Slow Down by Tina Radcliffe

tinamradcliffesmallI’ve heard that message all my life. I’m a wee bit hyperactive and I tend to run through life, rather than stroll. In fact, I probably dodged around you in annoyance if you were dallying around on the track of life, in my way!

On another note, I’ve spent a good six months researching current trends in myoelectric prosthetic devices for my January release, Rocky Mountain Cowboy. My hero has Michelangelo prosthesis on his transradial amputation (below the elbow on his right arm).

Think about that. He’s a man. He’s a cowboy. He’s right-handed. He has to shave, brush his teeth, tie his shoes, saddle his horse, rope cows with only one arm and hand. That’s quite a lifestyle change. The myoelectric prosthesis is an amazing device. You can see it here at Advanced Arm Dynamics. Yet there are changes and adjustments to be made. Self-image issues to deal with.

I am a retired (by choice, not age) registered nurse. Certainly, I have experience dealing with amputations, physical handicaps and limitations. No big deal to this medical professional. Right?  But of late, God is really giving me an understanding of what it’s really like to be a handicapped.

I’ve had a temporary detour that has provided a few challenges. As I look around, I am vain enough to wonder what others think. I am also dealing with self-image at my temporary slow pace.

Irony: a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

Oh, that God! Of course, I am not insinuating that my little detour is God-induced. I am wholly culpable due to neglect on my part. But this speed demon does see the irony. I am forced to slow down and join those she is accustomed to racing past. By virtue, I am noticing those around me who have slowed down as well. Yes, for the first time in my life I am looking, REALLY looking at those around me with handicaps and disabilities.

My prayer of late has been this: “Lord, let me see others as you see them.”

My eyes have been opened in a new way and with much need for repentance on my part. Yes, there is hope for this energizer author. I’m excited at what God is showing me during this time.  Already I’ve realized that if I move too quickly through life there is a chance I will miss out on what God has in store for me. I am learning that I must wait on Him and let Him guide me.

Be still, and know that I am God – Psalm 46:10

No doubt many of you have had seemingly negative situations that God has turned into opportunities. I’d love to hear about those opportunities!

I’m giving away a copy of Rocky Mountain Cowboy to one commenter today. Let me know you want it, as many of my friends have been reminded to please stop by and visit me on this lovely blog, and they already have this book. Many thanks to Shelia, for inviting me to hang out here today, and for the lovely fruit pie spread.

tinamradcliffesmallOriginally from Western, N.Y., Tina Radcliffe left home for a tour of duty with the Army Security Agency (a branch of the NSA) stationed in Augsburg, Germany and ended up in Tulsa Oklahoma. While living in Tulsa she spent ten years as a Certified Oncology R.N. Tina is a two-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist, a 2014 ACFW Mentor of the Year finalist, a 2014 Golden Quill finalist and a 2014 ACFW Carol Award winner. Tina is also a short story writer and has sold over twenty short stories to Woman’s World Magazine. She currently resides in Arizona where she writes fun, heartwarming romance. You can find her at www.tinaradcliffe.com

rocky-mountain-cowboyRocky Mountain Cowboy releases on December 20, 2016. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and check out rancher Joe Gallagher and his challenges.

A Cowboy’s Second Chance

The last person cowboy Joe Gallagher thought he’d see on his ranch was high school sweetheart Rebecca Anshaw Simpson. Twelve years after she married another man, she’s back as his physical therapist. But healing his body is nothing compared to guarding his heart from the woman he never forgot. There’s much the single mom would rather forget, but Becca won’t let regret and a surly rancher get in the way of her job and the chance to start over with her little girl. She has only a few weeks to make peace with her past. But Becca never expected she’d fall all over again for her first love.

The Death of Pride and Friendship Reborn

lindsay-harrelBy Lindsay Harrel

I don’t think there’s much that hurts worse than the death of a friendship. Lost friendships leave us wondering what went wrong. They might leave us bitter, blaming someone else for the rejection and dejection we feel. They might make us regretful or give us low self-esteem.

Sometimes, the death of a friendship is a necessary thing, taking us away from a toxic person who was only poisoning our lives. But that certainly wasn’t the case for me.

Several years ago, I lost a lifelong friend. She and I had been going down separate paths for awhile, but I was too busy to see it. On the surface, I thought I was doing what I needed to maintain the relationship. But when I looked deeper, I saw that I had begun avoiding her because of some hurts I’d allowed to fester and grow into resentment.

That revelation didn’t come overnight. In fact, it took some time to accept my part in the “breakup.” Before that, it was so easy to blame her, to see how she’d twisted events to suit her, to see the hurt she inflicted on me by deciding I wasn’t worthy of her friendship anymore (my interpretation at the time).

So I became bitter and nasty toward her. Because of our circumstances, we still saw each other fairly frequently. I would tell myself to be cordial—but as I’m someone who wears my heart on my sleeve, it was too difficult a task for me to pretend everything was all right. I’d end up saying things that weren’t like me at all, and make everyone around us uncomfortable.

Eventually, after some wise counsel, I decided I needed to move on for my own sake. Even if I couldn’t repair the friendship, I had to ask for forgiveness for my part and forgive my former friend for hers. We met up, hashed things out face to face, and decided to move past this—not as friends, but as indifferent acquaintances.

I was still sad over this arrangement—because I’d lost a friend—but okay with it. After all, what else could I do?

But friends, that is not where this story ends.

friendshipSomehow, over the years, we have become friends again. I can’t even tell you how it really happened, except to say that we serve a God who doesn’t settle for “okay.”

So even when it seems that all hope is lost, remember that the God who created the heavens and the earth cares about our relationships. He wants us to be restored to full unity, to be the most effective body of Christ we can be. And if we are willing, he will do miracles in our lives—even when we least expect them.

About the Author

lindsay-harrelLindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family, and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. Besides writing, singing, and hanging out with family and friends, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Her debut novel, One More Song to Sing, releases December 2016. Connect with her at www.LindsayHarrel.com.

About One More Song to Sing by Lindsay Harrel

onemoresongMore than two decades ago, Olivia Lovett left her old life behind in the red dirt of Oklahoma and forged a career in Nashville as a country music star. Now her voice is failing, forcing her to find a new dream just as the secrets of her past come knocking at the door. Long-time friend Andrew Grant agrees to partner in a new business venture—but would he stick around if he knew her whole story?

After the tragic loss of her father, twenty-one-year-old Ellie Evans headed to Nashville seeking more than just fame. For two years, she’s waitressed, strummed, and sung her way to what may finally be her big break when Olivia offers to sign her to the budding record label. More than anything, Ellie just wants to be seen: by her future fans, by Nick Perry—a fellow musician with a killer smile and kind eyes—and above all else, by the mother who abandoned her. If the spotlight never shines on her, will Ellie ever feel whole?

One More Song to Sing is a romantic drama about the power of forgiveness, second chances, and a God who never fails to see us.

Connect with Lindsay on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/LindsayHarrel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting In Focus with God By Jackie Layton

jackieMy husband and I were both born in Kentucky and met each other in church in Georgia. We fell in love and got married in Athens, Georgia. In 1994 we moved back to Kentucky so our sons could grow up around family. Tim helped start Wesley Village, a retirement community in Wilmore, KY. The village has been a major part of our family for years, and we thought we’d retire there. It turns out God has other plans for us.

On September 16, Tim got a call about a job in South Carolina. We’ve spent years dreaming living at the beach. It was fun to dream, but we knew our lives were cemented in Kentucky. At first, Tim could only list reasons not to consider the job. I was disappointed that we didn’t even ‘dream’ about it, but I couldn’t imagine leaving our families, especially our granddaughters.

In the days that followed, God showed us through devotionals, our Bible readings, and words spoken to us from Christian friends that we needed to consider it. I began to feel God saying, “Follow me.” He continued to give us signs, so Tim filled created a resume. The next day they asked him to fly to Myrtle Beach for an interview.

jackies_friendsWe have life-long friends, Melissa and Willie Lee. Willie and I graduated from pharmacy school together, and the four of us became close friends while in Athens. The Lees moved back to SC, but we stayed in touch. Then we moved to KY and still managed to stay in touch and even vacation together. So, when Tim flew to Myrtle Beach, the Lees took him in. They housed and fed him, and even took him house hunting, just in case.

It turns out Tim was offered the job and is taking it. I won’t be able to move until our house sells, so he’ll go first.

cynthiaThe first time we visited Myrtle Beach, we stayed with Melissa’s parents for Memorial Day Weekend. It’s hard to believe after all of this time, we’re going to be moving to Murrels Inlet. We’ll be close to our dear friends, and we’re excited to see what adventure(s) God has planned for us.

I mentioned Melissa took Tim around looking at houses. After he came home, she found us a great house. We were so impressed we made an offer on it and it’ll be ours at the end of November. I’ll have an office with a view of a lake in our new neighborhood. I know I’ll be inspired to write there.christmas_at_bald

My first novella came out this fall. It’s Christmastide at Bald Head Island. I wrote In Focus. It’s a love story about a woman who dares to face her fears and past hurts for love.

More about me… 

I always loved to read and enjoyed weekly trips to the library. When we got older, Mom would take us downtown to my dad’s drug store, and my brother and I would walk to the library. I could spend hours looking at all the different book options.

When I was a teenager, I read a romance and I can remember telling my mother I wanted to write a romance one day. When I headed off to college though, I chose a practical degree where I could get a job. I’ve enjoyed being a pharmacist and will continue to work in the field of pharmacy, but I love writing. My dream is to be a full-time author, but we’ll see what God’s plans are. Until then, I’ll keep writing inspirational fiction stories that will glorify God.

Writing Awards: 

In 2016  Jackie Layton placed second  in the Inspirational Fabulous Five Contest, First Place in Touched by Love Award 2016, 2016 Second Place in the Orange Rose Contest, Finalist in 2015 Genesis Romantic Suspense, Winner of Inspirational Category 2015 Show Me the Spark, Second Place Romance in the 2013 Writers of the Storm Category 5 Contest, 2014 Genesis Semifinalist Romantic Suspense, top 200 of the Family Fiction Short Story Contest in 2014, and Daphne du Maurier Second Place Inspirational in 2014. Jackie is a member of Romance Writers of America, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Bluegrass Christian Writers.

Connect with Jackie @
http://www.jackielaytonauthor.com/
http://jackiesbackporch.blogspot.com
Twitter: @Joyfuljel
https://www.facebook.com/JackieLaytonAuthor
https://www.facebook.com/Joyfuljel
https://www.pinterest.com/jackiebeth117/
https://www.instagram.com/joyfuljel/

While My Soldier Serves

edie-melsonBy Edie Melson

There are times when life is lived in the dark. Everywhere we turn—inside and out—the landscape is bleak and barren. God seems a million miles away and our prayers—when we can find the words to pray—feel like they go no farther than the ceiling.

I’ve been through the those times—and come out on the other side. With pride, I’ve sent my son off to war twice. As proud as I was to have a son willing to sacrifice to serve his country, I was just scared that he’d be called on to make the ultimate sacrifice.

When our sons were small, I used to image their lives ahead—learning to drive, beginning to date, and going to college. Like most parents, I’d always assumed I’d have our sons’ college years as a sort of grace period between childhood and adulthood. More than I realized, I’d counted on that time of transition.

When our oldest chose to go from high school graduation straight to Marine Corps boot camp that transition time evaporated. One minute I was hugging goodbye to my child, my oldest son. The next time I saw him, he was a fully formed man—still my son, but without any trace of the child I’d hugged goodbye.

Before that year was out, he was half a world away, deployed in a war zone as a frontline infantry Marine.

It was during those deployments that I learned about darkness of the heart. I wanted to protect him, I ached to shield him from what I knew he was experiencing, but I couldn’t. So I did the one thing I could do. It began as my course of last resort because I was at the end of my own strength.

I prayed.

And I prayed.

And I prayed some more.

I searched for books of prayers that would help give voice to the emotions welling up in my heart, but found nothing. So I began to journal my own prayers. I learned how to take my overwhelming fear to the only One who could protect him. And I left my son in God’s hands. The prayers weren’t pretty. And that old deployment journal I kept is dog-eared and tear-stained.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was like a seed, planted deep in the ground. I was surrounded by darkness, by rough, rocky soil, pressing in on all sides crushing the life from me. But through that incredible pressure, the shell of my own strength fell away, and I slowly began to push toward the light that I knew was just beyond the darkness.

And my course of last resort became my strength, and the first place I turned. Instead of praying in desperation, I began to pray in confidence. I learned to lean into God, instead of turning in on myself.

On May 12,  just after Mother’s Day 2015, the final harvest of that time of darkness has come to fruition. It’s a book of prayers for those with loved ones in the military, While My Soldier Serves. I’ve written the book that I searched so hard to find. God has taken my time of darkness and is shining it as a light for those who are also facing the incredible stress of having a loved one at war.

Never doubt that God will bring a harvest of joy, no matter how dark the days you’re facing now.

While My Soldier Serveswhile_my_soldier_serves

by Edie Melson

Thousands of families send loved ones off to fight on a daily basis. These families spend a lot of time living in a world out of control. This kind of stress can take an incredible toll, but there is hope. When we feel helpless, we can take our fears to the One who loves us more than anything and holds the universe in His hands.

In this book you’ll find the words to usher you into His presence. These prayers are a place to visit again and again as you take your own fears to God. They’re just a starting point, written to help you find your own voice as you call out on behalf of the one you love.

Her newest book

Alonealone

After her family is killed in the cleansing, Bethany’s purpose in life has changed. No longer will she be allowed to work to save her dying planet. As a slave, endurance is her goal as she marks each day as one moment closer to an eternity spent reunited with those she loved. But when her planet is invaded, everything changes. Now she must decide either to align herself with those from her planet who condemned her faith and killed her family, or with the warriors who have conquered her world. Ultimately her choice will mean life or death for more than just her planet’s ecosystem. She alone holds the key to a powerful secret, and the fate of the entire galaxy depends on her decision.

Author Bio:

edie-melsonFind your voice, live your story…is the foundation of Edie Melson’s message, no matter if she’s writing for fiction readers, parents, military families, fiction readers or writers. As an author, blogger, and speaker she’s encouraged and challenged audiences across the country and around the world. Her numerous books reflect her passion to help others develop the strength of their God-given gifts and apply them to their lives.

As a leading professional within the publishing industry, she travels to numerous conferences as a popular keynote, writing instructor and mentor. Her top-ranked blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She’s a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine. She’s also the Social Media Mentor for My Book Therapy, Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com, and regular columnist for Guideposts.org, Just18Summers.com and PuttingOnTheNew.com. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Connect with her on her blog, The Write Conversation, Twitter, and Facebook.

 

What’s In My Shoebox and Why

img_3142This morning I shopped for and packed my shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.  This is the tenth year my church has participated in this wonderful mission project.  I always start with an empty box; then I pray as I walk the aisle, and search for just the right thing to fit in the shoebox.  I have to admit; I hadn’t a clue if everything I bought this morning would fit.

picmonkey_image (8)A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to work at the distribution center and a woman who had been the recipient of a shoebox as a child, spoke to us on our break. Her gift box included a box of pencils. In fear of someone else at the orphanage stealing her pencils, she slept with them.  My shoebox will always include pencils, a pencil sharpener, and notepads.

While in Africa, my niece witnessed some of the children with whom she’d been working receive shoeboxes.  They had no idea what to do with the toothpaste, so I added more pencils and left out the toothpaste.

I know from experience on the mission field that if you bounce a ball, children come running. That’s why I include a durable rubber ball in my box for the toy.  Many of the children in Africa don’t have dishes to hold their food, so I try to cram in a plastic cup, bowl, and a metal spoon.

img_3145A necessity for the shoebox is soap. You have no idea how much this is needed unless you’ve visited a poverty stricken nation. I managed to squeeze three bars of soap, and a good quality wash cloth is layered on the bottom with a canvas shopping bag. That all purpose bag will be used until it’s completely worn out.

Somehow, I managed to pack in eight pairs of girls underwear, a top, and sweatpants. These clothes will be worn daily until they literally fall off.

We pack the boxes in November, and it was the following September when the children received shoeboxes in Africa.  So, I make sure the to send hard candy that will not perish to fill in the empty space. I also include a comb, chapstick, and ponytail holders to fill in the tiniest of spaces.

img_3150Whatever you do, please make sure to deliver your shoebox on time to your local church or collection organization. The first year, I made my shoebox but missed the date. The child who should have received a gift was left empty handed because of my procrastination. I won’t let that happen again.

Be sure to leave a note on your box to tell the child that Jesus loves him or her. Close it, and wrap at least two rubber bands around the top.  Your box will be examined at the Operations Center to ensure no liquids or inappropriate items are inside, but the worker will re-pack your items with care.

picmonkey_image (16)God blessed me with the chance to meet another Operation Christmas Child recipient at our hotel.  He told me that receiving the shoebox made a difference in his life. Renan is standing next to my friend Tammie.

And finally, label you box and indicate if it’s for a girl or boy, include the age range, and PRAY over your box and ask that the child who receives it will receive the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, as his/her Savior and Redeemer.hand

 

 

Prayer Request for Jeffery Woodke

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26 ESV.

jeffery-woodkeLast week, I shared a post on Facebook about Jeffery Woodke, a missionary in Niger, West Africa, being kidnapped by a terrorist group. Click on the picture which will link you to the full story from The Christian Post.

Jeffery Woodke and other missionaries, live Luke 14:26. They have put Jesus before everything, even their families. They love Jesus more than anything. I’ve traveled to Niger four time and have not met Jeffery Woodke, but I hope and pray that someday, I will be able to meet him and give him a hug, and thank him for all that he has done to spread the gospel in Niger.

Please pray for Jeffrey Woodke’s safe return and for God to protect him. Pray that during his time of captivity, God will give him the courage to be a bold witness and bring many to Christ.

Last year, I read, The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin and Gregg Lewis which helped me understand that God can, and does, use events like Jeffery Woodke’s kidnapping to grow His kingdom. Let us never forget,  “Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us form the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV.

Please lift up prayers for Jeffery Woodke, his family, and for those who love him. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NIV.

I’ve stopped watching news programs because of the political rants, but my search for an update on  Jeffery Woodke’s kidnapping doesn’t appear to be on any news network. CNN last updated their story six days ago. It’s up to us to help spread the word that prayer is needed. Please consider sharing the article from The Chrisitan Post on Facebook.

#prayforJeffwoodke

The Promise that Comes with the Command

By Liz Johnson

“Now be sure to put Vaseline on that every day and cover it with a Band-Aid.”

I stared at the nurse like she was a little bit ridiculous. After all, the spot she was referring to was in the middle of my back. I couldn’t see it with two mirrors and selfie-stick, let alone manage keep it moisturized and covered by myself.

But the mole had had to be removed, and the resulting spot—what I dubbed “the mole hole”—had to be cared for. I did the best I could. A single woman, living alone, I employed the help of friends to apply bandages and generally suffered through the irritating itching as it healed. After all, the problematic mole, which my dermatologist deemed “troubling,” was gone. All was well.

Until I received a call from the dermatologist’s office a week later. “The pathology results from your mole are in,” said the nurse.

“Great.” I assumed the best. After all, it was just a little mole. No big deal.

“It’s not benign.”

I heard only ringing in my ears for a moment. Not benign? Benign meant harmless, right? So this was not harmless? My brain was working at the speed of sloth as I tried to sort her words into something I could understand.

And then she said what she should have started with. “But it’s not malignant either.”

“Huh?” I wasn’t feeling particularly sharp as she explained that my mole fell into a shady gray area between everything-is-great and this-could-be-trouble. The problematic cells were right along the base of the mole. If they hadn’t removed all of the problem, it would grow back, much nastier than before.

“We need you to come back in in three months,” she said.

Three months? Seriously? I had to wait three whole months to see if those little cells were still multiplying in my back? I nearly asked if they could just remove a crater from my back and be done with it. But there was nothing to be done but wait.

It’s incredible the stories that a mind can conjure as it waits for the truth. This is true in relationships—when we don’t hear from a friend, our minds fill in all the worst reasons. It’s true in families—when the person who said they’d call after their road trip doesn’t, our minds picture terrible car accidents.

I tend to be a fairly imaginative person. It’s a hazard of being a novelist, I suppose. So I immediately pictured the very worst. Facing the big C while living 2000 miles away from my family and those I love most.

friends_walkingFear settled in, heavy and oppressive. And I knew I couldn’t spend three months picturing the worst. On a walk with my best friend, I shared my fears, and she reminded me that the Bible is filled with reminders not to be afraid. She was right—per usual.

So I got home and opened my Bible. And I discovered something pretty incredible.

You see, I’d known about the many commands in scripture. “Do not be afraid.” “Fear not.” “Do not worry about tomorrow.” These are important. And they’re commands. They’re not suggestions.

But it’s one thing to know them and another entirely to do them. But as I was reading some of these key verses—the ones on postcards and wall art—something hit me. Like in Joshua 1:9, which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I thought that was where the verse ended. It’s not. The whole verse reads “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Did you catch that? “For the LORD your God will be with you.”

Joshua 1:9 isn’t just a command. It’s a promise. God is with us.

And the more verses I found, the more promises came with them.

Isaiah 43:1 – “But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’”

Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Isaiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

We don’t have to be unafraid in our own strength. God tells us how to conquer fear. With Him. Remembering that He is always with us.

The command is not to fear. The promise is that we have a God who cares about the things that scare us, and He’ll walk through them with us.

I clung to that promise for three months. (Still do, for that matter.) And you know what? God was with me. He was by my side every step of the way through my mole scare. Which turned out to be nothing to worry about.

_____________________________________________

where-two-hearts-meet-cover-finalIf you love romantic novels placed in beautiful surrounding, you won’t want to miss Liz’s new book,  Where Two Hearts Meet. It is the second book in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series and released last week.

Caden is a talented chef employed at the beautiful Red Door Inn. When Adam, a journalist shows up looking for a story, there’s a misunderstanding.

I hope you’ll treat yourself to an afternoon get-away to the beautiful setting of Prince Edward Island to see what happens “when two hearts meet.” Click on the book cover for a direct link to Amazon. I’ll draw a name from my subscribers on Sunday, October 30th and give away a free copy. To subscribe, scroll to the top of the page and add your email address in the “subscribe” box.

Liz Johnson fell in love with Prince Edward Island the first time she set foot on it. When she’s not plotting her next trip to the island, she is the director of marketing for a Christian radio network. She is the author of several novels including Red Door Inn cover - FINALThe Red Door Inn and Where Two Hearts Meet, a New York Times bestselling novella, and a handful of short stories. She makes her home in Tucson, Arizona.

 

My Story of Friendship & Hope by Connilyn Cossette

I grew up in Spokane, Washington but my husband and I moved away when we had been married just one year, in 1998. I always tease him that he has a bit of gypsy blood in him, he used to get restless after a couple of years in one place, so we spent the next few years moving around, a lot. We went from Spokane to Utah, from Utah to Seattle, from Seattle to Idaho, from Idaho back to Utah and then from Utah to Texas! Phew! Makes me tired just remembering all the packing and unpacking that went on in those wandering years!

Throughout those many moves I made a few friends in those different places, some friendships that have remained precious throughout the years and some that faded into memory after time, distance, and seasons of life eroded those ties.

When I first moved to Texas I was completely disoriented. It was a strange place and a drastically different culture (they say things like “we’re fixin’ to go” and call shopping carts buggies, people!). To top it off, my husband is a truck driver and at that time was traveling for weeks at a time, leaving me and my one-year-old son alone. I felt like I’d been dropped off in the middle of ocean without a lifejacket.

There were many months I prayed, Lord, please just bring me someone who wants to really know me, someone that cares enough to see that I am lonely and hurting and scared to put my heart on the line.

Although it took some time for me to let down my guard which, as a highly introverted person, tends to be pretty high gradually, through church relationships and gracious neighbors, I slowly began to gather a few trusted people around me. And as my children got older and we became involved in homeschool co-op, that circle grew wider and deeper and richer with friendships. And once I began writing, the Lord gifted me with new connections with other creatives that truly understand my heart and passion.

There are times, however, I have worried that my tendency to hold my innermost thoughts close to my chest and to literally hide in my closet (which is where I write) might damage some of those ties, especially over the last couple of years when I have been learning to balance writing, homeschooling, sleep and you know, life.

But in the past six months I have experienced such an outpouring of love and support from the people around me that I am left with an overflowing cup that just keeps on spilling over.

When my first book Counted with the Stars released I decided that since it was my debut novel and since it happened to be near my 40th birthday, I would throw a big party to celebrate. For weeks,  one of my BFF’s and I planned and plotted (and spent way more money that was budgeted) to launch CWTS in the world.CountedWiththeStars_mck.indd

I’ll be honest friends, I wasn’t sure anyone would come, other than the local friends that were on the launch team and maybe a few people from church. But I figured, hey, a debut is a once in a lifetime, I’ll have fun even if only a few people show.

Wow. Was I wrong.

By the time the night was halfway over it was standing room only in the banquet room I’d rented. And the majority of those people were my friends, from various circles of my life. I had to work very hard that night to control the tears that kept welling up when I considered how many people cared for me, supported me, and were willing to give up their Saturday night to celebrate a story about my imaginary friends.

And then, last Saturday night, the same thing happened with my second launch for Shadow of the Storm!shadow_of_the_storm

I marveled at the selflessness and support of those friends who spent the entire day helping me set up our crazy decorations, cutting strips of paper for the kid’s crafts, dressing in costumes, frosting cupcakes, and then serving all the guests who arrived later. I marveled at the many people who showed up to celebrate Shadow of the Storm with me and those who joined me in my first Facebook Live broadcast to attend the party virtually (even though the sound quality was a mess). I marveled at the gifts of friendship that the Lord has bestowed on this wallflower over the years.

Eleven years ago I did not even want to move to Texas, I was terrified of the snakes, the heat, and the loneliness. But I have seen the Lord answer those desperate prayers for just one or two friends to care about me many, many times over.

Maybe you are in that time of loneliness, a time when you feel no one around you cares, or that you are invisible or forgotten, or maybe you have been wounded from lost or damaged friendships. But may I remind you that God adores you? He hears you, even in those empty desert times. He made you and knows your deepest hurts. Perhaps like me, stepping out and be vulnerable and sharing your heart authentically is a struggle, but it is so worth the effort. Pray for courage! Pray for friends!

Perhaps you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and have no problem making new friends and are confused by people like me who pull into our shells in social situations. Can I encourage you to keep trying? We introverts need you to draw us out, to call us and invite us to coffee—because most likely we won’t call you, even if we want to. It may take a little more effort, but the opportunities for a deep and loyal friendship are high with us introverts. Pray that the Lord would open your eyes to a lonely soul!

We need fellowship. We need other women to speak into our lives. From the beginning God said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.” and that means women as well. It is His desire that we connect with others, reach out, and allow ourselves to be known.  Friendship is at the heart of the gospel, for who is a better friend than Jesus who laid down his life for us?

So I challenge you, whether extrovert or introvert or somewhere in between, reach out and take a step towards relationship this week. Whether that’s calling someone who needs encouragement, approaching a stranger, or renewing a friendship that withered away over time. Pray that the Lord will show you who needs you to take that first step. And, like me, I have little doubt that in time your friendship cup will overflow as well.

Recipe for “Manna Cakes”

The Bible describes the heavenly food, manna, which in Hebrew is loosely translated “what is it?” as “white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31) So, for the release party last week my awesome friends helped me make these “Manna Cakes” which I concocted by altering a cake mix. They are super easy and quite yummy with honey buttercream frosting!

Cupcakes
1 Box White or Cake Mix
1 TBSP Apple Pie Spice
¾ cup honey
½ cup oil
3 eggs
½ cup water
Mix together and follow Directions on the back of the box for cooking times. Frost with Honey Buttercream and top with white non-pareils  (tiny white ones, so it looks like manna!)

Honey Buttercream Frosting
4-5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
Add milk, as needed, for thinning

Variation:
Use applesauce in place of the oil to give the cupcakes a yummy, fruity flavor.

shadow_of_the_stormThank you Sheila, for once again having me on your blog to share my story of hope and friendship. One lucky commenter will be receiving a copy of Shadow of the Storm, so tell us how you’ve been blessed by a friend lately or how God has been faithful to supply a friend in times of loneliness.

About Connilyn Cossette
When she is not homeschooling her two sweet kids (with a full pot of coffee at hand), Connilyn is scribbling notes on spare paper, mumbling about her imaginary friends, and reading obscure out-of-print history books. There is not much she likes better than digging into the rich ancient world of the Bible, uncovering buried gems of grace that point toward Jesus and weaving them into fiction. Connect with her at www.connilyncossette.com.

My Prayer For All Political Candidates

I’m currently reading Jen Wilkin’s Bible study, 1 Peter: A Living Hope in Christ.  Last week’s lessons focused on the scriptures 1 Peter 2:13-25. I’ve included a few verses for you.

(13) Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, (14) or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. (15)For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. (16) Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God (17) Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 13-17 ESV.

When I read verse 17, I stopped and pondered the current political situation. Have I honored our current elected officials? Sadly, I have not.  I believe all Christians in America will benefit by reviewing this passage.

I’m also reading The Forgotten Way by Ted Dekker with Bill Vanderbush, and these scriptures were studied yesterday.

The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son. John 5:22 ESV

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:17-18

I underlined these sentences on page 27 of The Forgotten Way by Ted Dekker with Bill Vanderbush.

We live under the weight of our own condemnation, and in condemning one another we condemn ourselves. But neither the Father nor the Son condemn you, for you are in Christ and He is in you.

I’m thankful for both Bible studies which helped me realize my sinful behavior. Who am I to judge anyone?

In the future, and especially as we approach the election, I’m going to do my best to control my tongue and turn to prayer. Perhaps my behavior will encourage others to pray for all the candidates and elected officials.

Please join me in praying for the upcoming election and continue to pray for whoever is elected. Pray that our leaders will govern in a manner that aligns with God’s laws. I’m going to trust in the prayer that never fails. “Father, May Thy will be done.”

 

Unexpected Blessings on the Road to Publication

Next week, I’ll be attending a writer’s conference in Monterey, California. The road to publication is difficult, but for me, it’s also filled with wonder and blessings.  I don’t think I’ll ever believe that I’m a good writer. Even after three years of blogging, I have to summon my courage to tell people I write stories.  Worthy Publishing http://worthypublishing.com/  purchased ten of my devotions to be included in a book that will release later this year, and I’ve signed a contract to write an additional ten devotions for another book to be released next spring. I’ll finally be a published author. I hadn’t planned to write devotions, but it’s been an unexpected path on the writing  journey.

photo-3It’s exciting to sign a contract, but the best gift on this odyssey is the friendships I’ve developed with others who share the same passion. I’m looking forward to being able to take a whale watch tour next week with a new friend, and I anticipate meeting other conference attendees and teachers. photo Two years ago, at a conference, I sat next to one of my favorite authors, Lauraine Snelling. She is so generous and encouraging. I hope we can reconnect next week.  At that same workshop, God arranged a divine appointment for me with a former Kenyan missionary just when I was planning to lead a team to Kenya. We were in St. Louis and I discovered she lived about twenty miles from my home in Kentucky.

Another blessing on the writing journey is that as a Christian writer, writing means spending time delving His word. I have a difficult time concentrating when reading the Bible a chapter at a time, but when I’m crafting stories,  I’m sent to study the scriptures.  Perhaps God’s intent is to change me more than those who might read my stories. Writers are encouraged to write what they know, and I certainly know about sin.  Thank goodness, I also know about Jesus’s love and forgiveness.

dollarphotoclub_51694407Whatever your hobby or passion, I pray it gives you as much joy as writing does for me. God gives each of us special talents. I pray you too will discover the unexpected blessings when you use your skills to the best of your abilities. I’m trying to focus on enjoying every minute of the journey and to stop worrying about signing a contract. God will decide who needs to read my stories and he’ll take care of the details of getting those words to the person He wants to read them.   I’ll never be good enough to deserve the Master’s praise, but I when I reach heaven and approach the His throne, I hope to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  May He say the same of you.