The Importance of Moving Forward

2019 Promised to Be a Year of Change.

It is now over halfway through 2019. I knew at the start of this year a lot of fairly big things would be happening. Things like my youngest son graduating from high school and my older son going back to college. Things like entering a new season of parenting and life.

But I had NO idea what 2019 would really entail.

As I thought about my word for 2019, I tossed around quite a few before settling on EQUIPPED. (I always know I’ve hit on the right word because I start crying- and I’m not really much of a crier).

More Change Than I Realized

I was barely into 2019 when I broke my leg. I’ve never broken a limb before, and I have to say, I could go the rest of my life without experiencing it again. While I am thankful I had the best-case scenario if you are going to break a leg, it was also a huge inconvenience.

It made everything take longer, become more complicated and difficult.

But, I got past it. I managed to not miss any of my son’s games during his last season of basketball, and I navigated the many college visits (and their innumerable stairs; WHY do colleges have SO. MANY. STAIRS???)

And I kept writing.

In fact, I wrote the majority of book 2 in my middle-grade fantasy adventure series, Pan’s Secret, on my couch with my crutches propped up next to me.

In some ways, having limited movement with fewer expectations made writing easier. I mean, what else did I have to do? I certainly wasn’t going to go take a walk or anything.

The End of One Chapter

This spring was something of a marathon as we headed into the homestretch of Brody’s senior year. Each big event was part of the countdown to graduation: the last basketball game, the last sports banquet, the last musical, the junior/senior banquet. Each of those things were the winding down of one chapter in the anticipation of the start of another.

I enjoyed those events, and had my moments of nostalgia. I did all the< “how did time go so fast?” and “didn’t he just start middle-school?” type of musings.

When Change Isn’t So Pleasant

And when he had graduated and the big party was over, I went in to see my doctor for a check-up.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really wasn’t expecting anything to be truly wrong.

Sure, I had also had a few times that spring when I felt abnormally out of breath and my heart seemed to pound, but I’d also just spent a couple of months not moving much. If it wasn’t for these weird creases in my earlobes (and studies prove they can indicate a problem), I might even have pushed that check-up to the fall.

Until my EKG was abnormal.

And the echo was really abnormal.

I remember listening to the nurse talking and saying all these words that were completely foreign to me: global hypokinesis, ejection fraction, and cardiomyopathy.

When I looked them up, I felt like I was entering a new world – one that I definitely didn’t want to visit. The world of heart failure.

 

Coming to Grips With Reality

I know, they always tell you not to google anything, but I have a very active imagination. I am also the type of person who gathers information and knowledge when I’m facing something scary. It makes me feel prepared.

But what I read sounded dire and more than scary. It sounded, well, terminal.

And suddenly the idea of a five-year plan seemed dumb, mostly because I wasn’t sure I’d be around in 5 years.

Instead of wondering what I was going to do in this new chapter of my life, I found myself wondering what I would be doing in what was probably my last chapter of life.

What Do I Really Believe?

I found myself looking straight at the question of whether I really believed that to live was Christ and to die was gain.

The truth is, we all know in our heads that technically we could die at any time, but the reality of that – not so much.

God and I had to wrestle it out, piece by piece.

That looked like spending time in prayer and memorizing Psalms 91:1-10 and reviewing Ephesians 1.

And one of the first pieces I had to click into place was whether I would still obey what God called me to do which is to write? Or would I let fear freeze me into place?

So, I sat down and I wrote.

Obeying Even When You Don’t Know the Outcome

It wasn’t easy. The first few days, my writing felt stiff, and the voices of my characters sounded far away and tinny.

There were times I wondered why I was doing this anyway, and the temptation to while away my time worrying called to me.

I kept pushing forward, though, and eventually, I found my groove. And I wrote the first draft of my third book between the visit with the cardiologist and my very first heart catheterization which happened yesterday.

A New Chapter

The good news is that my heart is clear. There are no blockages, and its function has improved since that echo back in June. My dilated cardiomyopathy was probably caused by either a virus or stress, and my doctor said my condition should improve over time, especially if I take good care of myself.

When I chose my word for this year, I’m not sure what I thought I’d learn. I certainly didn’t think it would involve one scenario after another where I was basically in a position of helplessness and I couldn’t fix it.

I do know that what God HAS shown me.

HE is the one who is equipped to help us get through anything that we face.

HE is the one that will go with us if we continue to push forward – even if that seems hard or difficult or impossible.

HE is the one that does the equipping, and the best place to be thus equipped is when we are at His complete mercy.

Don’t Let Fear Keep You From Moving Forward

I don’t know what you are facing today. I don’t know which mountain you are standing at the foot of, whose summit seems unattainable for whatever reason. What I do know is that God is always faithful and true and that He always keeps HIs promises. He never leaves us or forsakes us, and HE DOES equip us for every good work He created us to do, even if that seems impossible.

 

He will hide you under His pinions;

Under his wings, you may seek refuge.

His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.

Psalms 91:3

Every Beginning Comes With an Ending

Everything Can Change In an Instant

I was on my way out the door yesterday to my last day of teaching for the year (and don’t let anyone tell you that the teachers aren’t as excited about this as their students!) when I looked down at my phone and saw a message from my husband.

When I read it, I stopped in my tracks, stunned.

A dear friend had died suddenly in her sleep. Sandy Rufener started out as my high school English teacher, but over the years had grown into a mentor and a friend.

And she was gone – just like that. 

Yesterday, was also the day my youngest son graduated from high school.

Life Is a Neverending Cycle

Two such different events, but both endings that signal a beginning. As I moved through my day yesterday, trying to process two such big things, I was reminded that life is a continual cycle of endings and beginnings.  Before one thing begins, something else has to end, no matter how small or big. 

Mrs. Rufener (no matter how many times she told me to call her Sandy and no matter how many times I managed to do it, she will always be Mrs. Rufener in my head), ended her life here on earth but started a whole new one in heaven.

In recent years, funerals have started to be called celebrations or homegoings, and I really love that concept – especially for believers. Yes, losing someone you love is hard and sad and difficult. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s grief, having walked the path of loss twice myself in recent years, but if that person is a believer, there is also so much hope. This world is not all there is. Death is not the end of a stand-alone story. It is just the ending of the first book in the series.

For Brody, even though graduating high school is truly a celebration, it also signals an ending, a change. He has to leave behind what he knows, the friends he has spent his days with for the past 14 years, the security of family, and move into the unknown. In order to move on to the next chapter in his life, he has to close this one. You can’t find out what happens in the next chapter if you linger in the previous one. You have to turn the page.

The Future – Whatever It Is – Takes Courage

So, yesterday wasn’t exactly the day I thought it would be. Instead of simply walking through this milestone with my youngest child, I found myself slapped in the face with the reality that we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring – or even that it will come. But I was also comforted that every ending – no matter how final it might seem – also signals a beginning, too.

Yesterday highlighted a strange but beautiful paradox. As Mrs. Rufener’s life came to an end, my son’s life is just beginning. But at the same time, my son was also experiencing an ending, while Mrs. Rufener was entering into a glorious new beginning in heaven.

Both of them, Brody and Mrs. Rufener, are stepping into the unknown, but that’s okay because God’s promise is that He will never leave us or forsake us no matter if that next step is onto a college campus for the first time or onto heaven’s shores where God waits with outstretched arms.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, a hymn redone by Chris Tomlin.

All The Way My Savior Leads Me

All the way my Savior leads me
Who have I to ask beside
How could I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my guide

All the way my Savior leads me
Cheers each winding path I tread
Gives me grace for every trial
Feeds me with the living Bread

[Chorus:] You lead me and keep me from falling
You carry me close to Your heart
And surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me

All the way my Savior leads me
O, the fullness of His love
O, the sureness of His promise
In the triumph of His blood
And when my spirit clothed immortal
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages
Jesus led me all the way
Jesus led me all the way

All the way my Savior leads me
All the way my Savior leads me
© 2008 Sixstepsrecords

Christian lyrics – ALL THE WAY MY SAVIOR LEADS ME LYRICS – CHRIS TOMLIN

 

Don’t Let Regret Slow You Down

It’s Been An Eventful Year or So

In the past 18 months, I’ve written two novels, published one (soon to be two in about a week), and have started plotting the third. This may seem like a big achievement, but I turned 46 this year.

I’ve been wanting to write books since I was about 11 years old.

That means it took me 35 years to realize my dream.

35 YEARS!

3 1/2 DECADES!

3/4ths OF MY LIFE!

I have to be honest. There are days when this really bothers me.

When I am in writing groups and the 20-somethings are talking about the series of five books they’ve just finished, and the new series they have planned, I feel like a failure.

Regret has a taste, and it’s bitter.

I ask myself why in the world I waited so long to start doing what I love.

I’m tempted to wallow in regret, and as strange as it sounds, to quit. I’m tempted to believe that I started too late, and I’ve missed my chance.

But here’s the thing, if I spend my time looking behind me, I’ll never see all the opportunity in front of me.

One of my favorite verses is in Isaiah 43:17, 18 “Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

Regret is one of those things that can keep you mired in the past, stuck gazing at the path behind you and all the things you’ve missed. The problem with that is that you’ll end up missing all the new things that God is doing up ahead.

I could spend a lot of time beating myself up for all the “wasted time.” I could bemoan the fact that if I had gotten started 10 years ago, I’d be way further down the author path by now.

But I didn’t, and I can’t go back and change that.

The truth is, even if I had written books, they wouldn’t be the books I’m writing now because I’m different at 46 than I was at 36.

The very last book of the Bible I taught to my Sunday school class was Philippians. This book contains a lot of very well-known verses and one of them is found in chapter 3.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13

And if anyone had a reason for regret, it was Paul. It’s easy to forget that before Paul had his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road, he was Saul. And Saul’s main goal in life was to go after Christians. He didn’t just go after believers in Jerusalem. No, he asked for permission to pursue them into other neighboring cities, too. If Saul and Paul shared one trait, it was zealousness.

Paul was responsible for men and women being dragged out of their beds, put in prison, and even losing their lives. He could have spent his life sunk deeply in the mire of regret.

But instead, he made the conscious decision to let that go and press forward. He turned his mental energy toward the task before him, not the regrets behind him.

Obviously, I realize that writing fiction books isn’t quite on par with Paul spreading the Gospel to the known Gentile world. At the same time, it’s what God has created and called me to do. And not doing it would still be disobedience.

So, on those days when I feel like I am way behind everyone else, when it feels like I will never catch up, I take a page from Paul’s book (literally!).

Instead of letting regret get the better of me, I purposefully pull my thoughts from what might have been, and instead, turn my attention and focus to the path before me.

And then, I take the next step.

What’s holding you back from moving forward?

 

 

 

 

Jesus Chose Women to Witness His Resurrection First

Women in the Bible have so many things to teach us.

In recent weeks, I’ve been doing a deep dive into women’s roles in the Bible. This isn’t the first time that I’ve studied women in the Bible.

I’ve taught on various women, and there is a whole series on this blog about 25 women in the Bible. You can check that out HERE.

We Live At the Best Time To Be a Woman

The truth is, women are currently living in a time where they have more freedom, autonomy, and power than probably at any time in history.

I remember being flabbergasted when my grandmother told me she couldn’t get a credit card in her own name. It had to be in her husband’s – and that was in the 60s which really isn’t that long ago.

Women in the Gospels

This week I just happened to be focusing on women in the Gospels. Of course, that is never really a coincidence. God always has this very cool way of leading me to Scriptures at just the right time. I love that!

And even though I’ve heard the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection many times  —after all, I started attending church when I was about a month old, went to a Christian school AND a Christian college—with my lens fixed on women, I saw these events in a whole new way.

That’s another thing I LOVE about the Bible and why I believe it’s called the LIVING Word. No matter how many times I read a story or familiar passage, the Holy Spirit shows me something new almost every time.

Jesus Was a Rebel WITH a Cause

The thing is, Jesus was a revolutionary. Now, we might not see that as much now. We’ve heard the story about Him, and familiarity softens the edges of just how much Jesus turned everything the Jewish people knew (or thought they knew) on its head.

One of the big areas that Jesus did this was in HIs interactions with women. As a rabbi and teacher, nobody expected Jesus to even take notice of women, never mind talk to them or allow them to be His disciples.

A Different Look at Mary and Martha

The fact that Mary was not only allowed but commended for sitting at Jesus’ feet (a typical posture of a disciple, btw) would have been mindblowing to those around Him. It was why Martha was so shocked when Jesus didn’t take her side.

You see, rabbis believed that women couldn’t study and understand the Scriptures. In fact, they were told they couldn’t learn the Scriptures – listen yes, but not actually learn.

But Jesus was different.

He had the 12, but He also had a larger group of people who followed Him as disciples.  And women were included in that number.

It’s no wonder the Jewish leaders of the time were perplexed. This man who claimed to be the Messiah was NOT acting the way He was supposed to.

He actually TALKED to a Samaritan woman who would have been considered unclean from the moment of her birth, nevermind her 5 ex-husbands plus the guy she was living with.

But women had a special place in the ministry of Jesus. In all of His interactions, He not only showed incredible compassion and love, but He raised them up. This stood in stark contrast to the society around them which definitely did not!

Women at the Cross

That day, when Jesus was led to Golgotha – His body bruised and battered and broken – it was the women who were there. The only disciple present was John. All the rest had fled, afraid of being identified with a man marked for death.

It was the women who kept watch as He suffered and died.

And it was the women that He talked to first after His resurrection.

Women at the Resurrection

It’s interesting to note that the women who went to His grave that first Easter morning were going to do a very basic task. They were going to bind spices in the linen in which His body was wrapped.

It was considered women’s work.

But it was in the midst of going to do this mundane task that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James had an encounter with the risen Savior.

I love that Jesus chose to first appear to women while they were engaged in doing “women’s work” which would have been considered lowly and unimportant.

I love that Jesus chose to first appear to women even though, at that time, in a court of law they would not have even been considered qualified witnesses.

I certainly do not mean for this post to in any way denigrate men. I do have two sons, after all, and my husband is one of the good guys.

But, in a society where one rabbi’s opinion (Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus) about women and spirituality was, “The words of the Torah should be burned rather than entrusted to a woman,” Jesus was different.

The religious elite at the time were expecting a Messiah that was wholly different than the One that actually came. And so they missed Him.

But those whom society dismissed as lowly or unimportant or insignificant—they were the ones that truly saw Jesus as who He really was—the Savior who came to seek and save those who are lost.

As a woman, it touches a deep place in my heart that Jesus chose women as the first witnesses to His resurrection.

When God invites you to be His daughter with all the privileges that entails, it isn’t an empty promise. Jesus’s life and death and resurrection prove that. If you are interested in taking Him up on that promise, visit HERE.

Happy Easter!

The Joy of the Unexpected

I have a confession to make.

Every time I get the mail, I feel a small fizz of excitement. There always seems to be such possibility in that small metal box.

Oh, I know in my head that all I will find will probably be bills or junk mail or, on a particularly good day, one of my favorite magazines or something I’ve ordered online. Once in a while, a card or letter will pop up that I wasn’t expecting.

Today, I went to the mailbox and found, not one but two, surprises waiting for me.

One was a small packet of pictures from my Aunt Kitty (well, she’s actually my mom’s cousin, but I’ve always called her aunt).

I was tickled to see pictures of my grandparents and a host of other relatives when they were young. Almost all of them have passed on, so it was particularly sweet to see them again, smiling and young. (This was more poignant than usual as three people have died this past week). There was even this picture of my grandma, great-aunt and great -uncle at the pool in their bathing suits. I didn’t even know they ever owned bathing suits.

The other package was from one of my best and oldest friends (years we’ve known each other, not her actual age). It held a magazine and a clipped article, along with a note explaining both. My friend’s notes are always the best – quirky and interesting with a dash of humor.

The thing is, finding a fun surprise (or two) in my mailbox isn’t something that happens too often. The last one I remember came back in February. My chiropractor sent an article he had cut out and laminated of my son and husband reaching basketball milestones during the same game. I was so touched by his thoughtfulness.

But before that, it had been a long time. Snail mail isn’t really something people do too much of these days.

And I kind of think that is a shame.

It’s interesting that today I plan on sitting down to look at the second quarter of the year – April, May and June – and kind of plan out what I want to get accomplished. I am not a naturally organized person. However, I’ve learned that as a natural fritterer (I can seriously waste hours and whole days very easily), I need a kind of map for my days and weeks and months. If I’m not sure what to do next, I tend to do nothing.

This is one of those serendipitous moments that God is so good at orchestrating. One thing I wanted to do this year was to intentionally encourage others. While I’ve sent out a few cards, I really haven’t done that great of a job this first quarter of the year. Life has been a bit crazy (as in I’ve been out of town more in the past couple months than I have in the past couple years!!).

Today, God reminded me of that intention in a very tangible way – with my own encouragement in my mailbox.

So, here goes Operation Mailbox Surprise! I’m still mulling over what this looks like because realistically, the next few months will be extremely busy. But, I still think I can figure out a way to make people smile when they open their mailboxes!

Stay tuned (maybe I’ll record it on Instagram since I’m trying to learn that social media platform).

Reflecting on the Lessons This Winter

Today I am joining up with Emily P. Freeman to reflect on what I’ve learned during this past season. Reflection is something that I’ve been learning to do the past few years. It’s easy to forget because we get busy, and the frenetic pace of life tends to push us forward without much time to look backward. But I am learning that slowing down and reflecting and remembering the time just past has a lot to teach me. So, without further ado, here is what I learned during this winter season.

It’s Hard to Ask for Help

If you read this blog at all, you know that I broke my leg in January. To be honest, that still sounds ridiculous to me – that I actually broke my leg. But I did. The result was hopping around on crutches and needing a lot of help – which I found surprisingly difficult to ask for. I dipped into why that was in this post.

I Don’t Have to Do Everything

Riding on the coattails of the previous thing I learned is the fact that I don’t actually have to do everything around my home. I guess I kind of fell into the pattern of doing everything for everyone because they were busy and I wanted to be helpful and doesn’t a good mom serve her family? Since I have zero serving gifts, that never comes naturally. And when something doesn’t come naturally to me, I tend to sometimes go overboard in the opposite direction. In January and February, I had to ask for a lot of help. As I went down to one crutch and then no crutches, I realized I didn’t actually have to take back ALL those responsibilities. My family could pitch in too since they, you know, live here too.

I Still Want to Put God in a Box When it Comes to Answers

My youngest son is a senior this year, and he wants to major in film and art. Because of that interest, we have all decided – him included – that he needs to go to a Christian college for a variety of reasons. The thing is Christian colleges are expensive, and I had no idea HOW we were going to afford this. I started praying last year that God would provide. During the intervening time, I’ve thought I knew how God was going to do that. I would see what seemed like a very obvious way, and then when it didn’t work out, feel deeply disappointed. LIke God had somehow not lived up to expectation. The thing is, while I know God will provide, His answers never are what I’m expecting. You’d think I would have learned to just enjoy the ride by now.

A Gym Can Be More Than a Gym

My husband is a basketball coach. My kids have both played sports since they were very young. My youngest son played his last basketball game in the gym at their school (the gym I cheered in as a high schooler) in February. It was a surprisingly difficult moment for me. That gym had seen some of our most exciting moments and some of our most difficult as a family. I will miss watching my boys play there, and I was surprised by that.

Fellowship is Important

This winter I started an online Bible study with some women from my church. We all had one friend in common and knew each other, but didn’t really KNOW each other. That has been such a huge blessing in my life. For years, I’ve taught a Sunday school class, and while I loved the women in it and loved to teach, it’s different to be the teacher rather than just part of the group. It had been a long time since I’d just been a part of the group. I realized how much I had missed that. Not to mention, I feel I’ve deepened some friendships and found some true fellowship.

 

So how about you? What has this winter taught you? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

 

 

Favorite Books From 2018

I meant to do this earlier, but I’ve been busy writing book 2 in my middle-grade fantasy trilogy, The Pirate Princess Chronicles. But before January gets away from me, I wanted to share my favorite books from 2018. I read 93 books in 2018 and these were my favorites.

 

Non-Fiction

The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings On Discipleship by Dallas Willard

My main thought after finishing this book was, “Where has Dallas Willard been all my life?” Seriously, this book was transforming for me. He articulated things I’d been feeling about the Church (in a general sense) in America and Western Christianity for a long time. What I love about this book is that it doesn’t just point out the problem; it gives some practical answers. He also has a series of short chapters at the end about spiritual books that made a big difference in his own life and how. I now have a list of books to read this year. I will say, this is dense reading. It took me a YEAR to read this book, and I tend to be a very fast reader. Each chapter is quite long and I took notes, but it was totally worth it!

Moving Mountains: Praying with Passion, Power, and Authority by Jon Eldredge

This was another book that I found completely transforming. This book on prayer discusses what it means to mature in our prayer life and the importance authority has in the Kingdom of God. While there were times I felt Eldredge was making things a bit more complicated than they needed to be, I also found his words convicting. He talked a lot about the authority we have as children of God – not orphans or slaves, but children and the rights inherent in that. He also talks a lot about the importance of being in alignment with God and how when we aren’t, it hinders our prayers’ effectiveness. Eldredge also uses a lot of references from books like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings which I always appreciate. 🙂 And he reminds us that we are at war. I think this is something a lot of Christians – especially in the Western world – forget. One of my favorite quotes from the book talks about how we are all called to the battle whether we want to or not, and how incredible that is. “It looks like a hobbit with a handkerchief going to slay a dragon.” If you are looking to deepen your prayer life, this a great book to add to your shelf. I read it twice!

Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind by Brenda Yoder

This was a very timely book for me. With a 20-year-old son living at home and working and another son who is a senior this year, I was definitely the target audience for this book. Yoder, who has four children of her own, talks about the unique challenges of parenting teens and young adults. There are A LOT of books about parenting younger children, but not so many about this strange transitional stage. It can be hard to know the line of support/guidance and hovering. Yoder also talks about the bittersweet feelings that come along with this stage, including nostalgia, regret, loneliness, and the loss that can come with role changes. She also touches on parenting kids in multiple stages of life. With four children, she had a child in college all the way down to elementary school.  If you have children in the tween or older stage, check this book out!

Girl At the Edge of the World by Elizabeth Esther

This book deeply affected me. It is a memoir of a woman who grew up in a fundamentalist sect called The Assembly. Growing up, she suffered deep anxiety from being taught she would be martyred at a young age. She also endured daily punishing spankings for minor infractions and things no child should be punished for like not using the restroom fast enough. The Assembly, founded by her grandfather, exerted control over her and everyone involved in every area of their lives. These things had a devastating effect on her life. Her story was a heartbreaking one of spiritual abuse. She and her husband did break free, and her parents did seek her forgiveness, somewhat restoring the relationship. This was a riveting book and I highly recommend it as it addresses some key issues like accountability in leadership and how we can leave the leave the harm inflicted in the name of God without losing God Himself.

 

Fiction

On the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

This is an author I really enjoy. She wrote Water for Elephants and The Ape House, both of which I also enjoyed. In On Water’s Edge, I was sucked into Maddie’s story and stayed up way too late reading this. The story starts with a trio – Maddie, her husband Ellis and his friend Hank. The trio seems carefree and exuberant, reminding me of the roaring 20s, a Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald type of couple. But Ellis is not what he seems, and Maddie’s difficult upbringing with a distant, unloving father and a mentally ill, narcissistic mother is slowly revealed. When Ellis drags her to the Scottish Highlands to find the Lochness Monster, Maddie gradually realizes the real monster is her husband. Set in World War 2, this is both a moving love story and a coming of age story.

Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce

Hands down, this was one of my favorite fiction books of 2018. Set in World War 2 (see a common thread here?), it is the story of Emmaline “Emmy” Lake and her best friend Bunty, who are doing their bit for the war effort and trying to stay cheerful despite the planes making their nightly raids. Emmy dreams of becoming a war correspondent and when she spots an ad in the newspaper thinks this will be her chance. Unfortunately, there is a misunderstanding and she ends up typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird. Bird is very clear – any letters containing any Unpleasantness are to be thrown away. Unfortunately, her definition of Unpleasantness includes just about everything but housekeeping questions and cooking. Emmy, reading the heartrending letters from girls and women in difficult predicaments because of the war, can’t bring herself to throw those letters away so, she starts to secretly write them back. You will love Emmaline Lake and her cheerful, plucky persistence in the face of sometimes overwhelming challenges.

The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman

There are currently five books with more to come in the series. Irene Winters is a professional spy for the mysterious and shadowy Library which “collects” literary works from alternate realities to help keep the balance between chaos (represented by the Fae) and order (represented by the dragons) in all the alternative worlds. Each book has its own mystery/problem to solve, but there is also the overarching story of the Library and Irene’s own story. This is compulsive reading at its best!

The Stoker and Holmes series by Colleen Gleason

As a steampunk fan, I had a hard time putting down. This series features Mina Holmes, Sherlock Holmes’ equally intelligent niece, and Evelyn Stoker, Bram Stoker’s vampire hunting sister. Each book has its own mystery to solve and plenty of adventure and hair raising adventures, but there is an arch villainess behind them all. There are currently four books in the series and I am eagerly awaiting number five!

The Road to Here by Robert Kugler

This is the second book the Avery and Angela series. In the first book, The Last Good Day, we are introduced to Avery and Angela, two recently graduated teenagers who have been best friends throughout high school. They are spending one last good day before Avery heads off to a music conservatory. At the end of that book, the two have gotten together as a couple, and Angela has revealed that the cancer she beat in her childhood has come back. The Road to Here picks up several months later. Avery has spent his first semester at college while Angela has endured chemo treatments. They reconnect at Christmas break. This is not my usual genre, but I really love the story of Avery and Angela. Maybe it is because I have sons this age myself, but I loved the way Avery grew as a person – learning to really listen and nurture Angela. I also loved the cast of characters that came alongside the couple. The book ends in a twist I did not see coming, and I am waiting impatiently for book 3.

Hook’s Daughter: The Untold Tale of a Pirate Princess by R.V. Bowman

Yes, I know it might seem strange to include a book I wrote, but I spent an entire year with this story, and I still like it. When Andromeda “Rommy” Cavendish’s father doesn’t show up for one of his twice yearly visits, Rommy becomes worried and sneaks out of her exclusive boarding school to find him. Dressed as a boy, she travels through 19th century London only to find more questions than answers. To find her father, she’ll have to travel to the magical island of Neverland where heroes are villains and her father might just be the biggest villain of them all. (On a sidenote, I just finished the first draft of book 2).

If one of your goals this year is to read more, I hope this gives you a great place to start.

Why Is Asking for Help so Hard?

This has been an interesting week, full of new experiences.

It all started when we got the news that one of my mom’s very best friends (the pastor’s wife where we went to church while I was growing up) had passed away. So she and I headed up to Michigan on Monday so we could attend the funeral the next morning.

Even though we were there for a sad occasion, we took the opportunity to get together with some family and friends while we were in the area. Is it just me, or does it seem like the only time you see people, as you get older, is at funerals?

Anyway, we met with some friends at a restaurant which is where things went wrong. Right before we were going to leave, I decided to hit the restroom. I didn’t realize how literal that was going to be. On my way, I slipped on some mopped floor (no floor sign!) and ended up breaking my leg.

Yes, you read that correctly – I broke my leg!

I will be 46 next month, and this is my first broken bone. I have to say, I could have skipped this experience and been completely happy about that. While it certainly could have been much worse, it hasn’t been all that much fun either.

Fortunately, the break was not a complicated one. I broke my fibula up by my knee. Because it was a non-displaced break (that just means the bone never got out of alignment), my recovery is pretty straight forward – stay mostly off of it as it heals for the next 6 to 8 weeks. I don’t even have a cast or boot or anything.

But while I am super thankful that I apparently have the best case scenario when breaking your leg, that doesn’t change that it is very inconvenient and hopping around on crutches or propping my leg up while lying on the couch means I can’t do the things I normally do. Things like laundry and cleaning and cooking and grocery shopping. Things that are kind of necessary for our household to run smoothly.

And, even though I am not what you’d ever call domestic, I’m finding not being able to do those things much harder than I thought.

The thing is, it’s kind of hard to need so much help. Sure, if it was anyone else, I’d tell them that of course, they needed to ask for help, and of course, they shouldn’t feel bad for needing that help.

When it’s you, it’s another story, isn’t it?

When my 81-year-old mother had the orderly wheel me into the emergency room, I felt uncomfortably conspicuous, like I was making a spectacle of myself.

When I have to tell people I broke my leg, I feel kind of ridiculous. I find myself making jokes and explaining how it could have been so much worse (and it really could have been – see? I can’t help myself!).

I find myself downplaying the fact that I broke a bone – like it’s no big deal when it kind of is.

I find I don’t like being weak and somewhat helpless.

I also noticed something else. On about the third day, I realized that every single time I asked someone for something, I apologized.

My oldest son finally told me, “mom, you don’t have to say you’re sorry for asking for help.”

it made me wonder, why WAS I apologizing anyway?

It wasn’t like it was even my fault I had fallen. It wasn’t like I was doing something risky. I was walking to the bathroom, for goodness’ sake! I wasn’t demanding or asking for anything unreasonable of those around me, either.

And yet, I continued to apologize and I continued to feel like a bother – even though nobody was responding that way at all.

My friend and I chatted about this and she said in her own case (she has some serious chronic health issues that necessitate asking for help, too), God showed her it was pride.

I’m sure there is some of that in my own life too. I mean, don’t we all want to be self-sufficient? Don’t we all hesitate to admit we need help? I know I do.

And yet, when I really examined my need to apologize, I realized a lot of it has roots in fear. Big surprise, right?

My word this year is EQUIPPED – oh the irony.

God really does have a great sense of humor. It’s a brand new year, and I don’t feel equipped to even do the basics around my house.

But here’s the thing is, my fears were rooted in not being enough.

Not being productive enough.

Not being useful enough.

Not being good enough.

Just not being enough, period.

We live in a society that puts a lot of value on what we DO, not in who we ARE. This includes Christian circles too. Meet another believer and the conversation will soon circle around to what you DO as far as church and ministry go.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean we shouldn’t be serving the Lord.

But service is an outflow of our relationship with and our identity in Christ, not the other way around.

And I think we get that wrong. I certainly get it wrong, as evidenced by my overwhelming need to apologize for asking for help when I need it.

God is far more concerned about who we are and loving Him with all our hearts than in what we do. Case in point, those verses in Matthew 7:22-23, the ones that always make me shudder. The person stands before God and lists all the amazing things they’ve done in Jesus’ name and He looks at them and says, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”

He doesn’t say, “You never DID anything.” Nope, He says, “I never KNEW you.”

It’s not about what you do. It’s about who you know. I’ve been reading The Great Omission for a while now, and one of the things that has stood out to me so much is that God’s purpose for us is to become more like His Son, Christ. He wants to transform us into the image of His Son so that our thoughts, our words and yes, our actions look like Jesus.

It’s out of the outflow of that transformation that naturally comes service and good works.

This is definitely NOT the way I envisioned 2019 starting out, but I do believe God is fulfilling the word He gave me this year: EQUIPPING. He’s just doing it in ways I hadn’t imagined.

As Omigo Matoyo said in The Princess Bride, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

The Bend in the Road

I’ve been choosing a word for the year for a while now.

It’s something I start thinking about around Thanksgiving, and I often “try on” a few different words before I know I’ve found the right one.

And I always know I’ve hit upon the right word because I cry. Every time God whispers in my heart, everytime He makes clear He is speaking to me (not literally), I cry – even though I’m not much of a crier in everyday life (well, except for those Disney movies. Dumbo gets me every time!).

This year, the end of December was here and I hadn’t even though about my word!

Last year’s word was TRUST (you can read about that here). In 2017, my word was CONTEND, and in 2016, my word was ENOUGH.

It’s always amazing to me how God uses this word throughout the year and how it is so meaningful.

I mean, it’s just a word really and seemingly random. But yet, it’s not.

Things are changing in a lot of ways.

Anyway, 2019 promises to be a year of great change in my life. My youngest son is graduating from high school, and my oldest son might also be going away to college in the fall. My nest promises to look very different at this time next year.

A new chapter, a new season is upon me, and I feel I am reaching a “bend in the road,” as Anne Shirley would say.

Not only that, but last Sunday was my last day with the Sunday school class I’ve been teaching for about 9 years. Weirdly, I can never remember exactly when I started, but life was very different back then. I had an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old. We were smack in the middle of the growing years. Neither Kipper nor I had any grey hair.

The way I see myself is also changing.

And then there’s that book I published. (Hook’s Daughter). I’m not sure why but I’ve found publishing a book has changed how I view myself in ways I never imagined. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but now I see myself AS a writer. Turns out, that mindset switch makes a big difference.

I had a hard time coming up with the right word this year.

There is excitement in starting a new season, but there is also a bittersweetness that comes at the end of one, too. I wanted a word that captured both of those things: looking forward and also letting go.

I threw around quite a few words: adventure, leap, expectant, brave. I posted about it in the PowerSheets group (great bunch even if I didn’t buy the book this year), and someone suggested Embrace.

And that was almost it, but it wasn’t quite right. (after all, it didn’t make me cry!).

Then, this morning, I was listening to Priscilla Shirer during my quiet time. She started teaching on the passage in Luke 9 where Jesus calls, equips and then sends out His disciples. When they return they are triumphant but exhausted. And then they all run into the multitude whom Jesus feeds with the five loaves and two fishes.

And suddenly I knew what my word for 2019 was: EQUIPPED.

Immediately, (well after the little crying spurt), I felt like I was being presumptuous. It was almost like I could hear the enemy hissing in my ear, “Who do you think you are to say you are equipped? What makes you think you’re ready for anything at all?”

For a moment, I was cowed by that voice. For a moment, doubt crept in, but then truth pushed it out. I sat up straighter and squared my shoulders because I knew who I was. I had faith that I was equipped for all the changes (and the inevitable discomfort that follows a lot of changes) that 2019 will surely bring.

I’m the daughter of the King of kings.

He has equipped me for every good work that He prepared for me to do before the foundations of the world.

What’s your word for 2019? I’d love to hear about it!

 

 

Five Minute Fridays – BALANCE

Today is Friday which means it’s Five Minute Friday. If you don’t know what Five Minute Friday, it’s where women from all over the world come together to write for five minutes on one word – no editing, no second-guessing. You can head on over HERE to check it out.

Today’s word is BALANCE

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Balance, as we think of it, is a myth. I know because I’ve chased after it all of my adult life – this idea that if I just have things in balance, I can do all the things equally well. The truth is balance doesn’t mean that at all.

You see, I thought of balance like those people who spin plates and keep them all going at once and they keep adding more plates until finally they can’t keep up with all the spinning and the plates start to crash one by one.

My to-do list used to have – no joke – about 25 items on it for one day, and then I was confused and frustrated and annoyed with myself when I didn’t cross them all off. Crazy, right? But I did this for literally YEARS!

 

Part of that is because I have no concept of time. I freely admit it. I am a creative and that whole ability to estimate how long something will take? That totally doesn’t work in my brain! So, I would be overly optimistic about how much I could get done. (It’s also why I tend to be late a lot because I think I can squeeze in one more thing!).

True balance is about understanding the real parameters of your time available, your energy and the capacity of your plate.

See, balance isn’t about spinning all those plates in the air. It’s about looking at the plate you’ve been given and being realistic about how full you can fill it before things start spilling off the sides or everything is too squished to really enjoy (anyone else like to eat their food separately or is that just me?)

We can’t compare our plate to how much someone else has on theirs because each of us has a different size and shape based on a lot of things – health, responsibilities, seasons of life. Yours won’t look like mine. So, balance is as individual as we are.

Once I learned that, I spent a whole lot less time picking up broken china!

Blessings, Rosanne

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