Category Archives: Christian faith

What If?

 

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What if you took the train instead of driving to your cousin’s home out of state?

What if you went to another college?

What if you decided not to accept the job offer and, instead, chose to work as an intern at a non-profit?

What if you’d married that other guy?

What if you traveled the world instead of working that summer between your junior and senior year in college?

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Have you ever thought how your life might be different today if a you had made a different decision a year ago, or even twenty years ago?

Six months ago, my publisher, Write integrity Press, released Haven’s Hope, book two in my series, The Hunted. The book had gone through a few months of intense re-writes, and I thought, hey, why not let the reader see the parts that didn’t get included in the final product? These “deleted scenes” include lots of entertaining chapters. It shows my main character, Haven, having a completely different experience, one that leads her to a different set of challenges and dangers.

 

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So, if you’d like to receive this (completely free) Pdf. simply go to the front page of my website, then click on the subscribe button to receive my newsletter. Once you’ve done that,  you’ll be able to download the Pdf. “Haven’s Hope: Deleted Scenes.

And with this novella-length offering, I’ve also included a discussion guide and a letter from me, the author.

And, as always, blessings on your day!

Dena

It’s All Connected

A few months ago I put out a call on social media for anyone interested in reading my newest release, Haven’s Hope. One of those who responded was a lovely gal named Katie. Katie wrote a review for my book and posted it on Amazon. Thank you, Katie.

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Then Katie asked if I happened to know any people who had gone on short term missions or any missionaries who had ever hosted short-term missionaries. She wants to write a book on the subject. It could be any missionary, going anywhere in the world. I said I thought I could do some asking and perhaps gather some names and email addresses.

 

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So, a couple of weeks went by during which I contacted some folks at my church who were able to supply me with email addresses I could give to Katie.

I sent them along, and she thanked me.

Yesterday, Katie sent me a very nice thank you note, letting me know that my one email address plus two additional names netted even more interviews than she’d hope for. Katie posted on Facebook some of her interview with the missionary whose address I had supplied, which then came to the attention of an editor of ChristianWritingToday.com. He was willing to give her photos for her book, and tell her about his thirty plus years as a photographer and journalist for short-term missions. And as a bonus, since he’s also a writer, he wants to stay in touch with Katie.

Maybe they’ll one day collaborate on another project.

It always amazes me how all of our lives connect and touch each other in ways only the Master weaver knows. Like like a single dip of an oar in the sea, you never know where your words or actions will ripple.

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Love Needs Memories

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Quinn’s grandpa, my loving husband, Bruce

 

My grandfather was an enterprising, intelligent, successful, and moral man. But Alzheimer’s disease stole all of that when he was only in his mid-sixties.

Once, he took his grandchildren down to the San Francisco financial district and gave us lessons about business and banks (all age appropriate) and people, and manners, and proper deportment. He took us on trips to the ocean, even though he was allergic to the sun, to the zoo, and Golden Gate park, and rowed us on Stowe Lake, and treated us to tea and cookies at the Japanese Tea Garden.

 

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Oh how I loved Granddaddy. He also played duets on the piano with my uncle Harold and sang funny songs from another era. He was a good provider, president of his import/export company, a loving husband, and a good gardener.

But Alzheimer’s gradually robbed him of an articulate tongue, of recent memories, and how to do simple things.

I remember visiting my grandparents when I was about fourteen. One night, my grandmother had put Granddaddy in the other bedroom in a twin bed. He was too restless to sleep in the same bed with Grandmommy. I was sleeping in the other twin bed. Granddaddy kept waking up yelling, “Help, help!”

i got up and tried to soothe him. “What wrong, Granddaddy?” He looked scared, and my grandfather had never been scared of anything.

He finally came to full consciousness and said, “It’s nothing. Don’t listen to me. Go back to sleep.”

Eventually my grandmother had to put him in a nursing home. We went to visit him but he didn’t remember us. Didn’t remember that he ever loved us or that he had done so many grandfatherly things with us. All of that was gone.

The last time I visited him, he was very close to death, was in a hospital, and didn’t have a mind. His emaciated body and sunken eyes shocked me. I think he only weighed about 80 pounds. My granddaddy had once been a robust 170 pounds on an average five foot nine frame.

Mercifully, pneumonia took him. I had just turned sixteen. My aunt June, the wonderful singer, tearfully sang for his funeral.

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A recent memory of a drive with my honey on the Cascade Loop and Diablo Lake

I thought, how terrible to lose your memories. When that happens, you don’t remember that you loved someone, and you don’t know that that woman or man standing over your bed loves you.

Being loved and loving others is the most important thing in the world. But if you don’t have any memories of that person or all that you’ve meant to each other, then you don’t love.

Nearly fifty years later, I’m thinking about my love for Jesus. How grateful I am to have memories of all that He’s done for me, His lovingkindness, faithfulness, His provision, His protection. If I lost those memories of all the times He’s revealed Himself to me, would I still love Him?

Psalm 103 says:

“Let all that I am praise the Lord;

may I never forget the good things He does for me.

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.

He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

He fills my life with good things;

my youth is renewed like the eagles.

 

How grateful I am that I can still remember all these things. I’ve learned not to take memory for granted because I’ve seen how quickly it can be stolen by disease. Yet even though we forget, God will never forget us, or that we are held in His mighty hand. What a comfort!

 

The Problem With Happiness

It’s a funny thing about amusement parks. They should be just about the happiest places on earth.

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But, as anyone who’s ever gone to Disneyland or Disney World, or Great Adventure, or LegoLand, or any other amusement park, there are gallons of tears shed by little tykes at these places.

Why?

I think it has to do with expectations.

Never mind that just being able to get through the entrance gates is a gift: a huge sacrifice for most middle-income parents or grandparents or from whomever is paying the entrance fee. (We shelled out 500 dollars the other day for Bruce and I, our daughter, and our two granddaughters. Not including parking fees and food and souvenirs.)

But kids don’t consider that kind of thing. They’re looking forward to rides and rides and rides, and snacks, and prizes and souvenirs and toys, and on and on.

So  the child enters through those noisy, crowded gates, heart aflutter, stomach buzzing, feet twitching to get to the first ride, any ride, jes-gimme-a-ride ride.

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The line is long for that first ride. It’s not the best ride, but at least it’s the nearest one to the entrance gate. All the other parents are thinking the same thing. So we inch along, slower than the proverbial snail.

At last the moment comes. We crawl into the kid-sized seats and pull the lap bar down firm against our middle-aged paunches.

The ride lasts about ten seconds. I see the look of surprised disappointment on my granddaughter’s face. That’s it? That’s what we waited half an hour for. One loop around, one scream, one dip, and we’re done?

Next, we head for the merry-go-round. That line is pretty long, too. I don’t go on this ride because I want to grab a few photos of the kids as they round the bend. The photos don’t come out too well, but at least the kids enjoyed the three go arounds.

Now they’re asking for a snack, so we head on over to the Asian food. We pay way too much, and the kids hardly touch their food. This is where I hear a kid whining about not being able to ride the roller coaster. A younger child is wailing because he didn’t get whatever. I didn’t want to eavesdrop.

We wait in the long line—there’s always a line— at the rest room. As we exit, I hear two other young kids crying.

My granddaughter is nervous about our next ride. It looks scary. I tell her “no worries ’cause we’re all strapped in and it doesn’t even go that high.”

The line for that ride wasn’t too awfully long maybe because one had to be at least three feet tall to ride. And we didn’t even have to go all the way to the top if we didn’t want to because we are the ones controlling the rope attached to the gears. Why didn’t we go higher up? my granddaughter asks afterward. Because you kept telling me to stop pulling us higher. You don’t like heights. But, after not getting killed on this particular ride, she’s a bit disappointed we didn’t risk going all the way to the top.

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I saw one dad try to get into a particular ride with a way-too-small child. After waiting for half an hour, he got turned away. But I didn’t feel too sorry for him. There was this bar at the entrance that said your child had to be at least this tall, but he must have thought the rule didn’t apply for him and for his child.

The weather is warm and this seems to make kids tired and cranky.

The smaller kids who still need to be wheeled around in strollers are complaining about being strapped into a hot seat. About ninety percent of them—the ones who aren’t asleep—are screaming for freedom.

The mothers have that harassed look you see when they’re about ten seconds away from going postal. They’re annoyed with the dads who aren’t helping with the screamer, even though the dads are carrying the camera, the diaper bag, with one kid on their shoulders and one in tow. (Is everybody happy?)

 

The ride workers have their instruction voices down cold. They’ve said their lines at least 16 billion times this season. They have smile lines etched into their faces like marionettes. I find myself simultaneously laughing and smarting at the thought of their daily grind. They remind me of the elves in Santa’s line in the movies, The Christmas Story.

What a happy place!

Mostly, Bruce and I enjoyed our seven hours of wait-lines and short rides and hot sun and cranky kids. Actually, our grandkids did amazingly well, considering the crowds and lines and exorbitant prices in the stores. I didn’t hear complaints. And I’m pleased with them. I hope they mature to the point that they don’t take the gift of attending an expensive amusement park for granted. I hope they got home and remembered to thank Mom and Dad for giving them such a great vacation instead of simply assuming it’s their due.

I thought a lot about this during those seven hours. How visiting an amusement park illustrates our human condition. We want to be happy, and happy all the time. We have expectations of pleasing ourselves 100 percent of the time. We forget about all the good things we’re getting or have gotten because of that one thing we didn’t get.

Why do we do that? I do that, and I hate than about myself. Each day I need to remind myself that life is not an amusement park. It may have amusement park moments, but these moments are only a part of our individual time-lines.

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I think the happy experience of the amusement park is happiest for those whose daily lives teach them that the expectation of constant happiness is simply not realistic, or even healthy. That this particular happy moment is a gift from God, a joyful handing over to His child a slice in time as a delectable and rare treat to be savored. And then, pleasing God by turning around and saying, “Wow, thanks, Lord. That was fun.”

 

 

 

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)