shopping or help pack boxes. I missed it and wondered if he did. I hope seeing those children living in such poverty made him anxious to pack shoeboxes next year.

For local ministry, we have a battered women’s shelter in our area. Over the years, we’ve donated furniture, clothes, and toys. Our church takes any leftover meals from funerals to the shelter and our members have bought Christmas gifts for the kids. We have to call and let them know we’re coming, especially if there are men helping with deliveries. My son has been there on several occasions.

Our association of twenty-three churches recently bought a food services van. Once it’s finished, the van will go anywhere in Arkansas where a natural disaster has occurred, serve food, and witness to survivors. Arkansas is in the middle of tornado valley. I’m hoping this summer, we can take a training course as a family and be available for this ministry when tragedy strikes.

By including my son in helping others, I hope all of the small gestures we make stick with him. That he’ll always remember there are those less fortunate than us and that he’ll always be willing to help.

Rodeo Family coverRodeo Family:

TORI EATON IS READY TO START OVER 

She’s beginning a new chapter in Aubrey, Texas, away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. As she picks up the pieces of her broken life, Tori’s surprised at the helping hand the church’s new song director, Brant McConnell, offers her, and at the warm emotions he inspires.

Brant is drawn to Tori. And as their friendship grows, so do his feelings for her. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she’s built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he’s exactly the kind of man she needs—and deserves?

Buy it on Christian Book Distributors here!

Get it from Amazon here!

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. Visit her website here to learn more about Shannon and her books and check out her real life romance blog here to read true stories from other writers. 

Connect with her on FacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and Twitter by searching: @stvauthor.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this!Raising godly children is such a tremendous responsibility and such an incredible honor. What a blessing to think God has entrusted us with these most precious gifts. May everything we do honor that great calling we have received. What are some family habits or events that have produced positive behaviors in your children? What are some things you are doing now to grow certain character traits in your children? What are some behaviors you’d like to counter, and what are some ways you can do that? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I have some fun news! My debut novel, Beyond I Do is on sale at a limited time for $3.34 in print and kindle form! If you haven’t read it yet but have been wanting to, now’s a great time! You also might want to stock up on Mother’s Day gifts, birthday gifts, and next year’s Christmas gifts! 🙂 Because the book presents a clear gospel message, some readers have been buying numerous copies to give to nonbelieving friends as evangelism tools.

Now, for those following my book launch tour, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Yesterday on Takin’ it to the Streets’ blog, I reminded readers to rest in God’s strength. You can read more here.

I also visited A Word of Encouragement to discuss the question: Is venting biblical. You can read more about that here.

Tuesday I visited fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan’s blog to share how God used one woman’s surrender to bless many during Reality Church’s first ever Women’s Connection Event. You can read about that here.

On Monday I stopped by Novel Rocket to discuss ways for writers to keep their heads in storyworld when life tries to pull them from it. You can read more about that here. 

I also stopped by Karen Beery’s blog to discuss Christian fiction and how imperfect characters reveal God’s grace. You can read that here. 

I also visited Writing Prompts to  chat with my sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, contributor to A Dozen Apologies and Sweet Freedom. You can join the conversation here.

On InspyRomance.com, I shared some ways you can revive a dead marriage (or make a strong marriage stronger). You can read my suggestions here. 

Finally, on Friday I visited with Lena Nelson Dooley, where I shared a bit about my novel and an excerpt. You can join that conversation here.  One of the characters in When Dawn Breaks stopped by Infinite Characters to talk about widowhood and true love. You can read that here. 

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBAnd before I go, for those of you in driving distance to Olathe, KS, I hope you’ll join me next Saturday (Jan. 31st) at Lifeway Christian Book store where I’ll be signing copies of both my books, then afterwards, whoever wants to is invited to join me and some other authors at Homer’s Coffeehouse in Overland Park to chat about books and other pure randomness while we gorge ourselves on heavily-flavored coffee! Holly Michael, author of Crooked Lines will be there. Yay!