Friday, March 22, 2019

Don't Forget to Say Good Morning!

From December until last week, I had to rely on a friend to drive me to and from work. I would meet her in front of the house. I started going out earlier to take a moment to myself before having to deal with the day job and all its challenges. (I’m a teacher so LOTS of challenges!) At first, I also thought it could be an exercise to help with my scene descriptions in my manuscripts. But the more times I completed the activity, the more I realized it was doing so much more for me.

My friend would text me when she was leaving her house, so I knew I’d have about ten minutes before she pulled up outside. I started going out at least five minutes before she was due, and I’d examine the world around me. I would take several deep breaths and clear my head. I’d recognize where the birds were and see if there were nests in the trees. I’d notice the sounds of different birds and which side of the street they were on. I would study the sky, making note of the colors and how they swirled into each other. I’d touch the rough edges of the stones that make up my front steps, rubbing my fingers over the loose pebbles on top. I would close my eyes and listen to the wind, making note of how it felt as it brushed across my cheeks. I would smell the smoke of the logs people were already burning in their fireplaces in the houses nearby.

Now I’m back to driving myself around, but I’m still starting my days off the same way. I just lean up against my driver’s side door instead of sitting on the doorsteps. The activity has become my own private greeting to the day, a way to bring me closer to God, and a way to open my heart to all the possibilities ahead of me for the following twenty-four hours.

If you’ve done this type of activity, tell us about your experience. If you haven’t, is it something you’d consider? Share your thoughts with us.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Book Clubs

By Debby Giusti

Yesterday was the first day of spring so enjoy the sunshine, grab a cup of coffee or hot tea and join me in talking about one of my favorite subjects — book clubs! If you love to read, analyze characters and discuss theme, moral premise, symbolism or motifs, you’re probably in a book club. If not, you need to be.

My Book Club! We've been meeting for over a decade.

Oprah Winfrey is often credited with the rise in popularity of book clubs. The talk show hostess started her own television book club in 1996 and encouraged women to read books she chose, beginning with the club’s first read,The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Oprah picks invariably soared to the top of the bestseller charts, and even classics, such as John Steinbeck’s East of Eden,gained a new resurgence of notoriety due to what has been called the Oprah Phenomenon. Over a span of fifteen years, members read a total of 70 books until the club ended in 2011.

This great group of ladies hosted me at their first
blook club meeting. They started out with four
people. Now they have more than a dozen members.
Everyone wants to be part of their group.

Pamela Burger, in her article, “Women's Groups and the Rise of the Book Club," claims that women’s clubs in vogue in the late 19th century--when ladies gathered to discuss literature and the arts--actually gave birth to the concept of the modern book club.

Katie Vu goes back even farther. In her article, “The Book Club Phenomena,” Ku attributes the beginning of book clubs to Puritan Anne Hutchinson, who first gathered women into a reading circle in 1634. Margaret Fuller supposedly sponsored the first bookstore based club in 1840. Some sixty years later, avid readers received selections in the mail thanks to the Book-of-the-Month-Club and The Literary Guild.

Our read this particular month was Kristin Hannah's
The Nightingale.

Today virtual book clubs abound. Word of mouth book promotion has turned digital with readers sharing information online about authors and their books. Goodreads provides a forum for its more than 20 million members to discuss and review their favorite reads. Facebook reading groups interact with authors and discuss their stories in a number of forums, including Q & As and author chats.

Inevitably, everyone congregates in the kitchen!
No matter how or when they started, books clubs seem to be a permanent part of our American culture. In 2014, BookBrowse interviewed women who read more than one book a month and found that 56% were members of book clubs. The majority of clubs—89%--meet in person and read an average of 9 to 12 books each year. The books are selected from various genres with the classics and bestsellers being the most frequently chosen as monthly picks.
L to R: Sandy Marvin, my daughter Mary and Sandra
Kirkpatrick chat before our book discussion.

The book club in which I’m a member started more than a decade ago with a church retreat. After the weekend religious gathering, many of us wanted to continue to meet monthly. We started reading inspirational non-fiction but quickly evolved into a fiction reading group. The second Wednesday of each month finds us gathered in one of the members’ homes. The evening begins with appetizers and beverages as we socialize for an hour or so. The hostess provides a light dinner or heavy hors d’oeuvres and dessert. After eating, we turn our focus to the monthly read. Questions in the back of the book sometimes provide a springboard for our discussions, and it’s rare that a story doesn’t leave us with a thoughtful insight or takeaway that we can apply to our daily lives. At the end of the evening, the hostess announces the next month’s read. Each December, we have a book exchange with the January selection chosen from one of the gift books.

Great discussion at our May meeting last year.

I enjoy visiting book clubs and greatly appreciate having my story selected as their monthly read. The conversation flows, and book club members invariably have questions about where I get my ideas and who creates the cover art and the back of the book blurb. In addition to answering their questions, I also provide a behind the scenes look at publishing and the writing life. 

Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your book club or any reading programs with which you’ve been involved. 

Happy reading!

Wishing you abundant blessings!
Debby Giusti

Hiding in Plain Sight
The second thrilling Amish Witness Protection novel

After Julia Bradford’s son witnesses a gang shooting, hiding in witness protection on Abraham King’s Amish farm is the only hope the Englischer and her children have. Even as danger closes in, Julia is drawn to the community’s peaceful ways—and the ex-cop turned Amish protector. But when their location is discovered, can Abraham protect her family…and possibly have a future by her side?

Order HERE!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Sometimes God says no

The night we got Ava
Hi Everyone, Danica Favorite here, and I have some sad news to share. For those of you who have been following the journey of our horse, Ava, I'm sad to report that she colicked and passed away as a result earlier this month. It's been a difficult month for us, in a lot of ways, and Ava's loss had been harder on us than I would have thought.

The morning of her passing, Hubby went out and found her struggling. He got our daughter, and they quickly realized it was colic. She was rushed to the vet, and the vet did everything she could, but sadly, Ava did not make it. To make it more difficult, we had to leave Ava at the vet to take my husband in for a routine medical procedure. I had to make the decision about Ava as they were taking him in for anesthesia. Neither of us got to say goodbye. But I did call my amazing father-in-law, and he picked up the girls and took them to say goodbye. The extra blessing in it was that a dear friend, who'd been there with us during Ava's leg injury, was the vet tech on duty all day, so he was with Ava the whole time. And he was there for my girls to say goodbye.

I have been so touched by the outpouring of love and support for our family during this time. I still get weepy from time to time, and I still dream about her. Who would have imagined that the horse I jokingly told everyone was "the last horse before the divorce" would steal such a big part of my heart?

When hubby took Ava to the vet, I prayed for her, as I did before. I asked my friends and loved ones to pray for her. But God said no. I don't know why. And I don't know why, after all we've been through with this horse, and all the miracles we've been given, why we weren't given another one. But I still choose to trust in God, and I still choose to believe that God is good.

Ava in the pasture with the others. 
Our vet tech friend told us that when his horse colicked and died, his boss told him that the only way to never have a horse colic is to never have a horse. Colic happens, and it's one of those crazy things that sometimes has a reason, and sometimes doesn't. It's nothing you can predict, and even if you do everything right, your horse can still colic and die.

It's a good reminder of how fragile horses are. They seem to be these giant, tough beasts, but they are actually very delicate and require special care. When something goes wrong with a horse, it can go really wrong, really fast. And get really expensive. We'll still be paying off Ava's vet bill for months to come.

And so, you might wonder again, "why?" I've thought a lot about this, because it's been such a struggle, such a hard season, and after so much hope, for it to all be lost. But God knows, and it goes back to trusting God and believing in His goodness and love. Just as importantly, I've looked for the good that has come from our tragedy. We have been surrounded by a lot of love and a lot of compassion from the people around us. Ava was surrounded by love. In her short life, and the short time she was at our house, I know she knew we loved her. I can still picture the love and trust in her eyes all the times I sat with her and loved on her.

Maybe that is the point. Choosing to love, knowing that at any moment, something totally beyond your control can take whoever or whatever you love away. But that is life. And for me, faith is about believing and loving God even when none of it makes sense.
Ava back in the corral after her leg healed.

Matthew 5:4 is a verse that spoke to me years ago during another painful time of grief. "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." I have found great comfort, not just from the amazing people around me, but also from God. Ava is not the only loss I've suffered, and I know she will not be the last. But I am grateful for the time she gave us, for the miracles God showed us, and for the chance to be part of her life.

Thank you all for being part of Ava's story. The love and support you all gave our family has meant a lot to us.

About Danica:

A self-professed crazy chicken lady, Danica Favorite loves the adventure of living a creative life. She and her family recently moved in to their dream home in the mountains above Denver, Colorado.  Danica loves to explore the depths of human nature and follow people on the journey to happily ever after. Though the journey is often bumpy, those bumps are what refine imperfect characters as they live the life God created them for. Oops, that just spoiled the ending of all of Danica’s stories. Then again, getting there is all the fun.

You can connect with Danica at the following places:

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Road Trip! by Tracey J Lyons

Well this month's post caught me off guard! Why? Because I'm on a road trip with my husband. A road trip that everyone who knows us wasn't too sure would happen. You see we are, finally, after being together for over 40 years, driving from upstate New York to Florida. Now, we know many, many people have done the I-95 corridor before us. And we also know that many, many family and friends think only one of us will be returning in my RAV 4. LOL!

So...the trek began four days ago.

Yes that is my all important tea mug that you see perched precariously on the dashboard. A souvenir from another  road trip to Bisbee, Arizona. 

The car was packed. Okay not to organized, but I know where everything is.

And off we went on our 1,371.4 miles (one way)!! Or 20 hours in the car with my husband! Wait what did I agree to??!! 

Honestly, so far it's been a great trip. My husband, TJ , and I have talked books, kids, grand-kids, parenting, grand-parenting, in-laws and out-laws. We've even managed to solve a few of the world's problems.  But more importantly we've stopped along the way to visit friends we haven't seen in over a decade and friends who moved away from us as few years ago. And... we've set aside our crazy lives to reconnect with each other. This is becoming one of our most memorable trips. Something we can check off of our bucket list. 

I'm glad we decided to take the plunge and do the drive. We've been plotting and planning our trip back. I know I'm stopping at Georgia Peach World, exit 58 off of I-95. 

Special thanks to B & K Weiss, and R & D Spano for hosting us along the way! 

Tell me, have you ever taken a long road trip? I'd love to hear where you went!! 

A Love For Lizzie 
Print June 18, 2019
digital July 1, 2019 

Monday, March 18, 2019

What Good We Know

"What do you know good?"
This is a old-time folksy greeting down here in Georgia. When you're settling down for a chat, the other person often poses this question.  It's the best sort of invitation. It means--tell me the good you have in your life right now. Share some happy news you've heard. Lift my spirits. Make me smile.
I love this, don't you?  And I think we need more of this--lots more of it--in our world today. We need an extra dash of goodness everywhere--in our conversations, on our television and computer screens.
And most definitely in our books!
We writers are often told "Write what you know." I took that to heart--which is why my books brim over with small towns, farms, goats, chickens and milk cows! Those are some of the many good things that make up my world, and I dearly love sharing them with others.

So what do I know good today? Let's see...

I know sometimes it's kind of fun to play with your food!
I know age brings its own unique beauty.
I know the rainy days we experience bless us with their own special sort of loveliness.
I know the smell of freshly baked bread brings a family running to the kitchen.
I know that curiosity can be the doorway to some really fun adventures.
I know that beauty is found in humble places--if you take the time to look for it.

Now it's your turn! What do you know good, sweet friends? Share the glimmers of joy you see sparkling around you today, and let's make each other's lives just a little brighter! 

   Don't miss my newest Love Inspired romance set in Pine Valley, Georgia! Hometown Hope releases in June 2019! 

Twix the what and the huh???

Hello, all. Dana Mentink, here. We had a rolicking good time on St. Patty’s Day with the Mentink clan and assorted holiday foods including corned beef, cabbage, etc. It was a hoot, as it always is. My sister shared an old saying she learned somewhere along the way. “There’s always a slip, twix the cup and the lip.” We had a great time alalyzing that one! I think we concluded that it meant that life is unexpected and many things can set us back a pace. It got us to thinking about other sayings and their meanings. My mother always used to tell us to “wring it out like a turnip” before we set off on a car trip. I’ll leave you to decipher the meaning of that one. My favorite from my father is, “Never keep such an open mind that people can fill it full of garbage.” I think my children will probably remember the little nugget I have repeated to them since their wee years. “Just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD.”

So over to you, dear cyber friends. What are some sayings common to your family? And, of course, feel free to add those special truisms that you’ve handed down to your peeps!

Here’s a link to Dana’s latest, a 99 cent prequel to the upcoming Love Inspired Suspense continuity series, True Blue K-9 Unit!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Scripture

Second Sunday of Lent

The Transfiguration by Raphael, c. 1520,
Vatican Museum. [PD-US]

Jesus took Peter, John, and James 
and went up the mountain to pray.
While he was praying his face changed in appearance 
and his clothing became dazzling white.
And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, 
who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus 
that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.
Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, 
but becoming fully awake, 
they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, 
"Master, it is good that we are here;
let us make three tents,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
But he did not know what he was saying.
While he was still speaking, 
a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, 
and they became frightened when they entered the cloud.
Then from the cloud came a voice that said, 
"This is my chosen Son; listen to him."
After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
They fell silent and did not at that time 
tell anyone what they had seen.
Luke 9:28b-36

If you have any prayer needs, please mention them in the comments section so we can join you in prayer. You do not need to include specific names or situations of a private nature, just say that you have a prayer request. The Lord knows your heart and the needs you have. It is a privilege and honor to pray with you and for you.

Friday, March 15, 2019

What Does Easter Mean to You? by Jordyn Redwood

Now that we are in the Lent Season, it's natural that our eyes would turn toward Easter and what that means to us individually.

I originally wrote this post several years ago, but it remains one of my favorite blog posts that I've ever written. To give context, I used to voluntarily manage a multi-author blog for a literary agency and it was my job to make sure posts were up and running as scheduled. This one night, close to Easter, there was nothing written for the next day.

So . . . off we go.

Here it is-- midnight MST. I've survived twelve+ hours in the ER on a Friday night, full moon (it must be!), holiday weekend. For those of you familiar with emergency departments you know I listed those out because it meant we got our tushes kicked a little bit. Not enough staff. Too many sick kids.

I am tired. I get home...

And. There. Is. No. Post.

Which means there is no happy new post for you... our trusted friends, our fabulous readers. I'm thinking-- no one is going to notice. It's Easter! This post will be unedited and full of typos (can I wake up someone, anyone, and have them proofread?)

But then, something stops me from shirking my responsibility. I start thinking I really should step in and write something-- substitute for the person who was supposed to post. And I really don't want to right at this moment in time. My warm bed is sweetly calling my name.

However, the thought of substitution comes to the forefront. Now, I'm not one to clearly hear God's calling. I would dare say I'm mostly tone-deaf. I've prayed for God's Will to be left as a gold note card on my pillow for me in the morning. For me, God's voice is more like a subtle whisper in a hurricane that I have a hard time tuning in. What I have learned though is sometimes these instances (like no blog post) are orchestrated by God to create opportunities for other things, and I'm wondering if this forgotten post was left open for me to write to bring the thought of subbing for someone else to mind.

This is what Easter means to me. Christ as substitution. His death as a covering for my sin so that if I believe in what He did as He hung on a cross, spikes through his hands and feet, a crown of thorns on his head-- one of the most painful deaths a human can suffer-- I can have the glory of Heaven.

Grace. Mercy. Innocence hung for me...

So, maybe my foray into writing my novel, which led me to an appointment with my future agent, which led him to take me on as a client, which (for some strange reason!) led him to ask me to help run a multi-author blog was meant to culminate in this one moment in time where the Easter weekend post was empty (like the tomb was in a few short days) so I could write about the thought of substitution and what it meant for me...

And what it means for you...

May you have a blessed Easter.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

On Battling Fear - by Sara K. Parker

When I was around six years old, I came to a terrifying conclusion about my life: one day, I would die alone.

As the youngest member of a family of seven, I reasoned that the rest of my family would pass away one-by-one, oldest to youngest, because that was the natural order of death…and eventually, I would be the only one left. I imagined myself alone and scared, and this image seized me with terror. I was too young to understand that I would one day have a family of my own, and I would make adult friends, and I would likely never truly be alone. I was also too inexperienced with loss to realize that the young often tragically die before the old. All I knew was fear.

It would creep up on me at night, this fear. I would lie in bed, petrified of losing my family, of dying alone. Eventually, I must have learned that people don’t always die of old age because I soon developed a new fear: fire. I imagined the house burning down and trapping us inside. I would lie awake, heart racing, eyes blinking into the darkness, fear paralyzing me.

By the time I was ten, I began to fear death itself, along with the prospect of eternity. That’s right: I was even scared of heaven! I would pace the floor of my bedroom at night, flipping on a light to ease the panic setting in as I contemplated heaven and the mysterious prospect of a life there that would never end. I began to frequently knock on my parents’ door at night, seeking comfort, until my mother eventually bought me a devotional book. She suggested that when I started feeling scared, I could read some of the devotionals. This was my first experience with the calming power of God’s Word. For the most part, the devotionals did help. By focusing on the stories and the hope, I could set my fears aside for a while.

This is the book my mom gave me - circa 1982!!
I turn forty in just a couple of months, and I only recently realized that fear has shadowed my entire life.

As I walked home from elementary school, I constantly convinced myself that a car was following me, a kidnapper stalking. Some days, home alone after school, I was certain that sounds from the laundry room were intruders. The sounds in the attic – ghosts. One day, my father came home from work early, which was unusual. Not expecting anyone in the home, but hearing footsteps on the stairs, I was certain that my murder was imminent. I turned off my bedroom light and hid behind my door, wishing I had a phone in my room. My palms were sweaty, my breath coming in quick, terrified huffs. Then I heard my dad’s confused voice calling my name.

When I was twelve (wow, the bangs!), my mom had booked a trip to Arizona to visit her dad with my brother and me. The night before our trip, I was overcome by fear that the plane was going to crash. I was so convinced of the impending crash that I wrote a goodbye letter in my diary that night.

At twenty-one, I purchased a town home and moved in. I was thrilled with my independence…until the night came. Then, I couldn’t sleep. I would lie awake on the third floor of my back-to-back town home and fixate on the realization that if an intruder broke in, I would have no escape. I quickly called a security company and had an alarm system installed. For weeks, I still couldn’t sleep – petrified that I would wake one night to the sound of the alarm going off.

It is both sad and a little comical to look back at some of my fears – some rational, some not. In the woods, I feared bugs and bees and snakes and bears. At the beach, I feared big waves and jellyfish and shore-swimming sharks. I heard about a terrible escalator accident and I developed a fear of escalators. I got stuck in an elevator alone, and I couldn’t step inside an elevator without fear for years.

But while fear haunted me, I was also strangely adventurous. Perhaps that has something to do with living in Thailand with my family for three years as a child and all the traveling we did during that time period. Maybe it’s just a wanderlust I was born with. When my husband and I were newly married, we would pull out a map and search it for an interesting city name. Then we would go on a road trip. We found some incredible sights that way. One Friday afternoon, we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Niagara Falls. We lived in Maryland, and we started driving in the early evening. 

On our honeymoon, we booked an all-inclusive vacation at a resort in the Riviera Maya (incidentally, where my new release, Shattered Trust, begins), and signed up for several adventure tours that involved ziplining across a swamp teeming with alligators, rappelling into a pitch black fresh water cenote, and snorkeling in a very claustrophobic cave. A year later, we took a three-week backpacking trip to Europe before the era of easy Internet and cell phone access. We stayed in hostels and visited five countries. 

Stonehenge, 2004. And yes, I pulled most of these photos straight out of my old scrapbook! 

Bruges, Belgium. Yes, I was pretending I did not know he was taking my photo.
We ate at the most romantic restaurant we have ever experienced - sitting along the river, enjoying a three-course meal while swans floated by.
Still, I see the current of fear that kept its thumb on me. When my husband first became ill in 2007, I faced real fear that wouldn’t let up. For a long while, I was convinced he was dying and doctors were going to figure it out too late. I didn’t know enough to pinpoint the more accurate fear: that this illness was going to persist and steal many, many things from us.

But in all those lingering memories of fear, there is absolutely nothing that compared to the fear that shook me to my core when our daughter was diagnosed with cancer. This fear? It was paralyzing. Consuming. I lived it. I breathed it. I fell asleep each night clutching onto it, and I awoke each morning with it clutching onto me.

And then, something shifted.

I don’t know when it happened exactly, but I became acutely aware of the fact that I was so terrified of the possibility of what the future might hold that I had become blind. In giving into fear of the future, I was missing the gift of each day.

I’m working on a proposal for a new LIS series, and the three heroines each battle fears of different kinds. Their fears so color their lives that they have forgotten how to truly live.

I still battle fear. Perhaps that’s why I have been exploring the emotion with these new characters and story ideas. Every time we near our daughter’s scan day, I begin to battle the fear of relapse. Every time my husband’s health takes a turn, I battle too many fears to list here. In fact, since my last blog post, his health has not improved. He has been unable to work for two solid months, and the stress is compounding on all levels.

But I have learned a few things about fear that have helped me fight. 

First of all, fear is not of God. (For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline - 2 Timothy 1:7). Second of all, as I learned as a child when my mom gave me that devotional book, if I take the time to think about good things, my fear lessens. (Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.  The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. - Philippians 4:8-9). Finally, fear is the absence of peace - and the Lord gives peace abundantly to drive out fear. (Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27).

I refuse to throw today away for fear of what tomorrow may bring. The heroines that have been taking shape in my imagination are beginning to agree with me. If you need a practical suggestion for how to battle fear, listing gifts is pretty effective. We are reminded countless times throughout the Bible to remember what the Lord has done in our lives – His provision when we faced the impossible, His guidance when we faced a decision, His presence when we faced loneliness, His grace in response to our regret, His love when we felt the most unlovable, His peace poured over us when peace made no sense at all. Wherever you are today, may the Lord pour out His peace over your life and make His presence known.

Would you join me in a list of gratitude today? Comment below with three to five things you’re thankful for today – big or small. I’ll start:

 P.S. I love to connect with readers. Come visit me on my Facebook author page: