A Wave Tossed by the Wind

At the beginning of the Summer, I planned out goals for each month, and then, life happened. I’ve heard it said that we make plans, and God laughs. What I have finally learned is that I can’t accomplish much work in the month of July. Unfortunately, when I haven’t marked everything off my to-do list, I feel guilty. How about you? It’s not that I haven’t completed many things. It’s that I haven’t completed ALL the tasks that I put on myself. As I feel the burden of my list getting longer, I struggle to find peace, and I bounce from one thing to the next without making very much progress with anything.

For example, this morning, I took my son to his first day of school, leaving me with the entire day to work through my list. I love to make lists, and I absolutely believe in putting things on my list that I’ve either almost finished or will only take a second to finish. It feels so good to draw a line through anything. (Okay, I confess. I even put items on my list that I’ve already done that day. Don’t shake your head. I know I’m not the only one.)

This year my children are attending three different schools. One is private while the other two are public, and two of the schools are new to our family. I have been to orientations, joined Facebook groups, read too many emails to count, and studied school handbooks. At this point, it has all become a blur, so I set out to get it all under control. Ha, ha. Before I knew it, I was creating a list for next week with two calendars open in front of me, Amazon opened on my computer, and a stack of forms to read and sign stacked on the table. I tried to focus on one thing at a time. But then, something would pop into my head, or a notification would chime on my phone, and I’d flip to a different thing. I could feel my heart rate picking up as the minutes disappeared. How would I finish everything and find the solitude to write this message? Have you been there?

I could hear Jesus whispering, “Come to me, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me … for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” But I think some part of me was afraid if I stopped working, the items on the list would just keep multiplying, building into a giant wave that would eventually crash over me.

Now as I sit in my car at my son’s soccer practice at eight-fifteen at night, I realize the difference a few minutes in prayer and quiet would have made. Sure, the tasks would still have existed and most would still need to be completed, but I certainly would have had a change of perspective.

I often joke that I’m a recovering control freak, but in these times, I know that desire to control is rooted in a lack of faith. When I ask God for help and only try to do what he sets before me, I don’t feel overwhelmed, and I always have enough time. I wish I had remembered this verse this morning. I know my day would have been different, but maybe it will help you with your to-do list.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1:5-6

Are you being tossed by the wind? Ask God for wisdom and then believe that he will provide. Listen and rest in the knowledge that what God wants done will find a way and everything else will be washed away by the waves.

Flash Fiction – Avoiding the Bouquet

Lately, it seems I’ve been writing a lot about weddings.  So much can happen when we throw together family and friends. People come with all kinds of expectations and experiences. The book I just finished begins at a wedding, and this short, short story takes place at a wedding reception during the bouquet toss. As a child, I loved trying to catch the bouquet, and as a bride, I couldn’t wait to see who would catch my bouquet. Because I was one of the first of my friends to get married, there was quite a crowd when it came time.  And I can happily report that my friend who caught my bouquet is happily married and so is the guy who caught the garter, although not to each other. (Too bad because that would have made a fun story.) They were so sweet to let me share this picture with you.  Thanks Ronna and Rob.

While my girlhood views were filled with romance, I realize from talking to unmarried friends that this isn’t always the case. This is the perspective I took with this story. I hope you enjoy it.

What is your favorite part of weddings? Do you have any funny stories from weddings? Please share. I’m always looking for inspiration.

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The bouquet of white hydrangeas launched from the bride’s hands and soared into the air, ricocheting off the chandelier. As it plummeted toward Anna, she recoiled, shuddering. Two younger women in skimpy dresses dove in front of her with apparent disregard for maintaining any mystery about their lack of undergarments.

Anna pivoted, abandoning the inevitable tug-of-war, grabbed a glass of champagne and tossed back the bubbles. As she threaded the crowd, she spied another flute of cheer on a service table. She snatched it up and shoved the door open, stumbling into the hall. How many glasses had she consumed? Apparently not enough.

A quiet summer night beckoned her from the other side of the French doors. Her heart pounded to the rhythm of the band’s cover of Brick House. Did every wedding band include that song in its set list? She leaned against the door frame, gazing through the window. The soles of her feet ached. Moonbeams danced across the lawn, leading to the brooding ocean. The music grew louder. She glanced over her shoulder.

A couple danced out of the ballroom, gazing into one another’s eyes. At this point in the night, no one would notice if she disappeared for a while.

Anna dropped her hand onto the door handle and slid it open. She slipped through the narrow space, pulling the door closed behind her. She closed her eyes as she rolled her shoulders, releasing the tension. A warm breeze blew against her face, and she inhaled deeply. The salty air brought a peace she could only find by the sea. She lifted the glass to her lips.

“Hi there.” A deep voice said behind her. “Must be my lucky night.”

Anna’s heart skittered as her throat tightened. She coughed, spewing the champagne.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

Her throat burned, and she rubbed her neck as she turned to face the man.

He reclined against the stuccoed wall with one foot crossed over the other and a hand in his pants’ pocket. His bow tie hung loosely around his neck. With the trimmed beard that accentuated his strong jawline and a coy smile, he could have been posing for a men’s clothing ad.

Anna swallowed.

He pushed off the wall and extended his hand as he stepped out of the shadows. “I’m Baker.” He couldn’t be more than thirty. Way too young for her, but . . .

Anna felt the corners of her lips lift. Perhaps, Click here to read the rest of the story.

Southern Sands Newsletter

The Wind and the Waves

Over the Fourth of July Holiday, I woke up to a radiant sunrise. I enjoyed my breakfast on the porch of my parents’ beach house as beams of light shot through the vanishing clouds, creating a sheen on the smooth ocean. It appeared to be a perfect opportunity to take my stand-up paddleboard out for a ride. I love the peace and calm of being out on the water, so I prefer a flat sea for my paddle boarding but I don’t mind gliding over gentle waves that lumber into shore. However, if the current is fighting against strong winds, it creates choppy waters that threaten to toss me. Unfortunately, when I got out into the water, I realized that I’d taken too long. Although the waves were tame, the incoming tide was relentless, and I could not paddle against it.

So often in life, we want excitement and thrills. Isn’t that why paragliding is so popular? (Don’t ask me. I’d never try it.) During those calm seas, we don’t stop and enjoy the rest. Even though it is a perfect time to relish in God’s creation and give thanks for his blessings. But when everything is going right, sometimes we start checking the horizon for storm clouds and miss a lovely day on the beach. It’s good to be prepared, but sometimes it’s okay to huddle under your beach tent in a passing shower and have faith that God will protect you in this moment and wants you to enjoy his extravagant creation with abandon.

And really, why try to predict and control the weather? If you live on the Southern coast, you know a thunderstorm can pop up without warning, like the one that just rolled over my house. I always carry sunglasses and an umbrella to afternoon swim practices. The good news for us is that Jesus is the same as he was on the Sea of Galilee. He is all powerful, and He controls the wind and the waves.

How do you prepare for Summer weather? How do you surrender control and have faith?

Fun St. Simons Island Fact

As most of you know, I just completed writing my sixth book, and it is set on at an Olive Orchard in a fictional South Georgia town. While researching for the book, I learned that Thomas Jefferson thought the Southeastern United States would be a good place to grow olives. Although his crops failed, other farmers did have success along the coast of Georgia and South Carolina. There was even an olive orchard planted on St. Simons Island near the lighthouse. It survived until Hurricane Number Seven in 1898.

Writing Updates

I’m so grateful for all of you and your continued support as I navigate my way through this writing journey. As I wrote above, my time off from blogging in June was well spent. I completed a very rough first draft of my sixth book that I’m currently titling Secrets and Love at the Olive Orchard. Someone once told me that you need to write seven books to get published, so I hope she was off by one.

In the meantime, I continue to edit and rewrite the three books I’ve written over the last eighteen months, so I’ll be ready when we get the call.

Also, I found out in June that I won first place for Contemporary Fiction at the Write-to-Publish Conference in Ohio. This was for my third Contemporary romance manuscript, so I plan to prepare a proposal for it over the coming months as well.

Thank you all for your Southern phrase suggestions. With the responses on Facebook, I ended up with four single-spaced pages of great sayings. Isn’t it fun to live in the South?

As I continue to work to find a publisher, I’m trying to educate acquisitions editors on the Golden Isles and would love your help. What are your favorite things about the South Georgia Coast? Describe your perfect day on one of the Islands. What is a wonderful memory you have of time spent on the coast?

I’d love to share why we all love the Golden Isles with people around the world. Please leave your comments on the website, so everyone can read them.

Flash Fiction: Waiting for Her Soldier

Happy Fourth of July! As we celebrate our independence, I hope this short story will remind us of those who help ensure our freedom every day and the sacrifice they and their families make for each of us. We are so blessed to live in this great nation.

*********************************************************************************************  With a permanent marker, Whitley crossed off the date. She rubbed her stomach, while Will, Jr. continued his afternoon kickboxing session on her ribs. Only two squares left on the calendar before his predicted arrival, and like his daddy, he couldn’t wait to get out in the world on an adventure.

Tracing Liam’s face in the family photo, her chest tightened. “Daddy might not be here for your big day but know he loves you so much. He had an important mission.” She counted the days back to Liam’s last call—too many. Tears pushed at the backs of her eyes.

Liam always volunteered for the dangerous missions. She’d begged him to let someone else take this one, but he’d refused. In the end, she’d barely mumbled, “love you.” As her stomach churned, bile stung her throat.

The door slammed against the refrigerator.

Swallowing, Whitley gripped the counter.

“Mommy.” Mallory toddled across the kitchen. “Park.”

Mom followed her, disentangling Mallory from Whitley’s legs. “Give Mommy a minute.” Mom rubbed Whitley’s back. “Stop worrying. He’ll make it in time.”

Whitley shook her head. “Unlikely, and I need to accept it.”

Checking her phone display, Mom quirked her lips like she was hiding a smile. “I’m with Mallory. Let’s walk to the park. Everything’s better in the sunshine.”

Sighing, Whitley hugged Liam’s shirt around her. If only it were his arms. “Y’all go. I’m not in the mood.” She inhaled deeply, but his scent no longer lingered. What if she never felt his embrace again? Click here to read the rest of the story.

Southern Phrases

If you follow this blog, you know that I’m supposed to be taking a break from posting while I write a new book, but I need some help. But by the way, I’m halfway done as of today, so yeah! Of course, I’ll be rewriting lots from this first draft. In case your interested, the working title is Love at the Olive Orchard, and like I’ve said before, it takes place in a fictional South Georgia Town. As I’m writing, I find myself in desperate need of some great southern sayings.

I think we can all agree Southerner’s have the best way of turning a phrase, and I love to include the original ones in my stories. For example, my friend, Darryl,  recently commented at a pre-theatre dinner with the following phrase when describing a woman dancing. (don’t want you Northerners thinkin’ were not cultured down here.) Unnamed woman had more moves than a swiss army knife. Clearly, that is literary, and as soon as I could find a spot in one of my books, I stuck it in.

Now it’s your turn. Help me out. Comment below with your favorite Southern phrases. The more country (red neck) the better. Like we love to say in the South, we don’t hideaway our crazy. We set it in a rocker on the front porch and give it a glass of sweet tea.

Can’t wait to hear your suggestions.

Southern Sands Newsletter and Privacy Policy

Happy Summer Friends,

It has been awhile since a newsletter. Hopefully, you have been enjoying the blog posts and flash fiction stories. As we move into June, I will be taking off the month from posting, so I can write a new book. I have spent the last month researching and planning and have completed the first scene. It will start on St. Simons Island but most of the book will take place on an Olive Tree Farm in a fictional South Georgia town. If any of you have any knowledge about olive farming or blueberry farming, please send me an email. It is so important to me to get the details correct.

Hopefully, when I return in July, I will have a completed novel. Prayers are very welcome.

I’m happy to announce that I placed seventh in the 18th Writer’s Digest Short, Short Story Contest and my piece, Avoiding the Bouquet, will be published in the July/August edition of Writer’s Digest. Award Article

In more awards news, my mentor and writing coach Lindsey Bracket is a finalist for ACFW mentor of the year. Also, Lindsey’s book Still Waters recently won Best Debut Novel, Best Book, and The Director’s Choice Award at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. If you haven’t already read the book, get it for the summer. You won’t be disappointed.

Lately, I have been contributing regularly to BoldCityVoice.com. I’d love for you to check out this site. Lots of good stuff, and I will be doing author profiles. Lindsey is the first one. Working with this website has given me the chance to interview New York Times Bestselling Author Rachel Hauck. She also has a series set on St.Simons Island if you are interested in a sweet romance for the beach.

Okay, now for the boring, legal stuff. As you’ve probably noticed, all websites that have newsletters are required to send one of these notices and put a privacy policy on the website. Just when I thought I’d escaped the lawyer’s life. This is all due to a regulation from the EU.

But because I love y’all and wanted to actually give you a helpful tool, be sure to read to the end of this newsletter. I’m going to give you a great tip for organizing your subscriptions. By the way, I truly appreciate the support and encouragement from all of you. I could not keep doing this writing thing without you.

Here’s the Privacy Policy and Disclosure information for this www.lesliedevooght.com. You can find the policy HERE. For future reference, this page can be found under the In a Seashell tab on www.lesliedevooght.com. If you have ANY questions regarding this information, I would be more than happy to chat with you.

Please know that I take your privacy rights very seriously. I never share information with anyone without prior consent. And if at any time, you wish to remove your information from the list, all you have to do is unsubscribe. This option is provided at the bottom of every email you receive from me.

And I know it works because a very few people have chosen to use it. Of course, I prayed for their souls and asked Jesus to help me forgive them. Perhaps, one day when I’m a famous published author, they will choose to return, and I will embrace them as the father did in the prodigal son story. (Please know that I’m being slightly sarcastic. Slightly, because it really does hurt when I lose one of you wonderful followers.)

Here’s the Important Tool to keep following and keep your inbox organized. Seriously, friends, I’m about to share a fantastic secret, so be sure you read the next part. And if you missed the last part, it wasn’t very interesting anyways. So here it is, before you unsubscribe to my website or any other website (because if you’re like me you don’t want to miss the one email where Lands End gives the 75% off coupon.), I encourage you to use a rollup service, such as unroll.me. This service is free and helps you keep your inbox organized. You can use it to unsubscribe, keep in your inbox, or roll up the subscription. When you roll up your subscriptions, they all come in a single email that you can quickly scroll through and only open if one interest you. I keep all of my favorite stores here. It also checks your email inbox daily and offers you the choice of rolling up subscriptions or unsubscribing. (Again, here is the link unroll.me) Once again, remember who is giving you this fabulous advice and how you will break her heart if you unsubscribe. (Just sayin’)

I hope you have a fantastic June and will be back with you in July. 

Blessings, Leslie

A Constant Comfort by Christina Suzann Nelson

Christina Suzann Nelson, inspirational speaker and award-winning author of If We Make It Home, is celebrating the release of Swimming in the Deep End, on September 25, 2018. She writes and speaks about hope after dysfunction. Christina is over the top about her passions, including the stories created somewhere in the twists and turns of her less-than-focused brain. When she’s not writing, she’s working with the Every Child initiative, chasing escaped steers, reading, breathing in the sweet smell of her horse, hiking with her dog, or enjoying her just-as-crazy family.

One of the best parts of being an author is meeting and getting to know other writers, especially the ones who have written books you really enjoyed. Christina Suzann Nelson and I “met” in a Facebook Group because we were represented by the same literary agent. My book club chose to read her book, If We Make it Home, this year, and I cannot recommend it enough. It is a completely unique story of redemption, friendship, and survival. The last week proved incredibly difficult for Christina as you will read in her post, and I am so thankful she was able to take the time to share her story here. I know you will be touched by her words.

 

Thank you, Leslie, for offering me this blog spot. When I took you up on the opportunity, I had my life in order with all going as I planned and expected. I placed the date in my calendar and planned to write this segment in the week leading up to the deadline. No biggie. It’s not a huge commitment…I thought.

Let me tell you about that week I’d planned.

My father has been struggling with Parkinson’s for the last couple of years, especially the not as well-known aspect of the disease—dementia. A week before I was to turn in this post, we had to make a hard decision. It was time to stop the extra poking and prodding and move to comfort care. The best guess was one to two months.

But Parkinson’s never behaved well for my dad. Within a couple of days, he started to diminish. He no longer would eat, even the chocolate pudding that had become the go to food. Then he stopped taking liquids.

Last Tuesday, he passed away, leaving us stunned and reeling from the loss and the speed at which it happened. Two days later, we were at our rural cemetery saying our goodbyes. Needless to say, the blog post didn’t get written until now—the night before it’s due.

A few things have crossed my mind this last week, lessons I’m learning, and a few I keep trying to avoid. I won’t drag you through all the crazy thoughts ping-ponging around my brain, but here are a few:

We are not promised, nor are we owed, an easy life. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV

Though this last week dripped of loss, sadness, and trials, there was peace. Peace sat with me at the hospice house, it allowed me to sleep, and it gave me hope as the end drew near. Thank God there is peace.

We need our people. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

By nature, I’m crazy-independent. It’s actually a trait I got from my dad. But this week, I was comforted and surrounded by community. From prayer, to meals, to friends present at my father’s service, I can’t say enough thank yous to express how humbled and loved I feel.

I love my job. Over the last week, I’ve had the flexibility to stop working and be available. My agent has been an amazing support, encouraging me to be with my father rather than pushing me to produce. I couldn’t be more grateful for the career God has allowed me to be a part of.

No emotion, experience, or disappointment is wasted on a writer. We have the opportunity to turn our sorrows into stories that will, hopefully, speak to the heart of the reader. As I work through grief, I find myself holding onto this thought. Maybe, at some point in the future, this pain will be redeemed by comforting someone else in the midst of their own sadness.

So, for wherever you are today, I pray that you will be blessed in this moment.

 

Becoming a Skillful Sailor

“Smooth seas don’t make skilled sailors.” African Proverb. I read that on the side of my frozen yogurt cup the other night. And isn’t it true? In this writing world, I have learned this lesson more than anything else. As I often say, if nothing else comes out of my writing journey, my children will have witnessed perseverance. They will know what it is to dream big, work hard, stay faithful, and surrender to God’s will. For whatever the outcome, whatever the purpose of our successes and failures, God always works for good.

“We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. But we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts.” Romans 5:2-5.

Goodness, how I cling to those verses when the losses are coming hard and fast, but also to the revelation I had last week. I think it just occurred to me because I had to watch two of my children struggle with losses. It’s so much easier to watch them win, but—Losing is necessary for learning perseverance.

Maybe if we look at it that way, we can see that it is never really a loss. Trials are for learning lessons, honing our skills, gaining strength, and always becoming more patient because it might not be the right time. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that perseverance and patience both start with ‘P.’

We all have to navigate rough waters to learn the skills will need for success. When I look at past perceived trials and losses, it always amazes me to see how God was working for something better. His ways are not of this world. Can I get an amen?

What loss or trial left you stronger, in a better place, with a new and improved relationship? What blessings have you gained from persevering through loss?

Anything is Possible

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11

Recently, I have spent a lot of time at the high school Libby will attend next year. The excitement is in the air. I get chills walking through the breezeways. These students have their whole lives in front of them–anything is possible. As we get older, we often forget that feeling, burdened by our daily lives.  Sometimes we need a reminder that God wants to prosper us all, no matter how old we are, no matter how far off His path we have roamed.

We have hope when we turn to God for direction. A future following His plan might have interesting twists and turns, but He is always there cheering us on when we need it, providing the right tools, and preparing us to do his work.

This week lets take a moment to look through the eyes of a teenager and see the opportunities God has provided and remember the way He blesses each of our days.

What new adventure are you considering? How are you stepping out in faith?

A Derby Win by Carlton DeVooght

Last spring, I told my husband, Carlton, about a flash fiction writing contest that wanted stories about sports and romance, and he wrote this fun piece about the Kentucky Derby.  Then he endured my brutal edits, and we’re still happily married, but we won’t do that again. This Saturday is Derby Day, so I thought it was the right time to share it. I know you’re going to love it. 

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What a miserable day. As rays from the setting sun, pushed through the clouds, Clint raked his fingers through his wet hair, surveying the damage.

The torrential rain shower had drenched his new seersucker suit, leaving it transparent. His pink shirt shown through the white stripes in his jacket, making it look like someone had sloshed raspberry lemonade on him. Mud from the infield and a variety of spilled drinks had turned his once white Bucks into a Jackson Pollack work. The pathetic lemon bow tie dangled around his neck, warped by the hours of rainfall—Sinatra’s disdain was palpable.

With his shoulders hunched over and arms hanging limp, he began his walk of shame, his damaged sartorial goods were just the start.

Lori Anne had gushed over his invitation to join him at the Derby in his sought-after seats on the final turn. Her lack of depth reared itself when she abandoned him to join some celebrity’s posse in a box on the stretch. All he had left was the stack of plastic mint julep cups, commemorating the 143rd running of the roses—a pitiful trophy.

Under the shadow of the Churchill Downs’ Spires, he attempted to scan the crowd for his group. Instead he experienced a solar eclipse brought on by a gigantic emerald green hat covered in a cacophony of red roses and white feathers. The feathers swatting his nose tore the cap of politeness off, spewing his frustration and spiking his blood pressure.

He batted at the offending plumage. “Do you mind removing that thing, the race is over.”

The head under the hat snapped around. Her fiery eyes scorched everything in their path, searching for the offending party.

He straightened as her eyes bore down on him. His heart beat like the hooves of the racehorses. But he couldn’t pull his eyes away from her. The millinery framed long red curls and alabaster skin—an enchanting fury.

She arched an aristocratic brow. “See-through seersucker suit and an ugly bowtie don’t make you in charge of Derby fashion.”

Ouch. Harsh honesty that he deserved, but it still stung.

Dropping her gaze to his feet, she grimaced. “And what color Bucks are those?” She was leading down the stretch, giving a final glower to push her over the finish line. “Certainly not white.” She smirked, daring him to respond.

But that’d be a mistake driven by impulse. Instead he’d do the gentlemanly thing and admit defeat. He tugged on his labels, rocking back on his heels. “Forgive me ma’am. It’s been a long day, and I’ve lost a lot more than the original color of these shoes.”

She tilted her head to the side, pursing her lips. Through narrowed eyes, she studied him. His mea culpa had either touched a suppressed nerve of empathy or simply confused her.

“Humility is not something I often find in Kentucky men.” Was that a hint of pity in her jade eyes? At this point, he’d take it.

She smiled sweetly. “Your stab at dapper may have failed, but there appears to be something attractive underneath those fancy clothes.”

Sighing, she flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Did your horse lose too?”

“Apparently, my horse didn’t like the mud.” He showed her his losing ticket from the betting window.

She tapped the ticket. “That’s ’cause you bet on the seventeen horse, and no horse has ever won from that slot. If you don’t have a horse running, best odds are on five or ten.” She tilted her head, blocking the sun with her green headgear of sinamay and feathers. “Or you could pick the horse wearing the prettiest silks like I did.” She winked—a font of Derby knowledge.

He shrugged. “Wish I’d talked to you three hours ago.”

She tossed him a smile.

Heat surged over his face. His impulse moves were winless so far, but why not try another. He wiped his hand on his soaked trousers and extended it. “Name’s Clinton Tanner, but please call me Clint.”

Despite his damp hand, she clasped it, firm and steady. “Mary-Brighton.” This was not a normal filly. She was special, and not afraid to race with the colts.

“Don’t suppose you’d like to get out of here and have a drink with me.” He tried his lopsided grin.

She nodded towards his trophy. “As long as it doesn’t include bourbon.” She hooked her hand around his arm.

A winning day after all and his odds were looking better for post time at the Preakness.