Friendship, Faith, & Sisterhood

By Jessica R. Patch

When I think of sisters, I should immediately think of me and my older sister, but actually the Haynes sisters from White Christmas come to mind along with their signature song: “Sisters”. Maybe it’s because Christmas recently passed or it could just be the song. It sticks in your head. Ever heard it? No?

You’re welcome. J

My big sis is five years older than me. We didn’t have much in common growing up. She liked to make messes and play outside. I liked to stay clean and play Barbies and baby dolls inside. But we loved to ride our Honda 50 around town, making up songs, laughing. We shared late night giggles while taking turns drawing pictures on one another’s backs until the other guessed it. When I became a teenager, we did more things together. Double-dated (all disasters for me, all blame on her). Sometimes I went to work at Radio Shack with her. I have no clue why I enjoyed that so much. She took me to see MC Hammer and Boys II Men (have I dated myself?). We took up for each other. Defended one another.

Now we live states apart, but we still talk with one another. We pray for each other—something we never did growing up. Sad isn’t it? We’re close. Bonded by blood, faith, and more common interests than we had as kids! There isn’t anything we wouldn’t do for one another no matter the miles that separate us. We would be friends if we weren’t sisters. I think that’s super cool!

Click on the cover for the Amazon link.

In Concealed Identity, my heroine Blair has a younger sister Gigi who lives with her.   They have a unique bond. And many of the choices Blair makes throughout the book is because of the love she has for her sister. Not only love because they’re sisters, but because they’re friends. It was a lot of fun writing about sisterhood. About being the big sister (since I’m not) and creating a character who would sacrifice so much, even herself for her sister. Her friend. I’d like to think I’d do the same. Although, I don’t see drug cartels coming after me with a vengeance. But I guess you never know!

Do you have a sister? Do you live close? Who’s oldest?

One of Shelia’s subscribers will have the chance to win a free copy of Concealed Identity.  Scroll to the top and click on  the blue “Subscribe” button. She’ll announce the winner on Saturday, January 21. Good Luck!

About Jessica R. Patch

Jessica R. Patch lives in the mid-south where she pens inspirational contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. When she’s not hunched over her laptop or going on adventurous trips in the name of research with willing friends, you can find her watching way too much Netflix with her family and collecting recipes to amazing dishes she’ll probably never cook. Sign up for her newsletter at www.jessicarpatch.com.

Love Your Enemies

By Krista Phillips

A long time ago, there was this girl.

We’ll call her—Minnie Mouse.

That’s not really her name of course. I’m disguising it to protect the innocent—er—guilty—er—whatever. I’m keeping her identity hidden because she would probably hate everything about this post, okay? AND because calling her Minnie Mouse is gonna make me giggle every time I type it in place of the REAL person’s name, and this story (which will be kept vague in places so no one will recognize it) needs to make me giggle. It really does.

So, Minnie Mouse is—well—my enemy.

She doesn’t really KNOW she’s my enemy. At least I don’t think so.

But Minnie gets on my ever-loving last nerve and if I never had to talk to her again a day in my life, I’d honestly would be super duper happy. That is the honest, sad truth of the matter.

Mean, right?

Don’t tell me that a picture of that person in your own life didn’t just filter through your brain. I know I can’t be the only one who struggles with this.

Minnie Mouse didn’t start off as my enemy. She actually seemed kinda nice in a quirky, a little over-opinionated kind of way.

But the more I got to know Minnie, the harder it was to be her friend, even in a casual way.

We’re supposed to love our neighbor, right?

Right. But have you ever thought about that? Loving your “neighbor” isn’t that hard most of the time. Bake some cookies, give money to the poor, volunteer, etc. It’s a sacrifice of time and resources and money, but totally doable. Honestly, the “world” as we in the Christian-realm like to call it, can do a pretty decent job of loving their neighbor as well. Christians need to do a better job, in fact.

But Jesus—he kicked that bar up a mile or so when he added enemy to the mix.

We’re supposed to—love our enemies?

I’m not gonna lie. That’s a toughie.

Back to Minnie Mouse. She quickly jumped from the “neighbor” train to the “enemy” train after a few rounds of backstabbing, lying, manipulating, and one fun encounter of yelling at me, all while doing so in the name of God.

In my heart, I knew her actions came from some deep part in her that was hurt. She apologized a few different times—but her apologies always came with a “but this is why I did what I did and why it wasn’t REALLY that bad…”

Through it all, I felt God calling me to love her. Pray for her. Intercede on her behalf.

At some point, he also called me to put up some very healthy boundaries, which I did, but the experience taught me something that, before then, hadn’t really hit me.

Loving your enemies doesn’t make them no longer your enemy.

For a long time, I was overwhelmed with the idea of loving my enemy because I looked at some of the people in the world who would easily fall into that category and couldn’t understand it. The abusive husband? The drunk driver who killed someone? The cheating spouse? The racist? The bully?

How could God ask anyone to be friends with these people?

The answer is:

He doesn’t. At least not every time. (Personally, I’ve had a few bullies who turned into friends, but that is another story.)

He knows they’re your enemies. He isn’t asking you to change that, because it isn’t in your power to do so. He’s asking us to love them, pray for them, where they are at. Period. And he isn’t asking us to do anything he hasn’t already done himself. He loved those people enough to send his son to die for them, too.

I’m here to tell you, the exercise of loving Minnie Mouse did much more for MY heart than it ever did for hers. To my knowledge, she hasn’t changed much, although I still pray for her when God puts it on my heart, hoping she will change. But it made me start to look at my enemies differently, and that, my friends, is a very good thing.

About Krista Phillips

Krista Phillips writes contemporary romance sprinkled with two of her favorite things, laughter and Jesus. And sometimes chocolate for kicks and giggles. She lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband and their four beautiful daughters, and is an advocate for congenital heart defect and organ donation awareness. Visit her online at www.kristaphillips.com.

 

 

To order her new book, A (sorta) Southern Serenade, click on the cover. 

A romantic comedy novella! She’s a Yankee transplant. He’s a good ol’ Southern boy. She’s a rich heiress of a multi-million dollar family fortune. He’s gotten everything he has through old fashioned hard work. She thinks he’s arrogant. He thinks she’s uppity. She’s trying to find her place in this world. He’s trying to run from his. It’s (sorta) a match made in Heaven.

Shelia will draw a name from her subscribers on Saturday, January 14, 2017, and some lucky person will win a free copy.  Scroll to the top of the page to subscribe.

 

 

Be Still and Wait

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him, fret no yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices. Psalm 37:7 ESV

For the first time in five years, I don’t have a mission trip scheduled on the calendar. I’m waiting and praying for guidance, which is the first step to planning any mission trip. There are so many in Africa who have never heard the name of Jesus, and this burdens me. But plans have not worked out (yet) for me to return to the dark continent this year.

Cedar Street, Franklin, KY. Used with permission of Barry Freas.

Maybe I’m supposed to stay home for a change. On any given Sunday, there are about 14,000 in my community, who stay home on Sunday mornings. There are empty pews in my home church every week. But my goal isn’t to fill a pew. It’s to point people to Jesus, so lives and hearts will be changed.

It’s not necessary to go to Africa to discover the lost. Every day people who don’t know Jesus cross my path. But it’s so much more difficult to share the gospel in America (a Christian nation) than in Niger (a Muslim nation). In Niger and Kenya, I’m treated as an honored guest because the people know I’ve traveled far so I must have something significant to tell them.  In America, I’m afraid to knock on a stranger’s door.

Perhaps I’m to spend my spare time working on my writing instead of planning a mission trip. While attending a conference last year, one of the guest speakers said that she feels the Christian novel is the most effective evangelical tool to reach the lost.

In the meantime. I’m going to attempt to do something that’s difficult for me. I’m going to wait on the Lord to direct me and try to be as bold a witness in my hometown as I am in Africa.

It seems to me the world is spiraling out of control and I feel helpless. But I’m not, because I have Jesus, who is always with me. He is the one with the power to change lives, and He blesses me by allowing me to be a part of His plan.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts. You’ll never know how much your encouragement lifts me and keep me rising early each morning to write. Please let me know if you have a special prayer request for 2017. Happy New Year!

 

Beaches, Friendship, & Fiction

By Janet Ferguson

Aren’t beaches great? And even more fun with friends?

Not long ago, Shelia featured my friend Jackie Layton’s book, Christmastide at Bald Head Island. http://sheliastovall.com/2016/11/21/when-dreams-come-true-by-jackie-layton/

Jackie and I critique for each other, and we both share a great love for Christian fiction and the beach. I was excited to read about Bald Head Island, a coastal are that I’ve never had the opportunity to visit. It just so happened while she was writing that story, I had set the fourth novel of my Southern Hearts Series at a beach, as well! Go figure, ha!

Blown Together is set in Mobile and Fort Morgan, Alabama. Both areas are coastal areas, but Mobile is a lovely port city in Alabama. It boasts the battleship tour of the USS Alabama, beautiful botanical gardens, and historic homes. Did you know that American Mardi Gras began in Mobile? They celebrate with parades and balls and even have the Carnival Museum which highlights the history of Mardi Gras. It’s a fun city I’ve had the privilege of visiting many times.

But where the idea for Blown Together all started was at my happy place on my annual friend trip to Fort Morgan, Alabama, aka the beach. Fort Morgan is named for the historic fort on the end of the Peninsula where the Gulf of Mexico and the mouth of the Mobile River Bay meet.

Away from the touristy areas, my girlfriends and I typically leave our families make our “mental health trip” in October for “beach therapy.” The area is much less crowded in the fall and typically still warm enough to sit in the sand and just stare at the waves or read Christian fiction. This year we were blessed to witness the migration of the butterflies, too!

We don’t leave to go shopping or even go out to eat. One stop at the store on the way onto the peninsula and we’re in for the duration. I think the beach is meant for friends, reading books, and soaking in God’s amazing artistry. Did I mention I have a sunset obsession?

I’m thankful for the beauty that God has created and our ability to share it with friends. Not everyone’s happy place is the beach, though. Where is your happy place?

KOBOAmazonBarnes & Noble, Nook  IBooks

Blown Together
Southern Hearts Series ~ Book 4

When love storms in…
Wealth manager Sam Conrad is accustomed to his domineering father ordering him around, especially at the bank where they both work. But when his father demands that Sam manage the inheritance of his bossy ex-fiancée, Sam has finally had enough. He leaves in search of a new life, and attorney Big Roy Bosarge from Mobile, Alabama agrees to mentor Sam on his quest for direction. Sam didn’t expect to be thrown together with Big Roy’s eccentric and opinionated daughter.

Storm damage forces lonely romance writer Elinor Bosarge and her hairless cat, Mr. Darcy, out of her Fort Morgan Beach cottage. She plans to take refuge in the boathouse on her parents’ estate, but finds the place already occupied by one of her father’s “projects.” She’s shocked her father would allow another young man onto the property after his last mentee robbed her family and broke her heart. And from the moment she meets Sam Conrad, they disagree about everything from her cat to how to best renovate a local nursing home.

Between her mother’s health issues and the hurricane brewing in the Gulf, Elinor feels like her life is being ripped apart. It doesn’t help that she’s falling for the man she’s determined not to trust. Sam finds himself drawn to Elinor, wanting to help her and this new family he’s grown to love. But can he overcome the barrier she’s built to keep him out? When the storm rages and the two of them are blown together, can Elinor find the faith to open her heart again?

KOBOAmazonBarnes & Noble, Nook  IBooks

Gooey Brownies by Rose McCauley

Want to win a free copy of Christmastide at Bald Head Island? Just subscribe to Shelia’s blog and she’ll have a drawing on Sunday, December 17.  Four of the three authors in this book are friends with Shelia. We try to get together to brainstorm every few months, although Jackie is moving when her house sells and we are sad about that, but wish her well! We came up with this idea a few years ago while brainstorming other books at Smashing Tomato at Fayette Mall! And the brownie recipe is one that we all love to eat, especially when we get together! Merry Christmas!

Rose’s GOOEY BROWNIES

1 Devil’s Food cake mix
1 egg
1 stick butter (softened)
Preheat oven to 350. Combine ingredients and mix well. Pat into lightly greased 13×9 baking dish.

Prepare filling.

FILLING

1 8oz. package cream cheese (softened)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter (melted)
1 16 oz. box powdered sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Add butter; beat. Add powdered sugar and mix well. Spread over cake mixture. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and chocolate chips. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. You want the center to be a little gooey, so don’t over bake.

About the Author

Rose McCauley is a Christian author and speaker. Her experiences as a public school teacher, Sunday school teacher, Girl Scout leader, MOPS mentor and Moppet worker, scrapbooker, wife, Mom and Grandmother give her a wide field of ministry to women. She supports missions and has been privileged to spend time on three mission trips.

Rose has been happily married for over 40 years to her college sweetheart. They lived and raised their family of two daughters and a son on a farm of rolling hills in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky , but recently moved to Paris, KY. Their family is growing with the addition of a two sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and five grandchildren who are definitely GRAND!

Her latest release is a novella in Christmastide at Bald Head Island.

Literature weaves it way through the hearts of the Jordan family women. Matriarch, Grace Jordan has a particular affinity for William Shakespeare, Just as his play, A Midsummer Night’s dream, spins a tale of the planning of one wedding but ends with three ceremonies, Grace and her two daughters, Rosalind and Miranda, discover rekindled love while planning, Rosalind’s daughter, Jane Anne’s Christmas wedding. In a twist of fate, ceremony plans change. However, just like Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Shirley from Jane Austen and Lucy Mongtomery’s  respective classic tales, all four Jordan women discover — what and who — will make them truly happy.

Rose Allen McCauley

Connect with Rose

Website: www.rosemccauley.com

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1IummD3

Twitter: @RoseAMcCauley

Fiction available in print and kindle by Rose McCauley:

Christmas Belles of Georgia (Barbour)

Christmas Grace

The Courageous Brides Collection by Barbour

Surrender to Peace

Fiction available in eBook only:

Home for Christmas

 

 

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