The First Anniversary of My Dad’s Death

It was on this day, last year, that my dad took his last breath on earth and his first one in heaven.

He hadn’t been doing well, but none of us expected him to deteriorate so fast. Certainly, none of us, including his oncologist, expected him to be gone less than a week after his last trip to Columbus.

He went into the hospital in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and by Sunday he had slipped into a deep sleep all on his own.  We sat around him that day, periodically going over to check on him, to tell him we loved him, to keep vigil, to chuckle just a little at the half snore.

The next time my dad opened his eyes was to see the face of Jesus.

I’m not sure what it is about the year anniversary of a loved one’s death. They are no more gone that day than any other, but suddenly, you find yourself back there where you were a year ago, walking a familiar path of loss all over again.

There is a sort of shock and numbness that cushions you when a loved one dies, but certain things remain clear memories.

I can close my eyes and see and feel the dim hush of that hospital room. I can still feel the wispiness of my dad’s hair and the clamminess of his skin.

I remember my mom’s call that time was short, and the horrible disbelief that even though I had hit every single green light, I had still missed his moment of passing by only a few minutes.

When I entered that room, I knew immediately and unequivocally that my dad was gone, that his body was just an empty shell. The spirit that had animated it was gone.

I remember the befuddled busyness of going over funeral details. I can still feel the dread in my belly of having to smile and nod and hug all the people, but at the same time taking comfort that so many people loved him and cared.

I remember how desperately I wanted to get across who my dad was and what his life meant in the eulogy I was giving, and how inadequate I felt as words seemed just out of my grasp.

I remember Brody leaning on the podium singing.

I remember Brock – my most stoic of children – breaking down when sharing about his grandpa.

I remember my mom, the first time we came into the funeral home, how she had to brace herself before going to the casket.

I remember the day after the funeral. I spent the night with my mom. The next morning we went to Panera where we picked at a bagel and drank coffee, not sure what to do.

How do you do life without the person who has always been there?

Just recently, I wrote in my prayer journal and asked God how you can both miss someone deeply and yet not wish them back here.

The truth is, it was my dad’s time to go. If he had stayed longer, he would have suffered and none of us wanted that.

At the same time, life continues to roll on, and I miss him experiencing it all. My younger son filmed a short movie this summer. The premier is in a few weeks (just a screening at our local church – nothing huge), and I can envision my dad telling everyone about it, proud of his grandson. “My grandson, the filmmaker.”

But he’s not here.

Life will move on and all the important milestones will happen and he won’t be here. And some days, that’s just hard.

And yet, our lives have also moved on. Our days and weeks have slowly rearranged themselves into a new normal, one that doesn’t include my dad in its daily fabric.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss him. But I know while we have been grieving and fumbling around trying to figure out life without him, he’s had the best year ever.

Appropriately, someone sang No More Night at church this week. It’s why I can be sad and glad all at the same time.

No More Night by David Phelps from the album Heaven

The timeless theme, Earth and Heaven will pass away
It’s not a dream, God will make all things new that day
Gone is the curse from which I stumbled and fell
Evil is banished to eternal hell

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See all around, now the nations bow down to sing
The only sound is the praises to Christ, our King
Slowly the names from the book are read
I know the King, so there? s no need to dread

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

See over there, there? s a mansion
Oh, that’s prepared just for me
Where I will live with my Savior eternally

No more night, no more pain
No more tears, never crying again
And praises to the great, “I AM”
We will live in the light of the risen Lamb

All praises to the great, “I AM”
We’re gonna live in the light of the risen Lamb

Blessings, Rosanne

In My Weakness I See God’s Strength

It’s the first week of school.

It’s the last first week of school for my baby who is a senior this year. I’m not as sad about that as I could be, but still.

The last few weeks have been somewhat crazy as the whirl of last minute things need to be done – lessons plans and school supply shopping and practices and scrimmages and games and, and, and…

I’m tired.

The school year hasn’t even really started, and I’m just not ready for the hustle and bustle. My heart and my mind haven’t quite snapped out of the still and quiet that was this summer.

And yet, it’s here whether I’m ready or not.

God’s Strength – Not Mine

Today, in the mail came a letter from Ransomed Heart ministries. And it was just what I needed to read, and maybe it’s what you need to read, too.

It’s St. Patrick’s Breastplate – which to be completely honest I’d never heard of before today. But when I looked it up, I found that it is a prayer attributed to the Irish saint. It’s a powerful hymn of hope for God’s help, especially when you are feeling weak.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity

Through belief in the Threeness

Through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation

I arise today

Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism

Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial

Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension

Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me,

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak to me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me,

From snares of devils,

From temptation of vices,

Frome everyone who shall wish me ill, afar or near

I arise today:

Christ with me,

Christ before me,

Christ behind me,

Christ in me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ on my right,

Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down,

Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in Threeness,

Through confession of the Oneness

of the Creator of creation.

My friend, may you rise up today, not in your own strength, but in the strength of the Creator of the universe.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9,10
Blessings, Rosanne

Lessons in the Silence

It’s been a quiet summer.

We haven’t traveled.

We haven’t entertained much.

Each day has slipped by like beads on a string.

And I’m okay with that.

Because while it has been a quiet summer, it’s also been a creative one.

I’m currently in the process of revising Hook’s Daughter, my middle-grade fantasy novel, and I’m starting to plan the next two books in what will ultimately be a trilogy. So having some space has been a good thing.

I put out three new devotional journals: 30 Days of Overcoming Fear; 30 Days of Knowing God; and 30 Days of Your Identity in Christ. (They are all available on Amazon, if you are interested.)

 

 

 

 

 

I find the silence and the solitude has allowed creativity to flourish. When things are busy and noisy, it’s hard for me to find the head and heart space to create.

In the quiet, I find my trust in God grows too.

An interesting thing happened in the late spring, early summer. Not only was my life quiet, so was God. I’m used to hearing His still small voice, to feeling His presence in tangible ways and being guided by His Spirit.

But there was just silence.

One thing I had been really thinking and praying about this past spring was feelings versus truth. As humans, we tend to swing from one extreme to another. When I was growing up, emotions were kind of, if not taboo, certainly not encouraged – especially in excess – in church.

Now though, it’s like we’ve swung to the opposite extreme where an emotional experience with God is seen as equal to growth. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve had some wonderful times with God where worship has made my emotions overflow, when His presence has reduced me to tears, when I’ve been moved beyond speech by something I’ve heard or read from His Word.

Those are all good things.

But they aren’t the only things.

They aren’t the things that help us to grow in our character and our obedience necessarily.

It’s like the emotional high has replaced the faithful following.

So, when God became silent, suddenly I was left in this place where all I had was what I knew to be true, not what I felt to be true.

And yet, the Bible says, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalms 46:10)

About this same time, I was working on my summer goals and plans, and I realized I couldn’t remember my word for the year.

Yeah – I know right? Welcome to middle age!

So, I went and opened up my PowerSheets where I had written it down.

My word for the year is TRUST.

And that’s when it hit me and I got what God had been trying to teach me through His silence.

Did I trust Him or did I trust my experience of Him?

Did I trust truth or did I trust my emotions about those truths?

Did I trust His promise to never leave me even when I couldn’t hear Him?

I never really knew that silence and solitude are actually considered spiritual disciplines.

Now I know why they are powerful.

I think getting quiet with God is going to be a regular part of my life in coming days. It’s in those quiet places that the best stuff grows.

I’d love to know what God has been teaching you this summer.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

Stuck? Maybe You’re Not Using the Right Tool

It’s mid-June and my garden is still not planted.

In my defense, we had an unseasonably cold spring. Case in point, I was toweling snow off my dog mid-April.

Then we had rain. A lot of rain.

And it was the end of school which is always busy for me both as a mom and a teacher.

And then I was finishing up revisions on my novel.

The truth is, I haven’t planted my garden for about three years, so the grass it displaced had decided to reclaim its space. Instead of just digging up lightly rooted weeds from one season, I had to dig a lot deeper to clear out grass and weeds that had rooted deeply. (there’s probably a lesson there and maybe I’ll blog about that later).

I kind of put it off much of the morning.

Lingering over my coffee. Reading another chapter in the current good-for-me book I’m reading. But finally, I put on my work clothes, popped in my earbuds, and went outside.

The first obstacle I faced was finding my shovel and unearthing my wheelbarrow. In fact, I had to call my husband because even though I went into our shed TWICE, I couldn’t find it. I had to move A LOT of stuff out of the way and wrestle that wheelbarrow from underneath all the stuff (on a side note, I do wonder why we have so many empty boxes in our shed).

Finally, I had the wheelbarrow and my shovel. My gardening gloves had long since disappeared, so I decided to wing it.

The original wood that enclosed my single raised bed garden was rotted and old. I had bought a raised bed kit, so I broke down that old wood. Left was a patch of raised weeds and grass, their roots tightly woven together into one big matted square.

I started to try to dig up this grass.

I’m not in the best physical shape (one of my goals this summer is to change that). Walking my dog for 20-30 minutes every day just doesn’t prepare you for manual labor – at least not this woman!

Digging up that 4 by 4-foot patch was A LOT harder than it looked. Some areas were looser and came free with a minimum of effort, but other areas seemed determined not to be moved.

After several sessions of digging and chopping at this mess, I started thinking that maybe I’d have to give up. After all, I didn’t want to have a heart attack or something and just keel over in the backyard!

I came back into the house to take a break. As I sat there trying to catch my breath and figure out what to do – try again or call it quits – it occurred to me that maybe what I needed was not more muscle, but a sharper edge to get the job done.

It was amazing the difference it made. Don’t get me wrong – it was still hard work. Even using that hoe, I was still working up a good sweat, but it was SO much more effective.

After clearing the second half of that space in literally half the time, I came back into hydrate and take a breather. As I sat down to drink my water bottle and do a little Facebook scrolling (hey, I earned it!), it hit me.

So many times when we are stuck, it’s not that we are doing the wrong thing. It’s that we are using the wrong tools.

When we are frustrated or discouraged because something seems way harder than it should be, it’s so easy to want to give up. Whether that thing is a job or a relationship or a dream.

It’s so easy to keep doing what we’ve always been doing, trying harder and harder until we just can’t anymore.

But maybe what we need isn’t a new path or person or situation. Maybe what we need to do is back up and see if we are using the most effective tools for the job.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

 

Father’s Day – A Grief Delayed

My dad’s gifts for Father’s Day evolved over my adult years. I went from buying him clothes to books to finally, gift cards.

This year I bought flowers to put on his grave.

When my dad first died over nine months ago, I had a deep peace. God clearly showed me it was his time to go, that his story had ended, at least on earth. It was time for him to go home.

It was also clear to me that God had graciously given us one more year together. It was equally clear that if my dad had lived longer his suffering would have increased, and it was a distinct possibility that he wouldn’t have been able to stay home since his mobility was rapidly deteriorating. That would have crushed both of my parents who were constant companions.

Of course, I’ve had sad days and days when I cried a bit, but the grief I thought I’d feel didn’t really hit me. It waited patiently in the wings while I focused on supporting my mother through the toughest transition – from wife to widow. It marked time while the hectic schedule of the school year made the weeks blur together.

I felt an inkling of it on my birthday. The first time in my adult life when my father’s slightly off-key voice didn’t sing “Happy Birthday” to me.

It nipped at me when I typed “The End” on the rough draft of my first novel when I realized my dad would never hold my book in his hands.

But it came out of the shadows for Father’s Day.

Maybe it’s just that I have finally slowed down, or maybe it is because my mom is getting used to life alone, or as used to it as you can ever get.

Or maybe it’s just that the day meant to celebrate fathers and all they mean to us drives home to me like nothing else does that I don’t have mine anymore.

Whatever the reason, I’ve found myself in tears multiple times this week. A deep ache seems to have settled in my chest, and the weight of my father’s absence weighs heavy in my heart.

And in the middle of my tears and sadness, I find myself thankful. Thankful I had a dad I can truly mourn. Thankful that I had that last extra year to spend intentional time with him. Thankful that my dad’s absence left a hole that nobody can fill.

When I was little, I thought my dad hung the moon. He was my superhero, and I had him squarely on a pedestal. There was nothing he couldn’t do or fix.

As I grew up, I realized he wasn’t perfect, but I never really took him off that pedestal. He was still a man I could admire and respect, not just love. He was a man my children could look up to and emulate.

And I’m thankful because I know that’s not the case for everyone.

So, as I walk in this new season of grief, I walk with not just a sad heart but a full heart. Even though my dad is no longer here, I’m keenly aware that I’m one of the lucky ones, and Father’s Day is still a day to celebrate that man.

Blessings, Rosanne

 

 

How to Move Forward When You’re Terrified

I’m sitting here looking at the first draft of my novel.

What I really need to do is start revisions, but I’ve been letting everything else push this work to the bottom of the pile

I’ve been wondering why revising my work seems so hard to get to. When I was banging out my first draft, I didn’t have trouble saying no to other things, but revising – well, that’s been a totally different story (no pun intended).

Sure, you should let the manuscript “rest” (which always reminds me of the directions for cooking a roast), but I really should have started last week.

Instead, I wandered around in a discombobulated fog. And a whole week slipped by, and I didn’t even look at my manuscript. Revising should be easier than getting that first draft down right? So why was I having so much trouble?

The simple answer is I’m afraid. Well, actually, I’m kind of terrified.

While I wrote, I just concentrated on the next scene. When I was stuck or wanted to quit, I just told myself that it didn’t have to be any good. I just had to get it down.

I haven’t actually read the whole story, and I’m terrified it’s awful – unsalvageable. That this dream I’ve carried with me since I was 12 years old, of being an author, isn’t actually possible.

Because I’m not good enough.

Let’s be really honest here. It’s the first draft. Of my first novel. Saying that it isn’t best seller material is probably a vast understatement. It’s going to take work to get it into the best possible shape for my readers.

But that isn’t the type of fear I’m talking about. I’m talking about the fear that I just don’t have the ability to write stories  – at all.

So, the question becomes how do you move forward when you are terrified?

Here’s what I’ve found. There is no magical formula that will ever make you feel ready when you are terrified. So, you have to move forward scared.

You take a deep breath.

You pray for courage.

And you start.

I’m reminded of the children of Israel, poised on the banks of the Jordan River. The Promised Land is just on the other side. But between them and their dream is the water, frothing and overspilling its banks.

The priests stare at the raging water. All they have to do is take the first step and God promised He will do the rest. But oh the terror in that first step.

But they did it – and you and I can, too.

So, I’m going to wrap up now because I have some revision to do.

And I better get started.

Blessings, Rosanne

Easter Is a Reminder of God’s Kindness

Have you ever done something for someone and they just didn’t appreciate it?

I remember back when my kids were little, every time one of their birthdays rolled around, I would make their cake. They got to request a specific theme, and then I tried to come up with something that worked. Some years were more challenging than others!

The year Brody turned 11, he wanted a cake that kind of represented all the things he was interested in: sports, art, his spiritual life.

I spent a lot of time on that cake, dividing it into four equal parts and drawing miniature representations of each thing in each section. I made each of the four section different colors.

It was definitely a labor of love.

When it was time to bring out his cake, I was really excited for him to see it. Smiling, I brought it out from a back room and set it down in front of him.

Instead of the delight I had envisioned, he wrinkled his nose. Then, he pointed to one of the paint brushes I had carefully drawn with icing. “What’s that?” The disdain was clear in his voice. “It looks like a straw or something.” He continued to point out things that weren’t quite right.

I’ll be honest. I was hurt, and more than a little angry.

It hurts when we do something out of love, and the recipient doesn’t love it – or worse is critical. Even if it is just a birthday cake.

Imagine how God feels, then, when we snub His gift of salvation?

 

As I sat in the Good Friday service this year, the one phrase that kept coming to me over and over again was Romans 2:4

“Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?”

That verse wasn’t even part of the service that night, but this phrase from this verse just kept washing over me, and I was moved to tears by it.

God gave His Son to die, not just a painful death but a humiliating death for us.

And people ignore that gift.

Worse, they often outright reject that gift, mocking it or calling it a crutch for weak and stupid people.

I can’t even imagine how that hurts God’s heart.

And God’s response?

It isn’t anger.

It isn’t instant retaliation.

No, His response is kindness. It’s love. It’s a gentle wooing of the lost.

If I was God (we can all be very thankful I am not – am I right?) I would want to FORCE people to accept my sacrifice and my gift. I would want to make them see how awesome it really was for me to do that for them. Even though they didn’t deserve it. Even though they were vile and sinners.

But God doesn’t do that.

He loves us so much that He gives us free will – even when rejecting His gift breaks His heart.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. I Peter 3:9

It hurts His heart to send people to hell. He doesn’t want to do it – even when those people mock Him and reject Him and make fun of His great sacrifice for them.

I don’t know about you, but that completely undoes me. My mind can’t wrap around a love that great.

But I can be thankful that that same love is directed toward me.

Because the truth is, while I don’t mock or reject God’s gift, I can take it for granted. It can start to feel so familiar, I lose my wonder of the great thing Jesus did – not just for the world – but for me!

And while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me.

Oh Lord, never let me become used to your sacrifice or take it for granted. Let me continually be overwhelmed and in awe of your great love for me!

Blessing, Rosanne

An Open Letter to Christian Wives or When It’s Time to Get Help

Over the past several months, I’ve listened to various women in various places talk about something disturbing. Usually, it is said in a hushed, shamed voice. Or it is put out in a private social media group, always apologetically, always with a lot of self-blame always with a lot of excuses for the offender. 

In these posts or exchanges, the thing these women are describing is verbal and/or emotional abuse. 

The language that these women use usually places all the blame squarely on their own shoulders. There is a deeper shame that is written between the lines that goes something like, “If only I was more spiritual or a better Christian, this wouldn’t bother me, or this must be my fault or my husband wouldn’t treat me this way.”

This bothers me on so many levels, and I want to say something.

First, let me just say that everyone says mean things to their spouses at times. We all mess up and do things that aren’t kind or in our spouse’s best interests. We are all selfish or discontent at times.

I am not talking about the normal interactions that reveal our broken humanness. I am not talking about the little hurts or upsets that pepper a long marriage.

What I am talking about are words and actions that consistently put down a woman’s mind, body, spirit or emotions.

I am talking about words and actions that consistently, daily grind away at who a woman is and manipulate her view of herself.

I am talking about a husband who regularly hurts his wife with his words, and then blames her for feeling hurt.

Wives, that isn’t okay. It is NOT what God has called men to in marriage, and it isn’t what He has called you to either.

It doesn’t make you more spiritual by NOT holding your husband accountable for his words and actions towards you. 

It’s often difficult when you are in the middle of a situation to realize that what you are experiencing is actually a form of abuse. No, your husband isn’t hitting you or pushing you or physically hurting you, but he is hurting you nonetheless.

And it’s okay – healthy even – to not allow it to continue. Enabling someone to sin against you isn’t loving and it isn’t godly. 

One definition of emotional abuse explains it as, “any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, infantilization, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth.”1

Signs of Emotional Abuse

What are the signs of emotional abuse? Any of the following can be signs if they happen frequently.

  • Yelling or swearing
  • Name calling or insults; mocking
  • Threats and intimidation
  • Ignoring and/or excluding
  • Isolating
  • Humiliating
  • Denial of the abuse and blaming the viction

I hope you caught that last one – blaming the victim. This is especially prevalent in Christian circles because men will use Scripture to try to make what they are doing seem okay and then blame their wives for their response to the abuse. After all, the wife is supposed to submit, right?

Here’s the thing, submission has nothing to do with the husband being superior to or acting in a parental fashion. The word submission in the Bible indicates one leader submitting to another. These are two equals with one voluntarily putting themselves under another’s leadership.

I am all about working at your marriage. I am not a proponent of divorce by any means, but I AM a proponent of separation with reconciliation as a goal. I am a fan of speaking to a Christian counselor or pastor with counseling experience to get some perspective on what’s happening. I am a proponent of holding your spouse accountable for destructive behavior towards you or your marriage.

Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Obviously, nobody is going to do that perfectly, and we all need to extend grace to a spouse that messes up as we’d want him to extend that same grace to us.

But if you recognize your husband in the behavior listed above and it is an ongoing, consistent thing, may I encourage you to seek Godly counsel? There’s nothing extra spiritual about being a victim.

 

 

My Favorite Books from 2017

I’ve always loved to read. From the time I was a young child, books have been a way to meet new people, explore new places and go on grand adventures.

In 2017, I was lucky enough to find some great books, both fiction and non-fiction. In the non-fiction categories, several of these books made a life-altering impact on me. Under the fiction category, I found several series that were wonderful and had me staying up way too late because I had a hard time putting them down (what every author wants to hear!). Keep in mind, I read a lot of young adult and middle grade novels because that is what I am currently writing. These series might be a great fit if you have tweens or teens in the house. 🙂

 

Non-fiction

The Real God by Chip Ingram

In this book, Ingram starts with several chapters on how important it is to truly know God. He then takes a deep look at seven attributes of God: sovereignty, goodness, holiness, wisdom, justice, love and faithfulness. While most of this information won’t be new for those who have been believers for any length of time, it was a great way to start my year in 2017. I actually spent quite a bit of time on each chapter, devoting an entire week to each one. I know not everyone will want to do that, but this book is such a great way to remind ourselves about who God really is and how He wants us to see Him. I wrote a longer review that you can find HERE.

All Things New by Jon Eldridge

I started the year with The Real God, and All Things New is one of the last non-fiction books I read in 2017. It was like a breath of fresh air. The whole idea of the book is that eternity is not some boring, eternal church service, but life as it was meant to be lived before the Fall. He backs up his thoughts with a lot of Scripture, and it is hard not to find his vision refreshing and invigorating. This is a great read if you are feeling a bit hopeless. I wrote a longer review that you can read HERE.

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen

I had heard a lot about this book from various bloggers. To be honest, I kind of resisted reading it at first because sometimes popularity doesn’t really translate into depth. When I found it on my library book shelf though, I decided to give it a try, and I am so glad I did. Her book points us from the exhausting and often discouraging efforts of striving to do more and be more, to resting in the life-giving reality of resting in Jesus. I wrote down pages of quotes from this book because it has so much truth on each page.

Reading People by Anne Bogel

I am a personality nerd. I have taken just about every personality test given, and I find it endlessly fascinating. I love to know why people do the things they do and why they are the way they are. Bogel goes into the major personality typing systems out there, and then she explains how they work and what they can do for you. I was particularly enthralled with her indepth explanation about the cognitive functions related to the Myers-Briggs types. I had so many ah-ha moments while reading this book. While personality typing is fun for me, it also serves a larger purpose. By understanding how different personality types deal with conflict, why they need alone time or even how they express joy, we can learn to love and get along better with those who are important to us.

Finish by Jon Acuff

This was not a Christian book, but as someone who struggles with follow through, I found this book both encouraging and practical. The book is enjoyable to read just because Acuff is so funny, but he also has a lot of hands-on research to back up his advice. Acuff offers a 30 Days of Hustle program, and when a researcher came to him to ask to study the results, Acuff was surprised at what helped people finish. Things like cutting goals in half, extending deadlines and having fun seem counterintuitive, but actually, they are ways people successfully reach their goals. This is a great read for this time of year when all those resolutions are still fresh.

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben

I have always been a nature nerd. When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than to have my parents take me to the local plant nursery so I could wander around looking at all the various houseplants. I even had a bookcase filled with plants, with each shelf hooked up with special lighting. So, the idea that trees in a forest ecosystem can communicate to each other totally caught my attention. While this book might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I found the ways trees communicate, raise young trees and even sound alarms through their roots absolutely fascinating.

Fiction

The Ember Falls Series by S.D. Smith

If you love sword-wielding rabbits, this is the series for you! This is definitely a hero’s quest type of story. The series starts with The Green Ember and introduces us to the siblings, Heather  and Picket. The two are living an ordinary, peaceful existence until tragedy strikes their home, dragging them into a much bigger story that threatens their whole world.  The story picks up in The Ember Falls with the kingdom on the verge of war, and Heather and Picket are forced to once again play roles that feel too big and overwhelming for them.

 Fairytale Reform School series by Jen Calonita

This is a fun series that features plucky heroine Gilly. She isn’t bad, exactly, but with five little brothers and sisters, all living in a boot without enough resources, Gilly isn’t above stealing what she needs. She’s very good at it – until she gets caught and sentenced to three months at Fairytale Reform School where all the teachers are reformed villains. She soon finds that there is a battle brewing. The series includes Flunked, Charmed, and Tricked with a fourth installment, Switched coming out soon.

The Secrets of the Pied Piper series by Matthew Cody

There are three books so far in The Secrets of the Pied Piper series: The Peddler’s Road, The Magician’s Key, and the Piper’s Apprentice. Do you ever wondered what happened to the children led off by the Pied Piper? Pink-haired Max and her little brother, Carter, are stuck in modern-day Hamelin with their father . . . until they are also led away by the Piper to a place called the Summer Isle. There they meet the original stolen children, who haven’t aged a day and who have formed their own village, vigilantly guarded from the many nightmarish beings that roam the land. The series follows the saga of trying to get everyone back home where they belong.
So, what books did you love in 2017? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

 

 

Why My Word for 2018 is Trust

When I was a kid, my parents and I went to this place called Word of Life up in New York. They had a day camp for the littles and I loved it!

One day, we went to the beach. The memory isn’t very clear anymore, and I’m sure the folks watching us were being careful, but as I waded out in the shallows, I slipped. For some reason, I just couldn’t seem to get my feet underneath me to stand up. We were in a lake, so maybe the rocks covering the bottom were slippery. Or maybe the current was strong. Most likely, I was just klutzy and uncoordinated. Whatever the reason, I just couldn’t stand up, and in my little five year old mind, it seemed like I was going to drown.

Just when I thought all was lost, my friend June reached down her pudgy hand and yanked me to my feet. I coughed and gasped. I think I probably cried a little bit. When my mom came to get me, I ran to her and told her I almost drowned. The workers, understandably, downplayed this event.

In their eyes, they were probably telling the truth.  It was shallow water. I was probably under a total of 10 seconds (it only seemed like 10 minutes). It probably was one of those things that scared me in much greater proportion to the actual danger I was in.

But it was enough to instill in me a great fear.

My mom, who is also not all that fond of the water, really tried. She took me to swim lessons. These lessons were not a huge success since on the very first day, the instructor – a perky college student – informed us with great enthusiasm we were all going to jump into the deep end from the diving board.

Probably seeing more than one pair of saucer eyes staring at her, she quickly assured us we’d be holding onto a pole and both instructors would be right there.

I don’t know about everyone else in the class, but this did not calm my fears one little bit, and as the lesson time wound down, my anxiety wound tighter.

Way before I was ready, we were lining up behind the diving board. I kept slipping to the back of the line, putting off the inevitable.

The other instructor, noticing my fear, offered to jump with me. On shaking legs, I slowly climbed the ladder after the instructor. Together we put one hand on the handle of the long pole.

“On the count of three,” she said. “One, two, three…”

Instead of jumping on three, I shoved the instructor in and grabbed onto the diving board railing. That was the end of my swimming lessons.

But just because I was afraid, didn’t mean I didn’t want to swim, though.

Over the years, I would go to the pool or the beach or parties, and watch in envy as other kids seemed to have a blast. They would hurl themselves from diving boards, shrieking with delight. They’d zip through the water, playing Marco Polo or tag.

All the while, I would cling to the side of the pool, paddling my feet, pretending I was swimming.

But I wasn’t. I would never really swim, never experience the unique freedom of being in the water until I let go of the side of the pool. 

Enter my dad. He was an awesome swimmer. He could walk across the bottom of the pool on his hands which I thought was the coolest thing in the world. It definitely gave me street cred with my little friends, too. After all, none of THEIR dads could do that.

Instead of making me climb up on a diving board and jump into the deep end, my dad spent many hours with me in the shallow end of the pool. At first, he would keep his arms underneath me as I kicked away. With him holding onto me, the water held no fear for me.

Then he used one arm.

Then he used one hand.

Then, I was swimming across the shallow end with only his finger under my chin.

When he finally took that one finger away, I panicked. I started thrashing around. Immediately, his hands reached out to hold me and my panic went away.

We went back to one finger under the chin for a few minutes until he told me he was going to take his finger off. I protested, but he told me to just watch him. He assured me he was right there. That he could reach out to me at any moment. He would not let me sink, much less drowned.

So, keeping my eyes trained on my dad, I swam the length of the shallow end. You would have thought I had just won an Olympic gold in freestyle when I finally reached the other side – all by myself.

The difference between success and failure in this case was trust. The simple truth was I trusted my dad to protect me and keep me safe. Those instructors, as nice as they were, couldn’t even begin to compare.

This year, the word God keeps pressing on my heart is TRUST.

As I step into this new year, I have a lot of things going on in my life that require trust. From my writing, to my children, to friends and family that are struggling, God is asking me to trust Him.

It’s so easy to say we trust God, but walking it out day by day is a lot harder, isn’t it?

Worries, fears, what ifs – they can all make you doubt. But when I cling to those things, I limit what God can do in and through me.

Sometimes, it’s hard though, to simply trust and obey, though. It feels a lot like letting go of the side of the pool and kicking out to that scary place – the no man’s land of the middle of the pool where there are no sides to cling to. But I will never know the freedom that truly trusting brings without doing that.

Without letting go, you can’t glide through the water; you can’t experience the wonder of flying through the air to land with a splash, and then shoot back to the surface. You miss the joy an exhilaration that comes from just letting go.

So, I am left with a choice to make. I can continue to cling to what feels safe, or I can take God up on His invitation to trust Him.

My choice doesn’t change who God is, but it certainly changes how I live my life. I don’t want to miss out and stay stuck, clinging to what feels safe, while never really experiencing all that God has for me.

How about you? Has God given you a word for this year? I’d love to hear about it!

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