Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . The Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

It's once again that time of year when we set aside time to focus on giving thanks. Thanks to our God for all He has provided. Thanks for all He is. Thanks for all He's made us.

It's that time of year when I often pause to remember the start of the American tradition and stand in continual awe at the Pilgrims that first celebrated Thanksgiving on this continent. Who celebrated and gave thanks despite the fact that every single one of them had suffered the cruel death of a loved one in the year that had just passed. That families had been patched together, binding widows to widowers, orphans to parents who had lost children. That the community had chosen to hold steady, to move forward together. To give thanks. Despite the fact that they had so many reasons to mourn. So much grief burdening them. So many obstacles ahead.

When I'm making a list of things to be thankful for, I know what tops mine: my family, my friends, the chance to write, the Church, His Spirit.

But this year, as I've spent these last few months contemplating how I can #BeBetter, how I can stop viewing those who have different opinions or beliefs as my opposition or enemy, I feel like I'm being challenged to something new.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, Paul instructs us (emphasis my own):

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Everything. That isn't always easy. But God also calls us to offer our praise even when it's hard. Even when it's a sacrifice. Sometimes, thanksgiving is the same. Sometimes, He asks us to take a step back from the emotion that holds us captive--the pain, the anger, the grief...the happiness, the joy, the victory--and see things through His eyes. To see that even when we feel loss, He is still at work. Even when death steals from us, He gives us life. Even when we're prisoners, He offers freedom of the soul. Even when we cannot see the reason, He holds it all in His hands.

But not only that. The things we consider victory and joy cause pain and fear for others. God cares about that, too, doesn't He? He loves those who are confused about their identity...He loves those who fear bigotry so much that they extend the definition into things I don't feel it should include. He loves those who think my faith is dangerous. Does He want us laughing in joy when we score a "win"...or praying for those who are hurt by it?

This year, I'm going to be spending my Thanksgiving deliberately thanking God for the things and people that cause me stress. I'm going to thank Him for the people who don't believe as I do--because they have opinions that challenge me, and it's through challenging each other that we achieve intellectual honesty. I'm going to thank Him for what I've lost, because sometimes it takes stripping me of the things I cling to for me to really see Who matters. I'm going to thank Him for every single thing I hope changes in the year to come, because the fact that it's here in my life means I need to learn from it.

We are all dealt hard blows. We all suffer. We all fear. It's what we do with it that makes a difference. And if our "doing" is to praise God, to thank Him for the loss, for the pain, for the hurt, for the difficulty... Well then, we're not going to be seeking revenge. We're not going to be wallowing in those emotions--we're going to be wallowing in Him.

And that, my friends, can change the world. One person at a time.

Next week I will be celebrating Thanksgiving and taking the week off from blogging, but be sure to swing by here on Monday, November 26th to see what Cyber Monday sales I'll be offering!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Word of the Week - Vignette

I love learning things through my kids' school! A week or two ago, my daughter came out with her vocabulary book in hand to ask if I knew about the history of the word vignette. I'm not sure if I've ever heard this before, but it's a fun progression!

So back in the day, book pages that contained pictures were often decorated with a border--and one of the most popular images to use for a border was a vine. (French vigne.) By 1751, this vine border had become known as a vignette, which is just a diminutive of the French. But over the years, the word began to be used for the picture on the page, not just the border. By 1853, vignette was used for a type of small photographic portrait.

Toward the end of the 19th century, this idea of a small image or sketch expanded into the literary world and began to be used for a short work of writing too--which is the meaning I'm most familiar with. I had no idea it had come originally from a vine used as a decorative border!

Do you have any books in your house with a vignette border on any pages?

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Great War Multi-Author Giveaway

I have joined forces with five of my fellow authors who write fiction set during World War I.
As today commemorates the end of the war exactly 100 years ago, we decided this was cause for celebration ~ bookish style!

To honor the Centennial of the END of The Great War, we six authors have joined forces to offer you one fabulous giveaway of our WWI-based novels.

For information on all the books and giveaway, visit Carrie Turansky's page HERE.
For a super-fun joint interview, check out the post Michelle Ule put together HERE. (Link will be live on Friday)

But you can also enter via the form below!

Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Remember When . . . He Made Us His Own

I have been adopted by a king. And so have you.

I remember when I was in high school, on one of my piano recital days, I was battling nerves by praying and just dwelling on Him. I can still see the church sanctuary in my mind's eye, with the baby grand piano that I'd soon play for the collection of family and friends gathered there. I can still see the sunlight streaming through the window. I can still feel the creased, worn pages of the music book in my hands. I was maybe fourteen or fifteen...that detail escapes me. 😉 But that day, as I dwelt on all He's done for me, I realized something pretty cool. That He was the King of kings...and I am His daughter, His heir. I am a princess of the Kingdom of God.

Now, this was before the days of memes and social media. These days, I see beautiful images and catchy phrases that share this idea left and right. But at the time, it was a revelation. And it was one that has always stuck with me.

My God sent His Son--the true heavenly Prince--to this earth to die for me. To die for you. And so to provide a means for us to become joint-heirs with him. How amazing is that?

I loved learning that in the day and age when Jesus walked the earth, adoption was something very serious. Under Roman law, when a child was adopted into a family, they were entitled to the family name, legacy, and inheritance. They could inherit titles. Thrones. Everything a natural child could. This hasn't been the case throughout all of history--but it was then. Which makes it all the more important that it was that moment of history that hosted the arrival of our Savior. Because when He then offered adoption into His family, it meant something complete. Something profound. Something irreversible. We will inherit the kingdom of God.

A fitting contemplation now that we're into November ~ Adoption Awareness Month.

For those of you who have read my Shadows Over England series, you know how much I loved crafting a family of adopted-by-each-other orphans as my heroes and heroines. This family understands that it's love that binds us together, not blood. Love that makes a brother or a sister, a parent or a child.

I love that God gave us such an always-present illustration of what He's done for us. And as we thank Him over and again for all He's done for us in that respect, it seems like a great time to contemplate how we in this world do the same. I have some friends who went through the fire to be able to adopt children in need; I have family who has acted as foster parents to countless boys and adopted several of them over the years; and I had the privilege of helping edit a book about a birth mother who chose to give up her child, and who was finally reunited with her many years later. This tender memoir has snippets from the birth mother, the child, the adopted mother, and a few glimpses into other families' adoptions as well.
Paperback | Kindle (on sale for November!)

This November, let's make it a point to remember, as we gear our minds toward thankfulness, what our heavenly Father has done for us. And also to dwell on how His children follow His example even today.

Thank you, Father, for making us your own. And thank you for equipping us with hearts to mirror you and bring others into our families as well.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Word of the Week - Stumped

Ever wonder why, when we're stymied and/or confused, we say we're stumped? I'd never really paused to wonder about this one, but my daughter learned this etymology in her history class and had to share, and it made me go, "Oh, of course!"

As early as the 13th century, this word was used to literally mean "to stumble over a tree stump." It was in the early 1800s that Americans began using it in a metaphorical sense, and it's believed to be because the literal use became so common as wagons ventured west--often getting stuck on stumps that hadn't been cleared fully from the trail--and when clearing a field for plowing that it became a part of the everyday vernacular and so took on a broader meaning.

Etymologists also point out, though, that it probably stuck because it also called upon an earlier meaning of "to challenge or dare" that was used in the 1760s.

Friday, November 2, 2018

November Book Sale!

A Name Unknown is on sale! You can find the eBook for just $2.99 on all eBook sites.

She’s Out to Steal His Name.
Will He Steal Her Heart Instead?
Rosemary Gresham has no family beyond the band of former urchins that helped her survive as a girl in the mean streets of London. Grown now, they are no longer pickpockets—now they focus on high value items and have learned how to blend into upper-class society. Rosemary’s challenge of a lifetime comes when she’s assigned to determine whether a certain wealthy gentleman is loyal to Britain or to Germany. How does one steal a family’s history, their very name?
Rumors swirl around Peter Holstein. Awkward and solitary, but with access to the king, many fear his influence. But Peter can’t help his German last name and wants to prove his loyalty to the crown—so he can go back to anonymously writing a series of popular adventure novels. When Rosemary arrives on his doorstop pretending to be a well- credentialed historian, Peter believes she’s the right person to help him dig through his family’s past.
Anger and danger continue to mount, though, and both realize they’re in a race against time to discover the truth—about Peter’s past and about the undeniable attraction kindling between them.

Find A Name Unknown and more Book Deals at Baker Publishing Group.

In my online shop, I am also offering A Soft Breath of Wind for 20% SIGNED print copies!!!

A gift that has branded her for life
Zipporah is thirteen when the Spirit descends upon her, opening her eyes to a world beyond the physical goings-on of the villa outside Rome she has always called home. Within hours, she learns what serving the Lord can cost. Forever scarred after a vicious attack, she knows her call is to use this discernment to protect the Way. She knows she must serve the rest of her life at Tutelos, where the growing Roman church has congregated. She knows her lot is set.
Yet is it so wrong to wish that her master, the kind and handsome young Benjamin Visibullis, will eventually see her as something more than a sister in Christ?
A Visibullis Story

Sale Available ONLY on

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Thoughtful About . . . Us V. Them?

I believe in Good. I believe in Evil. I believe in absolute truth. I believe that sometimes we land firmly on one side or another of this virtually-eternal war...but only sometimes. I believe that more often than not, we are still in the position of Adam and Eve, standing with that forbidden fruit in our hands. We are still created in the image of God. We are still filled largely with His Goodness. But we've let evil in.

The question is...are we letting it reign?

I recently started listening to the audio version of a really enlightening book, The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. In it, the authors are examining the recent trend of "safe places" and "fragility" of college students and using scientific research to show why it's harmful and offer solutions to it.

The authors begin by laying out three untruths they want to expose and refute. I do highly recommend this book, especially to anyone with a child or grandchild of the "internet" generation--it's led our family to institute some changes! But I'm not going to just talk about the book. I'm rather going to take one of the untruths they name and examine it spiritually rather than academically. The untruth in question:

There are good people and there are evil people, and life is just one constant struggle between these two sides. How do you know if you're on the side of Good? You trust your feelings.

Let me say again: I believe in Good and Evil. The kind with capitals. But still, with my logic engaged, I could hear that statement and immediately know that it was wrong.


Because of the use of the word people, first of all. And then because if you were to accept that statement as true, you'd have to rely on feelings to determine right and wrong, and we all know how fickle and often wrong our feelings can be.

But let's look at that statement. Good people versus evil people. We know, intellectually, that this is wrong, don't we? We have to grant that it is when we consider some of Christianity's greatest heroes and, indeed, founding fathers. Paul. He was first a Christian-hunter. One eager to kill the "good people", which by definition makes him the enemy.

If we call our enemy evil, that means he's beyond redemption. Fully in the grasp of the ultimate Evil One. That he has bound his will to Satan's.

Was this the case for Paul? Obviously not. God saw what human eyes certainly did not. God saw that Paul in fact wanted to seek the Good, but was laboring under a false opinion about what Good really was. He was earnestly seeking God and God's will...but his feelings on what God's will was happened to be wrong. God righted him. And we ended up with The Apostle.

This doesn't happen with every enemy of God. But it happens with a shocking number of them. The why and how are certainly important, especially because it's often through these "enemies" seeing the love of God at work in His people. But what I really want to focus on today isn't whether they ever change.

It's how we view them, even when we remain on opposite sides.

We can't force change on them. But we can control our own feelings and actions in relation to them.

I cannot begin to count how many times in recent years I've heard people of opposing views label the others as evil or worst person ever or monster just because they don't agree with them. It's a natural stance to take, honestly. If you're not us, then you're them. And if you're them, then you are on the Wrong Side. And more often than not, you're there because of emotion, so logic will never convince you to join the Right Side. Therefore, you are beyond help unless God himself steps in (bring it on, God! Strike them blind and set them straight!).

Am I right?

But this is so, so hurtful. Not just to Them. But to Us. Whichever "us" that might be. Maybe it means Christians. Maybe it means Americans. Maybe it means Republicans or Democrats, Liberal or Conservative. Maybe it means a particular race. Or a particular gender. Or a proponent of a particular view or belief.

Whatever the label we embrace, when we embrace it, we exclude from our love anyone who doesn't belong to the same camp. Seriously, this is another scientifically-proven fact. Humanity is tribal--our brains are wired to feel more empathy, sympathy, and care for those like us. But it doesn't matter how they're like us. We can make the distinction over something important, like faith, or something trivial, like the color T-shirt we're wearing. But once the groups have been made and we've been told we're part of it, MRIs show spikes that demonstrate sympathetic emotions for that group far more than any other. We want to belong. And when we do, we guard that belonging with ferocity.

This helps us survive, helps civilization grow, helps a tribe, then a town, then a city, then a nation to form. But once you get into a large group--like this huge country of ours, filled with such diversity--it becomes too big for us. We start breaking down into smaller factions. Anyone remember that unity for the first week or two after 9/11? It was shocking. We were, for the first time in decades, American before anything else. But it didn't take long for people to start arguing again about what that meant. To start labeling and pointing fingers and thinking once again that the monsters weren't the terrorists but them, the ones on the other side of the aisle.

This is natural. But God doesn't call us to live in the natural, does He? He calls us to #BeBetter than what we are in the flesh. To strive to live in the Spirit, who lives in us. Does God choose who to love based on their decisions? Their color? Their gender? Their political views?

God isn't bound by these tribal tendencies. God knows who the ultimate Us V. Them belongs to, and it's not in humanity. We don't have the eyes to see that spiritual war between Good and Evil most of the time, but we can have the eyes to see this basic truth:

That person who disagrees with you? God loves them. They are not beyond redemption. They are Just--Like--Us. Sinners until they accept the extension of Jesus' grace. And how do we, limited in our view as we are, know if or when that will happen? We don't. All we know is that God loves them. And so, as His children, we are called to do the same.

I do not and cannot agree with an awful lot of things prevalent in this world. I'm not supposed to. I'm called to stand against them. I'm called to hate evil. I'm called to name it for what it is. But "evil" is not a person. And when I hear views that I label as such coming from a human mouth, my role is not to denounce the person. My role is to find a way to be like Paul--to be "everything to everyone." To find common ground with that person, so that I can love them. So that they can connect with and love me. And once we're part of the same tribe--even if just for a moment--to show them who God is.

God is bigger than a tribe or a town or a city or a nation. God is bigger than liberal or conservative. And He calls us to be bigger too. To #BeBetter. To be better today than we were yesterday. To be better than our human natures want to be. To be better than we think we can, because it hurts.

But we have Christ in us. And that means we can do all things. We can be in pain, or we can be in bliss. We can be the victors or the defeated. We can be in prison or we can be in the White House. We can be rich or poor, hungry or full. We can #BeBetter. When we can't achieve it through our own power, we can achieve it through His.

And so, my friends, can They. Our fight, remember, is not against the people of this world. It's against the powers of darkness. But we can't fight the ultimate Them if we're so busy squabbling with our own.

My challenge--to you and to myself--is to stop seeing those of opposing views as Them. And when we find ourselves actually face-to-face with someone who falls in that camp, to focus on finding that commonality rather than our differences. Find what makes them Us. And then love them.

Let's see what that might change.

When we're talking about Us Vs. Them, there's no story I've examined it more fully in than A Soft Breath of Wind. Zipporah can see into the spiritual realm--she actually knows who is out to "get them." But still, she has to face God will--not to hate or condemn or let her own emotions rule her, but to find a way to love her greatest enemy.

And so, for the first time, signed copies of A Soft Breath of Wind are on sale from my online store! And the ebook is always $3.99.