Category Archives: guest blog

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.

 

Weight of Waiting by Hope Welborn

My friend Hope Welborn often says, “I’m not interested unless there’s a dead body.”  And that’s okay since she writes Romantic Suspense stories. I am so happy to have Hope guest blogging for me this week. We met at my first writer’s conference when I sat with her at the regional breakfast. She was also from Georgia and so sweet to a newbie like me.  At this national conference, Hope was a big deal because she was a finalist for the unpublished author’s contest. I became an adoring fan right away. Never did I think we would end up being friends and in a critique group together. Last year, when I was a semi-finalist in the same contest, she contacted me with words of congratulations, and then we realized we had a mutual friend, Lindsey Brackett. Soon we were forming our own writers’ group. Hope’s words are inspiring and beautiful, and I know you will be blessed by them.

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I’ve been reading in Genesis during my quiet time before bed. I enjoy reading about the process of creation. It speaks to me as a writer. God had an idea, He followed through on that idea, and something was created.

Now for Him, the process was as simple as speaking the words, “Let there be…” and the Bible says, “And there was…”

For us, the process is not as simple. I often get frustrated with my own plodding progress. I feel pressures to write quickly, to get something to my agent so he can then send it off to publishers in the hopes of getting a contract.

But even if I could write faster, even if I had a finished product in a matter of weeks, all of that “hurry up” would be met with the inevitable … “and wait.”

I have a wonderful tribe of writers around me, all in various stages of their journeys. And all in various stages of waiting.

Some wait to hear back from an agent, an editor, or a publishing house. Some wait for feedback, critiques, or edits. Some wait until their book is printed and lands in their hands, a finished work. Some wait for their next great idea or inspiration to finish another book.

We all wait.

And in the waiting, we wonder.

Am I good enough? Will this book sell? Is this the right path to take? Am I just wasting my time? Why is this all so difficult?

There’s nothing we can do to change any of this. It is simply the process. The publishing “machine” moves very slowly, and we have to learn to wait patiently. We might start out in different places on the conveyer belt of publishing, but we’re all still on the same assembly line.

We are all card-carrying members of Team Wait. There are no shortcuts or by-passes. Each step along the way is a “right of passage” we must all go through. It may seem unreasonable, but there is a purpose behind it all.

I recently read the following quote:

“Often we fail to give God an opportunity to work, not realizing that it takes time for Him to answer prayer. It takes time for God to color a rose or to grow a great oak tree.” (from Streams in the Desert)

My mind lingered on those words.

I thought back to Genesis, when God created the universe. In just six days, He designed and formed everything that makes up our world.

But, He also created the process of growth.

He decided how long it would take for a tiny acorn to grow into an oak tree large enough to provide shade on a warm day. Sure, He could’ve made it so that acorn would form a new, fully grown tree by the next day. But, He didn’t.

In His infinite wisdom, He knew the tree needed time to grow.

Important things happen during the growth period. Roots reach deep into the earth and anchor the tree. The trunk grows, expands, reaching wide and high. It sprouts limbs and branches that give birth to leaves that absorb sunlight and rain to nourish the tree and allow for more growth.

And when the winds come, the tree stays anchored because of its deep roots. The strong trunk holds up, the branches sway and bend with the weather, withstanding the storms.

Because God knows what the tree will have to endure, He designed a growth period which gives the tree time to become what it needs to survive.

I see the same process in our writing journeys. We need time to grow as writers. To learn the craft. To find our voice. To develop our ideas. To understand the industry. To gain an audience.

These are all things we need. Things that will hold us upright when it gets difficult.

When we get our first rejection. And our twentieth. When we get our first contract, and then our first deadline. When we get a five-star review and a one-star review. When we win. When we lose.

Waiting carries weight. It’s a heavy burden to bear sometimes. But important things happen in the waiting. Growth is necessary, and growth takes time.

So, give yourself the time you need to become what God has purposed for you to be. Waiting isn’t easy, but if you use that time wisely, it won’t be time wasted.


Hope Welborn writes spine-tingling suspense, sprinkled with romance, and saturated with faith. She nerds out over superheroes, survives on chai lattes, and spends time at her family’s North Georgia farm. By day, she masquerades as a web marketing projects manager and by night, she stays up too late putting words on the page. You can connect with her at www.hopewelborn.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Be Still – Guest Post by Lara Patangan

Happy Holy Week, dear friends. I just got home from our church’s morning service, and I can’t think of a better time to read this important message by my friend Lara Patangan. I hope you take time this week to be still and remember the love, grace, and miraculous gift that Resurrection Sunday is for each of us. 

Be Still.

I heard this often as a child.  I remember one time my mom promising me a new doll if I would just sit still for ten minutes.  When you are a kid, ten minutes is an impossibility, a lifetime, a duration that exists in fairytales along with happily ever after.”

Stillness remains a challenge for me.  By far, the hardest part of writing is getting myself to sit down.  I reheat my coffee, let the dog out, tell the cat she is pretty, stuff my face with white cheddar popcorn, nibble chocolate, check email, Facebook, scoop kitty litter, and reheat curdled coffee again.  Then, I sit, twitch, and fidget for a bit before I succumb to the stillness that begets words. It’s like an exorcism.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

I am part of a group of women at my church who will be hosting a retreat this month, and we chose this as our theme.  It’s not a message we hear often, and it is certainly counter to what society encourages. Stillness is a renegade concept, a weapon that destroys the inauthentic notions of life.  I associate it more with someone like Yoda in a galaxy far, far away than I do anyone on our planet.

Our world teaches us our value is tied to busyness.  Do more, go faster, be efficient, be more, make more, and have more.  But for heaven’s sake, don’t be still.  Don’t stop and smell the roses.  Get them in the ground and check it off your list. Or better yet, pay someone to do it.  Your time is too valuable.  You need to be producing.

The message is clear, if you are still, the world will pass you by.  You will be considered slovenly.   You will miss out.  You will fail to measure up. You might as well be a concrete statue for pigeons to stoop (and poop) on.

When we believe these messages, eventually our motion spins out of control.  We lose touch with who we are called to be, the things we enjoy, and who matters most. We get lost and dizzy from all our spinning.  And tired.  So many of us are tired.

Last year for Lent, I challenged myself to spend ten minutes a day in stillness with God.  I was terrified.  I take my faith seriously enough that I didn’t want to commit to such an endeavor and not honor it.  Usually, the things we need most are the hardest to do, the least appealing, and met by the most resistance.  But I decided to be brave and embrace the stillness that always eluded me.

And you know what?  I didn’t turn green like Yoda or get soiled by pigeons.  I didn’t even feel like demons were being dispelled from my body like I do when I sit to write.  I didn’t miss a single day of my commitment.

Contrary to what we may think about motion, the real action begins with stillness.  I was more calm, aware of myself, closer to God, and felt a genuine sense of peace.  I was so much more intentional.

I continued my habit for awhile after Lent and then slowly traded the stillness for the unregulated motion that’s so much easier to fall into.  Like a child, I resist.  But I know that stillness waits for me, wants for me, and will embrace me anytime I am willing to surrender to its calm.

And the reward for stillness is far greater than a new toy.  It is a chance to sit with the knowing that is God.

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Lara Patangan
MercyMatters.net

Lara Patangan is a freelance writer and mother of two boys in Jacksonville, Florida.  She is a cat-lover and a catastrophic cook.  She blogs at Mercy me! I’ve Got Work To Do…  where she writes about her spiritual travels.  She is currently working on publishing her first book about her experiences doing works of mercy.  Please visit mercymatters.net to join this community that believes in the power of mercy to change the world.

Put on Your Armor – by: Jenifer Jennings

My guest blogger this week is Jenifer Jennings, a multi-published author of Biblical Fiction. Jenifer is a great critique partner and helped me with my second flash fiction piece. She loves Bible stories and helps them come alive with her creative and beautiful gift of storytelling. I hope you enjoy her post on Barak and Deborah. It gives us all the chance to remember that God always supplies what we need for success–whether that’s a person or armor.

“And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:” -Hebrews 11:32 (KJV)

My favorite book of the Bible is Hebrews. This wonderful book reveals Jesus is some many interesting aspects from Priest to King to Prophet while peeling back the layers of foreshadows and pictures found throughout the Old Testament.

One of my favorite chapters of this book is Chapter Eleven, or what is commonly known as the Hall of Faith.

I enjoy writing about people of faith. When we hear of other’s faith, I believe it can strengthen our own. One such character brought me a tremendously amount of encouragement lately.

His name was Barak.

He was a courageous warrior, but he had put down his sword for twenty years. The book of Judges tells us that after a time of peace, the people of Israel did evil in the sight of God. (Judges 4:1) So, God sends a foreign king to rule over them. Being a defeated warrior, Barak hangs up his battle gear and lives a simple, but oppressed, life under the new king.

I can relate. Can you? There have been many defeats in my life. There have been numerous times I’ve wanted to hang up my battle gear and call it quits.

God sends Deborah, a judge at the time, to give Barak a message. “Warrior, it’s time to get back into the battle.” Barak is filled with uncertainty and requests that Deborah accompany him into battle. She agrees, but warns him that he will not have the victory over the enemy. God would send a woman to be the one who claims the victory for Israel. Barak goes into battle with faith that God would bring it to a swift end.

Barak stages a battle with the fierce enemy who conquers in massive chariots. He and his ten thousand men are outnumbered and the obvious underdogs. Just as the battle gets underway, a storm floods the nearby river causing the battlefield to become a gigantic mud pit. Not so good for chariot wheels. In the heat of battle, the captain of the enemy’s army actually retreats to save his own skin. Barak pursues him.

Searching for a place to hide, the captain comes upon a woman whose husband is loyal to his side. She invites him to hide in her tent and says she would protect him by standing watch and not revealing his hidden location. In a divine turn of ends, while the captain sleeps, this woman takes a tent stake and drives it through the captain’s head, instantly killing him. We aren’t told exactly what prompted her to do this, but God had already given the message that it would be a woman’s through which the victory would come.

With Deborah as the encourager support, Jael as a female double agent for God, and Barak as the willing warrior Israel gains the victory over the enemy and peace is restored in the land for forty years.

Writing about Barak was an eye-opener for me. His story was not on my original list of ones to include for my collection of Biblical short stories entitled “Sacrifice,” but I fell in love with his story and had to put him in. Until I began writing it, I never realized how much I was like Barak in life and like Deborah in my writing career. There have been places I’ve taken off my armor and it’s time to get back in the battle. My goal in writing is to be that Deborah encouraging voice in my reader’s lives saying, “God is bigger than anything you’re facing right now. Put your armor back on, warrior, and let’s get back to work for Him.”

If you’d like to read Barak’s story and others found in “Sacrifice” you can find all links here: jeniferjennings.com/sacrifice.

Jenifer is a wife and mother first, though writing is her soul’s desire. She takes Biblical accounts, weaves in historical resources, and adds a dash of fiction to create stories that encourage readers to take their next step of faith.
She married the man of her dreams who reminds her everyday what real love feels like. Together, they are raising two amazing children who keep them laughing.
With a degree in Church Ministry from Trinity Baptist College and an active member of Word Weavers International, Jenifer is always learning.

Her deepest longing is to show Jesus’ love by encouraging others through her writing. Jenifer is a wife and mother first, though writing is her soul’s desire. She takes Biblical accounts, weaves in historical resources, and adds a dash of fiction to create stories that encourage readers to take their next step of faith.

Most Romantic Lines from Literature by Amanda Everett

Y’all are in for a treat this week. My friend Amanda Everett is guest blogging.

Amanda Everette is a southern girl saved by grace. Lover of pretty things, clever words, and her stud of a husband. Not necessarily in that order.

Amanda and I met at the American Christian Writers Conference in August of 2016. We became quick friends and critique partners. I’m delighted by the post. Be sure to read all the way to the end. It brought tears to my eyes. Be sure to check Amanda out on her website at www.amandaeverettwriter.com .

A glance, a touch, that long-awaited kiss beneath a starry sky, the promise of happily ever after—this is what romance is made of. As a writer, and reader, of romance, I can’t seem to get enough of love lately! With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, I’ve rounded up some of the most romantic lines from literature. You know the type, the ones that make your breath catch, heart flutter, and mind hope that maybe, just maybe, you’ll hear similar words of love spoken to you.

Most romantic lines from literature: 

  1. “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same…If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”

Technically, I combined two different quotes from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, but can you blame me?

  1. “You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.” Rhett Butler, Gone with the Wind

Has there ever been a more roguish, charming scoundrel of a gentleman? *swoon*

  1. “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” Winnie the Pooh

The love of a good friend is not to be taken lightly.

  1. “You have bewitched me body and soul.” Pride and Prejudice.

Mr. Darcy—enough said.

  1. “I love her and it is the beginning of everything.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

Okay, so this line isn’t from a book, but a personal letter in which F. Scott Fitzgerald was talking about his wife, Zelda.  I think you can see why I had to include it.

  1. “and this is the wonder that is keeping the stars apart
    i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)” E.E. Cummings

To be forever in your beloved’s thoughts— what more could one want? Some people speculate that Cummings left the “I” lower case so as to be on the same level as his beloved.

  1. “When he shall die,
    Take him and cut him out in little stars,
    And he will make the face of heaven so fine
    That all the world will be in love with night
    And pay no worship to the garish sun.”
    —William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
    It’s impossible to talk about romance without including Romeo & Juliet. I had to recite this for a high school English class and it’s one of the few pieces I still remember to this day.
  2. “I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you.” L.M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island

To be loved for who you are, isn’t that what we all desire?

  1. “Always.” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

When you think romance, you generally don’t think of Harry Potter, but this line by Severus Snape in regards to his undying love for Lily Potter slays me every time.

Are you feeling a little weak at the knees yet? I know I am! But here’s the thing, no matter how many romance novels I read or chick-flicks I watch, I find I’m still left wanting more. It took me years to realize there is no one on this earth who can ever fully satisfy my desire for love, not even my husband.

But there is someone who can.

He is a poet who seeks to win your affection with tender words. A King enthralled by your beauty. A mighty warrior ready to calm all your fears and rejoice over you with singing. There is one who has known you at your darkest and loves you still. One who has literally moved heaven and earth to make a way for you to be together forever.  He is the ultimate storyteller, the creator of love, God over all…and He is madly, deeply, completely in love with you

So on this Valentine’s Day, perhaps the most romantic line ever written can be found right here:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”-John 3:16

May any semblance of love you read about, any chick-flick you watch, and any relationship you’re a part of always remind you of the greatest love story ever told—that of Christ and his love for you.

Don’t Miss Christmas by Angel Moore

Merry Christmas Friends! I am so happy to have award-winning and Love Inspired Historical author and my friend, Angel Moore, sharing her thoughts on rejoicing in this season of Jesus and family. I hope her message encourages you to slow down and take time to really be with your loved ones and make special memories. For those of you spending your first Christmas without a family member, I  join you and pray that God comforts us with His peace and fills us with Joy to bring us strength.

Angel Moore fell in love with romance in elementary school when she read the story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Who doesn’t want to escape to a happily-ever-after world? Married to her best friend, she has two wonderful sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and three grands. She writes STORIES OF FAITH & HOPE.
Her next Love Inspired Historical book, Husband by Arrangement, will release in March of 2018. The final release of her Mail Order Brides of River Bend series, Bartering for a Bride, will release before the end of December. Find all the latest news and all of her books at angelmoorebooks.com

 

Please take Angel’s precious words to heart this year. (By the way, just love that Angel is guest blogging for me at Christmas. Like her name, she is a messenger for God.)

In a few days, we’ll be celebrating the birth of Christ with family and friends. Have you finished shopping? And wrapping? And baking? I haven’t even decided what to cook yet, but I have bought my wrapping paper.

Do you even want to talk about the traffic? I almost had to send someone to the repair shop a couple of times last week. I prefer one car to a lane.

Somehow, Christmas becomes a frenzy. And we get wrapped up in the frenzy.

I have to stop and remember the things I value most at this time of year. Decorating the tree with my grands is one of the top things. I bought acrylic and plastic ornaments—and I was the first person to drop one on the floor.

Angel’s Grandchildren

The kids laughed at me and then covered my tree with snowflake ornaments. The snowflakes were chosen to match the snowflake stocking holders I have for each of them. They are all different. I explain to my little ones that they are all beautiful and unique, just like God’s snowflakes.

 

I treasure the time with my church family. We share wonderful services filled with glorious music and messages about the birth of Christ. Then we enjoy fellowship and food together.

My mom comes to see me every Christmas. It’s a time we set aside for each other.

All of these things mean more to me than anything I could unwrap under the tree. These are the eternal things. It’s not about the money we spend or the gifts we give.

It’s about the time we share with each other remembering the birth of Jesus. In Luke, chapter two, the story of the shepherds leaving their work to encounter the newborn Savior, is one of my favorites. They glorified and praised God when they saw Christ. And they told others about Him. Mary treasured and pondered everything that happened. She stored the memories in her heart.

I see the shepherds as people like us. Working people. Serving God and wanting to be in His presence. They dropped everything and went to see Jesus.

Let’s remember to be like Mary, too. To focus on the Savior. Not just at Christmas, but always.

Jesus came to earth to restore us to Him. Having us in the family of God is important to Him.

Having our family together and serving Him is important, too.

I have to remind myself sometimes to slow down and not let the frenzy of the season keep me from the most valuable things.

Don’t Miss Christmas. Spend it with your loved ones honoring the One Who loves us all.

Angel’s next Love Inspired Historical book, Husband by Arrangement, will release in March of 2018.

Fiery Christmas

Merry Christmas! This month, my daughter Libby wrote a Flash Fiction piece. It is her first try at writing fiction this way. She worked hard on it and endured her mother’s edits. I hope you enjoy it. For more Holiday flash fiction, check out Splickety magazine’s most recent issue.

As my gaze fell upon my seat at the dinner table, my joy for Christmas fell like the shepherds in the field.  “I can’t believe you’re making me sit between the crazies.”  I faced my mother, flipping my hand at the chair.

She didn’t even bother arguing, we both knew she agreed.  My mother’s sisters, Kelly-Anne and Barbara-Jean, were crazier than sprayed roaches.  It’s a wonder my logical, mild-mannered mother is related to them.  I mean, Kelly-Anne thinks she’s Scarlett O-Hara and Barbara-Jean’s still livin’ in the fifties!  It may have made sense if she’d been alive in the fifties, but she was born in 1973, so she had no excuse.  Nevertheless, they’re family, so I took my place and prayed for patience.

“How lovely you look this evening darling,” Kelly-Anne commented in her syrupy Southern accent.  “Barbara, would you be a dear and pass the preserves?”

Barbara-Jean leaned forward for the sweet peaches, tilting her cotton candy bouffant over grandma’s candles. Just a slight wobble and the outdated style caught on the flickering wicks.  The fire ringing her head reminded me of an angel’s halo, but Barbara-Jean was no heavenly being. She shrieked loud enough to scare the birds further south for the winter.

My father ran to the kitchen for the fire extinguisher.

Kelly-Anne flapped her arms. “Gracious darling, your hair’s in flames!”  Apparently, she forgot Southern Belles don’t shout.

Mother attempted to douse the flames with the water from her crystal goblet. However, the hairspray Barbara-Jean covered her hair with every morning fueled the fire.  By the time the inferno was extinguished, the bouffant was little more than a poodle cut.  It took grandma three days, seven vanilla scented candles, and two bottles of Febreeze to remove the stench.  Barbara-Jean gained a little sense that day and never wore her hair in a bouffant again, moving to the sixties with a beehive.

Gifts of a Changed Perspective

I’m so happy to have my friend Juana Jordan sharing a message this week. During this season of busy days, I pray that we will pause and look around for people who need love. What better gift could we give?

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son,” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” — John 19:26-27

Rev. Juana Jordan is a native of Jacksonville, Florida, where she is currently planting the soon-to-be Bridges UMC in the city, a multi-ethnic intergenerational faith community in the downtown urban core of her hometown. As an elder in full connection of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, Rev. Jordan holds a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Ga. and a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. She is the former senior pastor of Harris Chapel UMC in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., her very first appointment where she served for 5 years and is passionate about pursuing her passion as a Gospel storyteller, teacher and writer, and believes like the Rev. Dr. Nancy Lane that “telling our stories is a holy work.” When time permits, Rev. Jordan can be found at the local kickboxing gym, dancing to the rhythmic beats of the African drums or thrift store and consignment shopping. Follow Juana on Instagram at preachergirl_in_the_city.

I remember praying I wouldn’t be asked to preach this text for a Good Friday service. Of all the seven last words of Jesus, this was a passage I feared. Not only did it not seem sexy enough (yes, there are passages that are sexy, therefore making them easy to preach), but it didn’t seem to offer kindling to get a good fire started — or so I thought. Besides, how could I relate to this passage. I am not a mother nor a wife. I am a no children having, single, never been married preacher and in no way can I relate to the Jesus/child/parent dynamic — or so I thought. So with hesitation, “fear and trembling” and in obedience I accepted the challenge to deliver a message, only to be surprised at what Jesus revealed. I did in fact understand the feelings that can rise up when the one you depended on being there is no longer there. I did understand the anxiety around the thought of being alone for the rest of your life. I did understand the feelings of not wanting to go on or knowing whether you can go on and how to go on when your life is torn apart. As a single, never been married, no children having woman, I guess I really could understood the absence of a family and the fear of not having one.

Jesus was Mary’s son, yes, and he was also her family. Jesus was John’s friend, yes, and he was also his family. And in a compassionate expression of selfless love, Jesus introduced them and “gave them” to each other so that they would be each other’s family. Jesus handled it, in an unexpected way. He covered their silent fears and concerns of loneliness and aloneness in one fail swoop. He sent the message that bloodlines don’t necessarily bind us. It’s the love lines we have with each other that matter. It was a point he made to the disciples: “And they will know that you belong to me by your love for each other.” (John 13:35) In other words, it is our act of love and acceptance and embracing of each other that speaks the language of family. Jesus’ action is a reminder of what he does for all of us — loves us so fiercely by adopting us into his family and connecting us to others who share his call to love beyond traditions and societal and familial boundaries. He reminds us of what it means to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper. He reminds us of what family looks like and what its members do — they care for each other.

In this holiday season, I was reminded of this gift of family through this passage. I was reminded of the many times Jesus has turned me and others over to each other and sealed us as members of the same family. I was reminded, in the moments of loneliness, that I am, in fact, not alone, but a part of many families that stretch from my days in college, my work in the cities I have lived as a journalist and now those given through my vocation as a pastor and preacher.

What a beautiful present in this season of Hallmark commercials, movies and holiday billboards that can sometimes taint our mood, cloud our perspective and leave us feeling as Mary and John — that love is gone and we belong to no one and no one belongs to us. What a beautiful sight, when in those times, Jesus, in his surprising, unexpected way, commands us to look around to see who is among us and who is with us and what we have been given. He invites us to change our perspective. How has Jesus invited you to change your perspective this season? Who are those Jesus has invited you to name and claim as family? Because I am almost certain that in looking into their faces, we see Jesus and are reminded once again, like insurance, He’s got us covered!

Faith in Seasons of Waiting by Lauren Luckhart

Lately, it seems, my life moves from one season of waiting to another. I would be willing to bet, too, that most people would share that sentiment. Maybe it’s because there are deep-seeded longings in my heart that are still at arm’s length, or maybe because I’ve reached the age where big milestones are spread farther apart, but I am keenly aware of the waiting seasons in my life right now.

Full confession? Learning to surrender my timeline has been hard. Really hard. I’m a work in progress. We live in a world of instant gratification and self-entitlement and I’m often guilty of impatience. There’s an old saying that says something to the tune of, “While your waiting for an open door, praise God in the hallway.” Waiting is difficult, especially when what we’re waiting for is a desire so deep we can think of little else. But the greater dependence on God that waiting creates is something I’m learning to be grateful for. When I realize there is nothing I can do but pray and trust God in a situation I can’t control, it draws me closer to Him, and renews my spirit to the truth of His provision and goodness.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is James. If you’ve never read through James, I encourage you to take 20 minutes and read it today. James 1:2-4 is a life verse for me. It says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV) In this verse, we are challenged to view our trials with joy. Waiting can so often be a trial. Yet when we rest in the truth that God meets us in those trials, equips us to stand, and supplies our every need, our faith grows.

Can waiting be a testing of your faith?  Absolutely! But let’s refocus our prayers from seeking what we want, to seeking God’s will, no matter what. We must be careful not to let our desires become idols. If God places something in our hearts, and His word teaches that, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom. 8:28 NIV), then we must believe that even if His answer is different than our desired outcome, it’s for our good. That takes big faith, friend, and surrender. God moves in His timing and for His glory, and as I look back and trace His hand in my life, I’m grateful for His perfect leading.

What are you currently waiting and praying for while you’re standing in the hallway? Is there a job you’ve been working toward and you’re praying for an interview and offer? Is your raw and aching heart praying for that pregnancy test to finally read positive? Have you put everything within you into the manuscript that’s now in the hands of an agent, editor, or publishing house, and you’re waiting for the email that could change the course of your writing journey? You’re not alone. I’m in the hallway with you, praying for you, and hoping this season reveals to you in new and mighty ways, how good and loving our Father is.

Author Bio:

Lauren Luckhart is an aspiring Christian author of Historical Romance. Having been born in the South but raised in the North, she now calls Chattanooga, TN home and is loving every minute of Southern exposure.

An avid history and movie buff, she can be found regularly geeking out over historical facts and blockbuster films. In addition to spending time with her close-knit family, Lauren is a coffee and travel enthusiast, crochet hobbyist, graduate of Bryan College with a B.S. degree in Business Administration, hair stylist of eight years, and loves to connect with others on social media.

Social Media Handles:

Facebook: @authorlaurenluckhart

Instagram: @authorlaurenluckhart

Website: laurenluckhart.com

 

Inspiration for the novel Still Waters by Lindsey Brackett

Award-winning writer Lindsey P. Brackett once taught middle grades literature, but now she writes her own works in the midst of motherhood. A blogger since 2010, she has published articles and short stories in a variety of print and online publications including Thriving Family, Country Extra, HomeLife, Northeast Georgia Living, Splickety Magazine, Spark Magazine, and Southern Writers Magazine. In both 2015 and 2017, she placed in the top ten for Southern Writers Magazine Best Short Fiction. Previously, Lindsey served as Editor of Web Content for the Splickety Publishing Group, and currently she is a general editor with Firefly Southern Fiction, an imprint of LPC Books. In addition, she writes a popular column for several North Georgia newspapers.
Still Waters, influenced by her family ties to the South Carolina Lowcountry, is her debut novel. A story about the power of family and forgiveness, it’s been called “a brilliant debut” with “exquisite writing.” A Georgia native, Lindsey makes her home—full of wet towels, lost library books, and strong coffee—at the foothills of Appalachia with her patient husband and their four rowdy children.
Connect with her at www.lindseypbrackett.com, where she Just Writes Life, on Facebook as Lindsey P. Brackett, on Instagram @lindseypbrackett, or on Twitter @lindsbrac.

I’m so happy to have my friend and mentor, Lindsey Brackett, guest blogging this week. If you have been following me at all, you know that Lindsey’s first book, Still Waters, launched on September 8th. It is a story of family, forgiveness, and love set on Edisto Island, South Carolina. Click here to read my review: Still Waters Review 

In this post, Lindsey shares the story behind Still Waters. Enjoy the behind the scenes tour and order yours here: Amazon

Everyone always wants to know the story behind the story, especially when you do a good Southern thing and steal from your family history to write a book.

Truth is, my novel, Still Waters, really started with a place—Edisto Beach, where my family spent most summers of my childhood. Nan is actually modeled after my maternal grandmother. My cousins and I called her Grandmommy White Hair. She died, unexpectedly, the Christmas I was ten. Much of this story was motivated by the “what if she’d lived” scenario. What would she have been like for me to experience as an adult? She was a true Southern lady and my mother, aunt, and uncle make sure we grandkids remember her and our grandfather, who died two years later. They told us he died of a broken heart.

My grandparents farmed tobacco in Colleton County, South Carolina. Every summer in August, after the tobacco was brought in from the fields, the family went to Edisto Beach. She and her siblings continued this tradition with their children, and each summer we rented a big, ramshackle house for a week. We hunted snail shells and made homemade ice cream and watched Grandmommy play solitaire.

On Edisto, time somehow seems to move more slowly. So when I wrote Still Waters, I focused on getting that Edisto pace just right. There’s a phrase I use in the story “an invitation to linger hung among the Spanish moss of the live oaks edging the highway” and for me, that captures this sense of stepping back in time. It’s a place to let your soul be refreshed—or restored like Cora Anne’s.

Ultimately this has always been a story of homecoming, relying on the power of family that ties us to a place. Perhaps that’s why it’s struck such a chord with so many people, already, so early in its release. All I did was attempt to evoke what compelled my family to return to this almost-forgotten piece of shore—you truly drive through forgotten America to find it—and somehow, that has spoken to many readers.

I think it’s because we all want to find that one place we belong, that one place that we call home, that one place, where you can go back and no matter how long you’ve been gone—you’re a local. Your roots are embedded there. Edisto is my place and it has been a joy to share it with this story.

Drop me a line and tell me about yours?