Category Archives: Christian faith

How to Persevere and Succeed

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I’ve been writing since Spring of the year 2000.

The first seven years of writing were such fun. I wasn’t involved in any writing groups, I wasn’t trying to get anything published, and I didn’t feel any push to carry my writing to a higher level. Writing was an avocation when my vocation was teaching music.

I wrote for the sheer joy of putting stories, which had been clamoring to be expressed, on paper, and discovering that characters develop minds of their own, and lead me in mysterious and delightful directions.

In 2007 I finished my first novel. Flushed with the feeling of victory that comes from this achievement, I immediately registered for a writing conference. (I heard that’s what one does in order to meet agents and editors.)

 

I met with several agents, and one expressed interest in seeing some of my writing.

I thought, this is easy. I write a book, find an agent, get a contract, then the agent will quickly find representation, maybe with Harper Collins or Random House, etc. Within a few years I’ll be another successful and well-known author. My books will immediately sell well. I’ll have no trouble selling subsequent books. Marketing? What’s that?

At the conference, I heard lots of talk about platform, whatever that was. Uh, maybe that’s just for non-fiction writers.

Nope, that’s you, too, you ignorant fiction writer.

The nice agent eventually rejected my novel proposal. Surprise.

That’s painful. It’s like walking into a an invisible wall. Maybe that’s where we get the expression: you nose gets out of joint. I wanted to yell, or something:

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I kept praying. And writing.

Wake up call for me. Just writing a book does not guarantee immediate success.

Join a writer’s group, or two, I was advised.  I joined three, just to be safe.

Each week I drove 100 miles from Estes Park, Colorado to Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Made some writing friends, listened to lectures on the craft of writing, practiced.

Two years later, I submitted an article to a Christian publisher. And got published!

I kept praying and studying God’s Word so my own words would pour out helpful and inspiring stories. And kept writing.

Feeling more confident, I attended another, bigger writer conference in Denver. Rejected again. I have to say that, though agents and editors are busy—and I understand the frantic pace of their work—they barely listened to my pitch.

I went home and finished writing book number two. Submitted more articles and got lots of them published. I found another writing group and met wonderful people like Amanda Cabot, Jane Choate, Audra Harders, Leslie Ann Sartor: all great writers.

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I kept praying and studying, and serving in church. And writing. You can’t stop.

I also started entering writing contests. Little by little, over about a five-year period, my entries started doing very well. My scores went up and up.

I published more short stories and articles. Found an agent. Almost got my first book published, but at the last moment, the publishing board voted to reject my manuscript.

Back home, I parted ways with my lovely agent and struck out to independently seek publication for my now three-book series.

By now, I’d been in several critique groups, had written, re-written, edited, re-edited my books at least ten times. I still have several old versions on my computer. (It’s kind of bittersweet to read some of my earlier attempts.)

One day, I checked my email and noticed that Anaiah Press had contacted me. “We like your book and would like to publish it.”

Unfortunately, I was sitting in the food court of my local mall drinking a Starbucks Americano so I couldn’t  jump up and do the Snoopy dance. Well, I could’ve if I didn’t want about a hundred women to steer clear of me, glancing sidewards, clutching their purses close to their chests, muttering to their children, “stay away from that funny old woman.”

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Little did I know that the next six months were going to be intense with edits, re-writes, emails back and forth between the editor and me.

A month later, Write integrity Press offered me a three-book contract on my suspense series, The Hunted. More intense and long hours.

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Then, the books released on Amazon, within a few weeks of each other. I thought I’d lose my mind, what with all the marketing activity, combined with all the volunteer things I do in the community and my church.

I remember someone—a published author— telling me, “Once you get published, your time will never again be your own.” At the time, I kind of sniffed at her words. Easy for her to say. She’s published. She can’t relate. She’s forgotten the angst and frustration of trying to get your first book contract.

But, you know, that writer was absolutely right.

My fourth book will release in the beginning of 2019. And I’ve got another one just about ready to be submitted. And I’m working on two other manuscripts, as well.

Back story: Near the end of 2015, I had sat down before God and said, “Lord, I’m just about all in with this trying-to-get-published thing. If I don’t get a contract within a year, I’ll know you’re telling me to hang up my skates. I want to do only those things that are pleasing to you and are building up your kingdom. So please don’t let me waste time if it’s not going to happen.”

Six months later I landed my first full-length book contract. God is funny, that’s all I can say.

And now a few words on perseverance—the Christian way, that is:

As you’re doing the thing you hope to succeed in—it doesn’t have to be writing. Good grief, it could be learning a language, or trying to be an astronaut—here are some God-things to be doing simultaneously:

  1. Read and meditate on God’s Word. Every day.
  2. Pray for wisdom and understanding.
  3. Mindfully connect your daily trials—and your joys— to the truth of God’s Word.
  4. Now that you know what the Word of God says, practice obeying it.
  5. Make a daily habit of praising and worshiping the Lord.

These activities are not some magical way to manipulate God into doing things your way. Instead, this is the way to grow in seeing your life the way God sees it, and growing in your desire to bring Him honor.

I wish you God’s best. His ways are higher and better than our ways. Commit your way to the Lord.

God bless you as you persevere in working—yes, it is work— toward your goal.

Col. 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (NIV Version)

Cactus Underwear or Cascade Mountain Lake?

 

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A very wise man, Dennis Prager, has said that the most grateful people are the happiest people.

And even though Dennis Prager is not a Christian (he is Jewish), he adheres to the biblical theology that people are made in God’s image, made for His purposes, to reflect Him in all we say and do.

The Bible is filled with accounts of God’s people singing, dancing, playing on lovely and loud instruments, verbalizing their praises in both speech and song to God.

Praise Him, all ye little Children

Because gratitude, rightly understood, involves thanking someone outside of ourselves, it lifts our minds and hearts away from our poor, poor selves, and focuses it on someone else, on the giver of the gift, even if temporarily.

Gratitude is an outpouring of faith. Without faith, it is almost impossible to thank God for hard times. Because faith says: “God, I don’t understand, but whatever comes my way I will trust you, because I know you are in control and you are working out a greater plan for my life than I can imagine. Thank You.”

I’m a pretty thankful person, most of the time. Probably because, growing up, I didn’t have too much, I very much appreciated what I received. My parents weren’t wealthy, and I was well aware of their struggle to provide for us kids.

In my church and in my community I know both grateful and ungrateful people, and let me tell you, there is a huge difference between them. People who only focus on the negative things that happened to them in their day aren’t too pleasant to be around. These are often the same people who complain whenever something isn’t exactly what they want. Their attitude is ruled each day by what they did not get, what other people aren’t doing to please them, or how the weather or traffic conspired to cause them grief.

Do you know people like that? I do. Sometimes that person is me, temporarily.

But I try to get out of that attitude quickly, because it’s not a pleasant place to stay. It’s like living in cactus underwear. Prickly, scratchy, get-me-out-of-this! And who wants to be too near a cactus?

And, being an old woman now, I’ve come to know that my best days are the days when I’ve taken the time to get my eyes off myself, to look around and list the wonderful things I’ve been blessed with. I call days like this, “Cascade Mountain lake days.” Could anything be more lovely and inviting?

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I recently purchased a sweet little journal called, “A Life of Gratitude.” The book, by Lori Roberts, takes you through daily written exercises where you list blessings, or positive thoughts, or beautiful things, etc. It’s not necessarily a Christian book, but since I am a Christian I prefer to do these exercises while lifting to God in gratitude each thought that I write down. After all:

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James1:7, NIB Bible)

 

Here’s what I’m thankful for today: Jazz music woofs from the speakers down on the lowest level of the house. Because my loving husband is actually home this week, working in his office. He usually travels, but today he’s around. I’m thankful for him.

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It was cold this morning. I slipped warm socks on my feet and marveled at how God constructed my size 6, double E width feet. How they take a daily pounding under my 125 pound frame, but they’re still ready to carry me on the next 10-mile hike.

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It only takes seconds to notice something God has provided you, then utter an awed prayer of thanks to Him.

It’s a great habit to cultivate. And I mean to keep cultivating it each day.

“And whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17 NIV Bible)

Haven’s Hope Launches

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Click here to purchase the book through Amazon

Reader friends, it’s been a long time coming, but Tuesday, Feb. 6th, 2018 is the day of release. Haven’s Hope is the thrilling, adventure-packed sequel to Haven’s Flight. It will be available on Amazon.com as an ebook and a paperback.

Just look at that cover. Doesn’t it make you feel kind of tingly and nervous? Aren’t you curious to see if Dade Colton actually captures sweet Haven and imprisons her in his mountain hideout?

Haven’s Hope: Feel the Fear – Savor the Romance

HAVEN’S HOPE gives one woman’s answer to these questions:

  • Does God still love me even when bad things happen?
  • Is good really more powerful than evil?
  • How can I be freed from guilt?

Haven Ellingsen has escaped the man who relentlessly hunted her in the Cascade Mountains. But when an old friend from her dangerous past shows up unexpectedly to warn her that Dade Colton is determined to re-capture her, Haven makes the only safe decision: to go into hiding once more. But where? Who can she trust? If only she could tell someone about her tragic secret. But Dade’s threat to kill anyone who helps her would put that person’s life in jeopardy, too.

Dr. Petter Eriksen saves lives every day at Mercy Hospital Emergency Department. Driven by guilt after the accidental death of his little sister, he can’t believe in a good God. But when a beautiful and mysterious young woman moves into the cabin on his uncle’s Christian Retreat, Petter wonders if her love and simple faith have the power to shatter the barrier he has erected around his heart? And can he save her from a madman?

Sometimes you hide; sometimes you stand and fight.

 

 

 

 

Which Path?

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Since moving to Bellingham, I’ve become intrigued and delighted by all the paths and trails through and around the city. We’ve recently moved to another neighborhood, and I had no idea there would be just as many trails (part of the Inter-Urban Trail System) on the north part of town.

One minute I’m walking through a neighborhood, the next, lush cedars, alder, pines and firs, and blackberry thickets obscure houses and streets. Here, the Steller jays, crows, nuthatches, woodpeckers, squirrels, deer, and—no doubt—coyotes and bobcats, reign, and the interference of a small woman is but their momentary annoyance.

Sometimes I come to a junction of trails and wonder which one I should take. Each path will lead me to a beautiful ending. I may conclude my hike when the path deposits me onto a neighborhood street. Or, the trail may wind its way to Whatcom Falls, and on eventually to glimpses of Lake Whatcom—if I have the time and energy.

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I used to think of my life as a path, of sorts. And if I didn’t take the ‘right’ path, somehow God would be disappointed with me and I would miss some wonderful blessing.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to the recognition that life presents each of us choices. It isn’t always a decision between a bad choice and a good choice Sometimes we are presented with several good options. What to do?

Which college major should I choose? Should I marry this person? Which job should I interview for? Which church should we attend? Where should we live?

There are paths that all of us, if we are Believers, should take without question. But beyond that, God has given us sound reason, consideration for those around us who would be effected by our choice, the counsel of others, and a praying, trusting heart.

If I choose to take the fork that leads to Whatcom Falls I will be blessed by seeing some lovely scenery. But if I choose another well-worn path, I will be equally delighted by views of the Sound and the city. Neither choice is bad.

 

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Sometimes God makes it very clear that he wants me to go a certain way. He will close doors of opportunity and then open another door which didn’t seem to be an option earlier.

Sometimes, I feel all alone in a decision.

But, I am not alone. The Psalm 139 says, “If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (NIV Bible)

For many people, the beginning of the new year is a time for reflection and for choosing a different path. That’s sometimes good, as long as we realize that though we can make plans, God has the ultimate plan. His plan for his children is always good, even though it may wind through desert paths, or dip into dark forest where it is hard to see the trail.

He knows the plans He has for you.

Jeremiah 20:11 says, “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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord.” (NIV Bible)

Seeking the Lord is the best plan you can make for 2018.

 

 

Second-hand Light

 

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A few days ago, after what seemed like hours at the mall trying to run down the perfect gift for my mother in law, I carried my packages out into a now dark parking lot outside Macy’s, started my car, and headed out onto Baker View Rd.

I’d gone east on Baker View for at least half a mile before my first red light. One other car waited in front of me at the stop light.

The guy in that car suddenly got out of his car and approached my vehicle. My heart rate jumped into emergency mode. Was the man upset with my driving? Was he going to tell me off? Assault me?

But then, he pointed at the front of my car, and pantomimed turning on lights.

Oh my goodness, I’d never turned on my lights! I’d been driving un-illuminated all the way from the mall. I hadn’t noticed because I’d been surrounded by the glow of ambient light from businesses, Christmas lights, and other vehicles.

I waved a thanks and the man climbed back into his car just in time for the green light. “Lord, thank You for sending this man to tell me about my lights.”

As I drove home, it occurred to me that there is a powerful spiritual application for this experience.

When surrounded by light, an individual’s awareness of their own darkness is dimmed.

I suspect this is the case with many church-goers, operating each day, guided only by others’ light. Unaware that there is no life and light from God’s Spirit within themselves.

I think this is equally true for those secular people who enjoy the blessings—though fading—of a once-Christian nation.

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And in this season of light: the light of God’s advent, the truth contained in our Christmas music, the message of joy—He is born, the Divine Christ Child!— ringing out from churches, it is a good time to ask ourselves: do I possess the light of God’s Presence that comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit, which came upon me when I placed my faith in the Person and work of Christ on the cross of redemption?

Or do I merely enjoy the ‘second-hand’ blessing of light shed on me as a result of other people’s faith?

2nd Corinthians 4:6 says: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

 

Enjoyment of the lovely aspects of the church: the music, the praise, the fellowship, an inspiring message, does not make one a Believer.

Adhering to certain Christian tenets does not make one a Believer.

Participating in ministry activities, taking communion, repeating Christian doctrinal statements does not send the light of Christ’s presence into your soul.

Only a genuine recognition of your inability to make yourself acceptable through your own efforts, and a trusting in what Jesus did for you on the cross, makes you a Believer.

Jesus said: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (John 8:12 NIV Bible)

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