Thursday, October 30, 2008

Changing Seasons

I sat here at my writing desk a couple of days ago and watched leaves falling from our huge maple tree in the backyard. Sunshine bathed the yard as the leaves drifted down in the breeze. I put off thoughts of raking and just enjoyed the view. It got me thinking about seasons changing.

Change can be hard for people. Unfamiliar territory feels uncharted. What's waiting there in that new place? Sometimes we'd rather not experience the potential simply because the possibilities of a new season is accompanied by change.

Here are some things to remember about new seasons, especially if change is difficult for you:

~~ When one season ends, another is beginning.

~~ There's always something good in every season. Try making a list of what you like about the upcoming season, and use your senses. So, for autumn, you might include sights (colorful leaves), smells (hot apple cider, cinnamon candles, etc.), tastes (hot cocoa on a blustery night), touch (curling up with a warm blanket in front of the fire) and sounds (friends and family gathering for Thanksgiving holiday, Christmas carolers, etc.). There's always something to be grateful for. Focus on those things.

~~ God has good plans (Jeremiah 29:11). God is with you.

~~ Seasons are symbolic of changes in our lives and represent opportunities to go in new and better directions. Make changes in your life that are positive as the seasons change--like starting a new and good habit, setting goals and meeting them, etc. That practice will instill hope into the new season.

~~ An opportunity to change your environment. I know a woman who changes her entire living space every season, dressing it up (to the hilt) with seasonal decorations. She has tons of accessories for every season, and visiting her home is like being immersed into the season, whichever one it is. Get creative! Seasons are inspiring. God redecorates every season; that was His idea at creation.

Seasons don't (read: change doesn't) have to be frightening. When you were small, did you ever jump into a pile of freshly raked leaves? Oblivious to whatever might be in there, you tossed yourself in and flung yourself around, laughing with glee, the scents of decaying leaves filling your senses along with the smoke from someone's burn pile. I did that, several times. Then, I started thinking about the spiders, like the one I'd discovered skittering over the leaves one afternoon. And I stopped jumping in.

Here's today's invitation---don't stop jumping in!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Familiar Shadow

Do you ever choose the unhealthy thing (act, item) just because it’s familiar?

Familiarity is comfortable because we know what to expect. It feels safe, even if it’s actually far from safe. And when we feel safe and comfortable, oftentimes we feel secure. Again, even if the choice is indeed sabotaging us.

I was listening to a song the other day whose lyrics keep coming back to me.

Give up the comfort
of the familiar shadow

Do you give in to negative thoughts just because they’re what you’ve always done? Like an internal default mode? Maybe you grew up with negative voices around you. Complaining. Criticizing. Things start going well and you can’t cope because you’re anxious about the “bad thing that’s coming.” So you revert. Just because being negative is familiar.

In the case of pessimism, changing your tune to optimism might seem frightening because 1) people closest to you might not accept the change (they might mock your attempt or question you motives, drawing unwanted attention); 2) you might not feel genuine, (but the more you do it the more genuine your words will become); or 3) you might feel like a target for the enemy to come and wreak havoc in your life. Like a bulls eye goes up when you say "thank You, God, for what's happening in my life." Or, in the case of a trial: "I believe this is going to work out well. I can’t see it now, but I know God works things together for my good. So, I’m just going to push forward and watch what God does."

Remember, change brings freedom.

Choose the wholesome, beneficial option (emotionally, physically, even financially) one decision at a time. Step into something new for the sake of positive change in your life and watch how things turn around. I heard once that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results. Well, it’s probably not psychologically sound, but that definition certainly is logical. If you want to see positive changes in your life, make more positive choices.

Ask God for grace to live according to His Word. Just like anything in the Christian life, we can’t do it without God’s help. Sure, people can live “positively,” but in order to have a lasting, deep transformation, God’s Holy Spirit must be involved. If you’ve been comforted by a familiar shadow, turn it over to God, let His light shine on your life, both exposing those shadows (tendencies) and then showing you how to change. Then, the only step left is leaving that shadow behind in favor of His light.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Well-Earned Rest

Last night, after church, I spent some time tidying up our kitchen. We had had to leave without cleaning up everything from dinner in order to make church on time. So, before I could relax, it was time to finish up.

Afterwards, to the tune of the humming dishwasher, I settled in to read a good novel—Julie Lessman’s “A Passion Redeemed.” Ahhhhh . . . such wonderful relaxation.

Relaxation is best when it’s earned, don’t you think? If we sit around all day and not go to work, or meet our commitments, our lives become dull. Laziness leads to so many negatives—like not feeling useful, or seeing results, stagnating. But purposefulness results from working hard. Same’s true after a day of hard work outside or office work, meeting deadlines. A change of pace. A change of atmosphere. And whether it’s a movie or a book, or a chat with a friend or family member, relaxation is a gift we enjoy more after we’ve earned it.

Here’s to hard work followed by a great reward.

Monday, October 20, 2008


It’s raining and gusty outside. As I sit at my writing desk this morning, little birds make their way to the bird feeder outside my window. I used to think birds hid during the rain, preferring their warm nests to fluttering about searching for food.

These songbirds weren’t letting rain and wind keep them from getting what they needed.

Sometimes I let my schedule keep me from getting what I need from God. When you have small children at home, your time is not your own. And there are plenty of things pulling on me: family stuff, church commitments, house stuff, writing stuff, reviews waiting, etc.

The other challenge is that circumstances can keep us from going to the Lord. The enemy is really clever at lying to us. If you believe his lies you might avoid running to God. Satan convinced Eve in the garden that she couldn’t trust God’s heart.

Are there areas in your life where you don’t trust God’s heart?

We need to seek the Lord (daily devotions) no mater what the circumstances (weather). Good days (when we’re feeling good emotionally, strong physically, mentally and spiritually) as well as bad days (when our emotions are uprooted by trials). Think of your devotional time as “your necessary food” and don’t let anything get in the way of meeting with Jesus daily.

I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;

I have treasured the words of His mouth

More than my necessary food. (Job 23:12, ModernKJV)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What If?

A conversation recently got me thinking about Jesus' sacrifice, His death on the cross. I think we have often misunderstood God's heart. As humans, we have projected our own heart states onto Him. We have misjudged Him at times. Take the crucifixion, for example.

What if, by choosing such a horrific sacrifice, God meant to show the amazing extent of His love, not His brutality? By sending His only begotten Son, He was sending part of His very heart, His love. And for Jesus, the Son of God to commit to coming and agree to the sacrificial death required by the Law, He, too was showing His amazing love--a love that gives all for the sake of those who cannot successfully rescue themselves.

Somewhere in God's heart, He desired beings to love and who would voluntarily love Him back. He created humankind to become His family, a people who could choose to believe in Him and His goodness, believers who would become His Son's bride. You were created as a gift from God to His Son. But because we've sinned (everyone has), and because God is holy and pure, a penalty for sin is required. The Bible explains that the life of any living being is in its blood. And blood (or a life) is required to atone for sins. In the Old Testament, animals were offered in place of human lives or every human would have had to die. In the New Testament, a Human was offered once and for all.

This Human was perfect. He never sinned, so his sacrifice was pure enough to pay the full price. And because He was human, His sacrifice was a perfect match for us--a Human dying on behalf of others, rather than a bull or a lamb dying for people. Animals don't have a conscience as humans do. Jesus, as a human was the perfect match. Jesus as God was the perfect expression of God's love. He knew what He was agreeing to--a bloody death because that's what sin required, that's what the Law required. That's God's perfect way.

Personally, I cannot watch portrayals of the crucifixion of Christ. They are too much for me. I agree Jesus' death was horrific. But in His death and resurrection, I see a Hero.

This Hero agreed to die for me.
This Hero rose again so I can could have life without fear of death.
This Hero demonstrated His love so I could know God.
This Hero offered His life in my place, He did something for me I couldn't do for myself.
This Hero offers me a relationship which changes my heart and renews my mind, setting me free.
This Hero walks beside me everyday, guiding me.
This Hero offers the same to whosoever will come.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, NKJV)

This Hero loved you and I so much He died a bloody, sacrificial death so you could be His, so you could be free, so you could go to heaven when you die. All you have to do is understand you've sinned, you're lost without Him and you need His gift of salvation. Talk to Him. Tell Him "I've blown it. I'm lost. Please save me. Forgive me for sinning against you. Live inside me. Be my Hero, my Savior. I surrender my own ideas about what truth is and ask You to show me what's true. Help me understand Your Word, the Bible. Give me real life. Let me be born again. I need you."

In answer to why Jesus did what He did, at the Father's request, it was all for love. All for you. What an amazing demonstration of unconditional, accepting, sacrificial love.

"Greater love has no one than this,

than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13 (MKJV)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Guest Author: Siri Mitchell

I'm excited to welcome Siri Mitchell today. Siri and I recently met at the ACFW writer’s conference in MN. Read on to learn more about our exchange. Here's our interview celebrating the release of her book "A Constant Heart." We're also running a CONTEST for a chance to win a free copy. See below for more information.

Thank you, Siri, for visiting. Welcome!

Thanks so much for inviting me to visit. I’m excited to be here!

Tell us a little more about your writing life. How long have you been writing? Was “Kissing Adrien” your first book? (I love that book.)

Thanks for your kind words! I began writing in 1994; 4 manuscripts, 10 years, and 153 rejections later, my first book went under contract in 2004. But it wasn’t actually my ‘first’ book that got contracted; it was a fifth book that I wrote just for the publisher. They had read my non-fiction manuscript (Christians Should be More Parisian) and a fiction manuscript (which would later be published as Chateau of Echoes) and they asked if I could turn the non-fiction manuscript into a novel. After having written for 10 years without any publisher or agent interest, it actually took me a month or two to decide whether I really wanted to write a fifth manuscript without a firm commitment to publish. Eventually, I decided that I would try and, after having read some sample chapters, Harvest House contracted Kissing Adrien as well as the second manuscript I had written, Something Beyond the Sky.

Please tell us more about A Constant Heart. What is the plot of the story?

A Constant Heart represents a new path in publishing for me. It’s my first historical and is set in Elizabethan England where beauty is a curse, friendship is bought and sold, and true love is the unpardonable sin. Written from two POVs (his and hers) it follows a knight’s daughter upon her introduction to Court after her arranged marriage to an earl. When her introduction to the Queen goes awry she has to figure out how to navigate the courtier’s lifestyle and how to place her husband back into the Queen’s good graces. And along the way (horror of horrors!), the earl and his wife manage to fall in love.

What inspired this novel?

I knew I wanted to write a historical and I wanted to investigate what it would have been like to be a woman in a different era. I’ve always been interested in fashion, so that’s where I started my research. The more I read about the history of fashion, the more I realized I wanted to write about women in past eras and how (and why) they subjected themselves to dangerous beauty practices. The fashion element in this book was the use of lead-based cosmetics at the Elizabethan Court (and the resulting lead poisoning). The idea that a woman would destroy her body while trying to become beautiful was haunting. And I found the thought of love not being the answer (to any question at the Elizabethan Court) to be fascinating.

Will there be a sequel to A Constant Heart?

There’s not one currently planned. There will, however, be two historicals that follow it. The next, Love’s Pursuit, will be released in June. A classic love story set in Puritan New England, it features the fashion element of Puritan dress codes and it examines the great lengths to which God will go in order to pursue us. The third will be set in 1890s NYC during the debut into society of the main character. The fashion element is tight corseting. It will be a story of romance in unexpected places and of competition for the most eligible bachelor in the city. When marriage is an obligation and the social season is only a few months long, what’s a little rivalry among friends?

A Constant Heart is a very well-written historical. Is this your first historical? Why the change from contemporary? Which is your favorite to write (contemporary or historical)? Can we expect more historicals from you?

Thanks so much for the compliment! A Constant Heart is my first true historical. Chateau of Echoes had a medieval component to it, but it’s classified as contemporary fiction. I like writing in both genres and derive the same satisfaction from both. I have to admit though that writing historicals takes a bit longer for me simply because there’s more research to be done. Had I been smart, I would have proposed three historicals in the same time period. As it is, by the end of this year, I’ll be widely read in Elizabethan England, Puritan New England, and Victorian America!

What is the primary take-away you wish for readers to hold and ponder when they’ve finished reading A Constant Heart?

I want them to think. I want them to ask questions like: At what price, beauty? At what price, love? What is true beauty? Who owns beauty? And who gets to decide what is beautiful?

What’s next for you in writing?

Love’s Pursuit, the Puritan love story, will release in summer 2009. The third book, the Victorian romance, will release in spring or summer 2010…it will depend upon how quickly I can write it. I would love for readers to have access to it sooner rather than later, so I’m typing just as fast as I can!

How can readers learn more or contact you if they wish?

I love to hear from readers at Fun links for my books can be found at and readers can also sign up for my e-newsletter at that site. All readers are automatically entered every month in a drawing for a free book.

Thanks again for visiting! It’s been a pleasure. And it was great meeting you at ACFW’s conference 2008. We wish you all the best.

And now for my review:

When I caught up to her at the Mall of America Booksigning (where we made history with 127 Christian authors all in one place signing books!) she signed a book plate (a sticker) for me to take home with me for later placement in the book. Here’s what she wrote:

To Annette—

May your beauty

Always be

Your own


Wow, huh? I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. I'd never seen a comment like that when other authors had signed books. Then I read her novel. Amazing.

In the name of beauty, the characters in Siri’s book used lead paint on their faces in the court of Queen Elizabeth I. They also dyed their hair with potions that made them woozy and made their eyes burn. (oooh, that sounds a little familiar to our culture) In their wig-crazy upper society, the thinking was that the “hairs” would eventually fall out from all the mistreatment of the hot iron used to twist it which caused breakage as well as the dyes, and then you could order a periwig made. Problem solved! Oh, boy….

The female courtiers who wore the lead-based paint suffered lead poisoning without understanding their regimens in the name of fashion were killing them, affecting their mental capacity, their physical health and leading to the deaths of their babies (in utero as well as still births). Very sobering. Siri had a wonderful knack for immersing us in her story world. I loved that the book was written entirely first person POV. She took us into both the hero’s and the heroine’s heads. I highly recommend this well-researched book. Ladies will rethink their beauty regimens. This book is entertaining as well as insightful.

Other recommendations: Kissing Adrien, Siri Mitchell’s first published book.

CONTEST INFO: Hey readers, leave a comment for a chance to win Siri's book. We'll hold the drawing first thing Tuesday, October 14th.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Returning Author: Megan DiMaria

Today I'm thrilled to invite our friend Megan DiMaria back to the blog. Her latest book "Out of Her Hands" has just released. This is the sequel to "Searching for Spice." Below is our latest interview together with CONTEST information. Read on to learn more.

First of all, welcome back Megan! (FYI to our readers, Megan's name is pronounced /Meee gun/ and her last name is pronounced /Dee Maria/ (like Maria as a first name).

Tell us about your book, Out of Her Hands.
Have you ever heard the expression, "when our kids are little they're on our feet, and when they're older they're on our hearts?" That's how my character feels when her young adult children make questionable choices.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Linda Revere is losing control. Her grown children are poised to launch into life with exciting choices and endless possibilities. And like all parents, she only wants the best for them. She has been praying for her children’s future spouses since they were very small. Confident that her prayers will be answered, Linda is not prepared for the young woman her son brings home.

In the midst of balancing a challenging job managing an upscale photography studio with her busy home, Linda is trying to help her father-in-law get on with life after he’s widowed. And now her best friend and confidante is moving across the country. How does Linda manage when she realizes it’s all out of her hands?

Can we expect a third book in the series? When??

No, Out of Her Hands wraps up the “Linda Revere Series.”

What’s next for you? What are you writing now?

My current work in progress is about a forty-something woman who is eager to experience the empty nest, but life and her family are getting in the way of allowing her to realize her dreams of romance with her husband and exploring new hobbies and interests. I’ve tentatively titled it Many Happy Returns.

Is there anything specific you’d like to share with your readers about your writing in general? Anything “behind the scenes?”

I don’t have a designated office, and I move about my house and yard (weather permitting) when I write. I have a laptop and a wooden lap desk that I use daily. I write at the kitchen table, the patio lounge chair, the dining room, the living room, and my bed. My favorite place is my patio but anywhere I can get comfy is good. Occasionally I’ll go out to Panera Bread or a bookstore to write.

I’ve found that some of my most productive writing sessions are the most unexpected situations. Once I was meeting friends for coffee, and got a call they would be delayed. I had my laptop in the car with me, and wrote nearly 800 words waiting for them to join me. I almost didn’t want to stop writing. LOL!

Thanks for visiting again, Megan! We’re excited watching your writing career blast off! How can readers contact you? Thanks for your support, Annette. I love to connect with readers. They can visit my blog at, or my website at where there is an “email me” button.

And here's my review:

Once again, Megan deftly immerses the reader into Linda Revere’s life. Linda has a grown son, who still lives at home, and she’s very concerned about his choices. But, who can control her grown son’s choices? or the rest of her life, for that matter? Through her use of first person, Megan takes the female reader through a series of relatable events. Her style allows for introspection and potential conviction (the hallmark of good Christian fiction). As with “Searching for Spice,” this story takes the readers deeper than they think they will go. I highly recommend this novel to women who can relate with elements of their lives being beyond their immediate influence. Watching Linda Revere tackle life’s problems will challenge, inspire and entertain you.

CONTEST info: We’ll be having a drawing to give away a copy of Megan’s book “Out of Her Hands.” So, leave a comment. We’ll have the drawing Tuesday, October 7th. Thanks for reading!