Thursday, April 3, 2014

Being Vulnerable -- It Can Be a Good Thing

Our church just had a ladies retreat weekend. I wasn't able to go, however, two of the ladies in my life group reported on the retreat.  Sounds like I missed a good one.

The theme was about being vulnerable.  When we're vulnerable and open to others, we also learn we're not alone.  We find fellowship, support and encouragement with one another.

Now, this is something that I understand, but I still struggle with.  I'm not always open when I have needs. I'm not one to always request prayers.  I'll share the joys, but don't always share the stuff with which I'm really struggling.

This isn't because my friends won't be there for me.  I know they would be in a heartbeat!  The few times I have opened up when I've needed prayer and support, they've been there.

I think my issue is that I don't want to come across whiny or negative.  Do you have people in your life that when you see their name come up on your caller ID, you almost dread talking with them. It's going to be something negative -- because that's just their personality.  Then sometimes you end up ducking their calls.

I don't want to be that person, the one who is avoided.  Generally, I'm a very positive person and try to look at the bright side of life (to use a cliche).  But I'm also sensitive.  It's hard to be open and vulnerable, because you don't want to get stomped on either.

A couple of weeks ago, a woman at the gym, who truly was trying to be encouraging, said something about me needing cuter workout clothes.  What was something that was meant to encourage me in my workouts, only hit a sensitive spot of my weight.  Now I've lost 75 pounds, and I feel good.  And I definitely don't go to the gym to impress anybody else.  But for some reason, her words just hit a mark.  Stupid, huh?

But things like that shouldn't prevent from opening up to my friends, to those who care about me.  When we open up, we learn that we're not alone in this life and that others are going through the same things we are.  We really can share together and learn from our various experiences.

One thing to remember though, is that why you're asking for prayer from someone and sharing your story, take the time to listen to them and let them share with you.  Let's be there for each other.

Being vulnerable isn't one-sided.

What are your thoughts on being vulnerable?  Opening up or trusting another? Is it easy or difficult for you to do?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

ACFW New Releases: April 2014

April 2014 New Releases

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.

Contemporary Romance:


A Plain Man by Mary Ellis -- When a man returns to Amish ways after years apart, rigid district rules, a judgmental father, and his own pride conspire to separate him from the woman he loves. Josie Yoder was just a girl when he left. All grown up now, she gives Caleb hope for the future and reminds him that while his faith may have wavered, God never left his side. But will past mistakes end up destroying their fledgling romance before it really has a chance to begin? (Contemporary Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert -- After ten years in the fashion industry, twenty-four year old model Ivy Clark has learned a sacred truth-appearance is everything. When it starts to unravel, she'll do anything to hold on. Even if that means moving to the quaint island town of Greenbrier, South Carolina, to be the new face of her stepmother's bridal wear line-an irony too rich for words, since Ivy is far from the pure bride in white. If only her tenuous future didn't rest in the hands of Davis Knight, her mysterious new photographer. Not only did he walk away from the kind of success Ivy longs for to work maintenance at a local church, he treats her differently than any man ever has. Is it possible that God sees her-a woman stained and broken by the world-yet wants her still? (Contemporary Romance from Waterbrook/Multnomah [Random House])

Rescued by the Firefighter by Gail Gaymer Martin -- A firefighter who has saved many lives except his own meets a woman with a surprising secret who could save him if she would allow him to save her first. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Unexpected Wedding by Carla Rossi -- In a wheelchair since a fall in college, Rocky Lionakis plays guitar and shares his testimony every week with the campers at Towering Pines summer church camp. At peace with his chair, he has settled into a boring but successful career in technology...but then stunning camp counselor, Gia Rinaldi, enters his life and turns it upside down. Giavanna Rinaldi, with a trail of bad choices in her wake, has finally grown up and found her niche as a student of Christian child psychology. She returns to Camp Towering Pines where she's worked since high school, but unsettling dreams and an unexplained illness lead her to a harrowing discovery. (Contemporary Romance from White Rose Publishing [Pelican])

Rodeo Song by Shannon Taylor Vannatter -- Jenna Wentworth found the man of her dreams. But when silken-voiced Garrett Steele set out for stardom, he left Jenna-and his cowboy past-far behind. A chance encounter at one of his concerts propels him back into Jenna's life. Once upon a time, Garrett vowed he'd be a success, no matter what. But that path shattered his soul. His reunion with Jenna makes him long for things he once took for granted. Now he must show her that he's found what he was looking for all along...right here in his hometown.  (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Historical Romance:

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin -- A young, bitter, Jewess-in-hiding must send her own people to Auschwitz in order to survive, or put her trust in God by giving her heart to the man responsible for their doom. (Historical Romance from Bethany House [Baker])

Rainy Day Dreams by Lori Copeland and Virginia Smith -- When the Burgert family moves to Seattle in 1852, Kathryn is convinced her father has destroyed her life. The backwoods settlement offers none of the comforts and culture she loves in San Francisco. She cares nothing for the new sawmill the townsfolk are so excited about. That is, until she meets Jason, a lumberjack with dreams for a bright future. As she comes to know Jason, Kathryn can't help catching his vision. But the future they hope for is anything but secure. There are some who see Seattle as a threat and will stop at nothing to make sure the sawmill fails. A gripping story of love, tenderness, and survival in the rugged Pacific Northwest. (Historical Romance from Harvest House Publishers)


The Preacher's Bride Claim by Laurie Kingery -- For the Thornton brothers, the Oklahoma Land Rush is the perfect opportunity to finally put down some roots. A new start, a new community-what more could preacher Elijah Thornton need. Not a wife-not after losing his fiancée. But something draws him to the pretty nurse whose eyes are clouded by trouble. (Historical Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Sincerely Yours by Ann Shorey, Laurie Alice Eakes, Amanda Cabot, and Jane Kirkpatrick -- Four young women find their lives altered after each receives a letter that sets her on a new path toward a changed life--and perhaps lifelong love. From a Hudson River steamboat to a lush drawing room, from a carousel carver's workshop to a remote and controversial hospital, readers will love being swept into the lives of four young women who are making their way in the world and finding love where they least expect it. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker Publishing Group])

The Pelican Bride by Beth White -- It is 1704 when Genevieve Gaillain and her sister board a French ship headed for the Louisiana colony as mail-order brides. Genevieve knows life won't be easy, but at least here she can establish a home and family without fear of beheading. But when she falls in love with Tristan Lanier, an expatriate cartographer whose courageous stand for fair treatment of native peoples has made him decidedly unpopular in the young colony, Genevieve realizes that even in this land of liberty one is not guaranteed peace. (Historical Romance from Revell [Baker PublishingGroup])

Circle of Spies by Roseanna M. White-- Baltimore, 1865--Marietta Hughes never wanted to be a spy...but espionage is thrust upon her as the War Between the States rolls on. Unbeknownst to her, a Confederate secret society bent on destroying the Union she loves has been meeting in her basement. When she discovers the plots and papers covering her walls, she feels as though she is losing her world. Slade Osborne, an undercover Pinkerton agent, is determined to do whatever is necessary to help end the conflict between the North and the South. When he infiltrates this secret cell, it isn't just their inner workings that baffle him--it's the beautiful woman who seems to be a puppet for the new leader and yet...somehow not an enemy of the Union. Can he trust her? (Historical Romance from Harvest House Publishers)

Contemporary:

Dynamo by Eleanor Gustafson -- Jeth Cavenaugh trains both show jumpers and the 5-gaited stallion Dynamo, but God, in extraordinary ways, is training Jeth-for what? (Contemporary from Whitaker House)

Just 18 Summers by Rene Gutteridge and Michelle Cox -- After the tragic death of Butch Browning's wife, Jenny, four families begin to realize how precious-and fleeting-their time together is. Each is at a different stage in life: Butch is facing single parenthood. The O'Reillys are expecting their first child. The Andersons are approaching an empty nest, and the Buckleys are so focused on providing their children with everything that they've forgotten what they truly need. With just eighteen summers before their children are grown, how do they make the most of that time when life so often gets in the way? (Contemporary from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

The Women of Valley View: Pam by Sharon Srock -- Pam's divorce broke her heart. The cruelty of her ex-husband broke her spirit. A bottle of sleeping pills almost took her life. Four years later the scars of Alan Archer's emotional abuse are beginning to fade under the love of her new husband. When Alan returns to Garfield, Pam must learn that buried secrets and carefully cultivated indifference do not equal forgiveness. (Contemporary from Harbourlight Books [Pelican])

Medical Thriller:

Critical Condition by Richard L. Mabry M.D. -- It was supposed to be a quiet dinner party with her colleagues. Not the scene of a murder. Dr. Frasier couldn't save the gunshot victim on her front lawn. Now she's fighting for her own life. With a sister suffering from addiction, and her own fear of commitment to her "almost-fiancé" causing guilt, she turns to her pastor-father for help, only to learn he's just been diagnosed with leukemia. Shannon thought it couldn't get any worse. Then the late-night, threatening phone calls begin, the rough voice asking, "What did he say before he died?" With everything around her in a critical state, simply staying alive will require all the resources and focus Shannon has. (Thriller/Suspense from HarperCollins [Thomas Nelson & Zondervan])

Romantic Suspense:

Perilous Waters by Sandra Orchard -- On an Alaskan cruise, an undercover FBI agent, seeking evidence of art crimes, befriends an heiress trying to convince her twin to sell their gallery, except an assassin has different plans. (Romantic Suspense from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bloom Where You're Planted

In watching the Winter Olympics over the past few weeks, it struck me that many of these athletes more than likely became athletes because of where they were born or living at the time they became passionate about their sport.

I know that's not always true -- examples like the Jamaican bobsled team, the lone athlete from the Philippines, who was a figure skater, and even a skier or snowboarder who was from Indiana. Hmmm.... I don't recall many mountains in Indiana.

But how much does geographic location influence our life choices?  I'm a military brat, so we moved frequently.  In elementary school, we lived in Virginia.

I loved Virginia! The beaches were great. I loved learning about colonial history.  I loved the field trips to Jamestown and visiting Williamsburg. I could see myself attending the College of William and Mary and hanging out in Williamsburg or at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. for the rest of my days.

Alas, the military moved us again -- to New Mexico.  New Mexico couldn't have been much different from Virginia!  As our location shifted, so did my dreams. Throughout middle school and the beginning of high school, I knew I was going to California.  I was going to attend UCLA and work in the entertainment industry. That was my plan. I was going to make it big in Hollywood.

But plans change. In the middle of high school, we were transferred again. This time to Austin, Texas.  Yep, it's true. Texas is like a whole other country.  And Austin had a great university right there, so I ended up close to home, going to the University of Texas (Hook 'Em Horns). My entertainment dreams were still around, because I studied studied Radio, Television and Film.

Geography did have an influence on my life. I haven't been to Virginia since I was a little girl.  I have never lived in California.  Now, I did work for 15 years in Radio and Television -- in New Mexico, so that dream never died. It just moved with me to where I was living at the time.

Six and a half years ago, my husband got a job in the Dallas area.  Dallas?  No, if I was living in Texas, it should be Austin or San Antonio.  Dallas wasn't even on my radar.

But guess what?  We love it here.  Like any good military brat, I know how to make wherever I'm living be "home."  And this truly does feel like home to me.

While there are some who will leave home to pursue their dreams -- the Olympic athletes who go to where the best training facilities are, who learn the love of their sport from growing up surrounded by that sport -- most of us will bloom where we're planted.  It may be a different place than our childhood home or it may be the place where we're born and raised and "everybody knows your name."

In all my dreams of Williamsburg and Hollywood, even Austin, I never thought about Dallas. It's a good thing God knows best.

I believe that God has me right where he wants me -- and I need to bloom right here.

I wouldn't change a thing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Can You Be an Inspiration?

Olympic MedalsThe Winter Olympics are happening, and yes, I'm watching.  I love the inspiring and uplifting stories, the competition, patriotic pride and more.

To see athletes achieve their lifelong goals along side those who are just happy to be in Sochi right now is heartwarming.  Remember the young American skier, Heidi Kloser, who was injured in a training run before opening ceremonies, and hobbled into the stadium on crutches? When she was injured, her first question was "Am I still an Olympian?"

During opening ceremonies, the commentators talked about another athlete, I believe the only athlete from his particular country,  who knew he would come in dead last his event, but it didn't matter. He was just happy to be there.

So while we are inspired by the medalists and all they've accomplished, are these two athletes  I've mentioned any less inspiring?  I love that these two (and so many others) are happy to be Olympians, to have strived, trained, and worked to make it that far and to experience this international competition that's unlike anything else.

Most of us won't make such a big impact on an international, or even national stage in our lives.  But I believe we can be an inspiration in our own little world.  What can we do for others around us -- in our city, neighborhood, at our jobs, or heck, even in our own home?  Are we striving to make a difference? Are we shining God's light and inspiring someone else no matter where we are?

What can you do today to shine?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Being Whole with Missing Parts




I saw a story on CBS Sunday Morning this past weekend about wounded warriors playing music, lead by Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.

One of these hero warriors lost a hand and both legs in Afghanistan.  He told the story of how when his world was crashing down around him, he heard God's voice ask "do you still trust me?"  In that moment, that brave soldier trusted. The result, despite the loss of limbs, he said he's never felt more whole in his life.

His words and his attitude touched me and inspired me in a profound way. 

That statement brought me to tears as I watched the video of this young man singing "Hallelujah", backed up by a band of other hero soldiers, including a drummer who had lost both legs and an arm, and could still play a mean set of drums.

In a very tiny, tiny way, I can relate. Having a double mastectomy due to breast cancer hasn't made me less of a person...or less of a woman. (Of course I have the most amazing husband, who encourages and supports me with his unconditional love.)

I can relate to that soldier because in some ways I've never felt more whole.  God uses the tragedies and tough times in our lives to lead us to something good. God saved my life, and saved the lives of these soldiers for a purpose.

I have such gratitude for my life, and pray to fulfill the purpose of God's will.

So, despite what we all think is missing in our lives, whether physical or emotional, maybe we need to take a moment to be grateful for all we do have....and not focus on what's missing.  

I guess we need to ask ourselves "do we trust God?"

Thoughts to ponder as we head into the season of thanks.

If you're interested, here's the link to the uplifting and inspiring story on CBS Sunday Morning:  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3445_162-57611639/band-of-brothers/

It's worth your time to watch.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Staying Present

I saw a quote this week from a friend on Facebook:  Whatever happened to being in the moment when you do something?

It got me to thinking.  Are we all so busy multi-tasking that we forget to be in the moment?  To enjoy what's going on right this minute?

I know some of us are always thinking about tomorrow, about the step or even the next item on our list? We're planning, organizing and thinking about the future.  

Believe me, there's nothing wrong with planning and organizing.  Sometimes that helps us enjoy what's yet to come.

But is your ear so glued to your cell phone, that even when you're checking out at the grocery store, you can't put the darn thing down to say hello to the cashier and thank the teenager who's bagging your groceries?  Or even just to focus on the task of unloading your grocery cart with more than one hand? (Can you tell this is one of my pet peeves?)

How many of us are truly appreciative of today, of this moment?  In this moment, I'm doing something I love (writing on my blog).  I am in my beautiful home actually enjoying the rainy weather.  God is good, because I'm able to do this.

Even if you're not at the perfect job, or your kids are driving you crazy, or you're facing illness or problems... isn't it time to take a look around? To be thankful that you have a job, that you are blessed with children, and that good doctors are all around us?

I've had cancer twice and God still wants me here.  So while I'm here on this earth, I want to be present in every moment.  Even in the routine, like going to the grocery store, I want to stay involved with what I'm doing. If nothing else, just to be courteous to those around me, standing in line behind me, or working hard as they ring up my grocery total and put my items in bags.

The reality is, no matter what we're doing, it's best if we only do one thing at a time before moving on to the next project.  I know I'm a better worker when I do that.

So, take a moment today to look around. Quit multi-tasking so much and enjoy right where you are, right now.  

Stay in the present.  Remember the quote from Ferris Bueller's Day Off: "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

I, personally, don't want to miss a thing!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Balancing Act

Our pastor of worship arts gave a great message over the weekend.  I've been pondering his words for the past few days. 

He spoke about Christians living in a bubble and how we need to step out from that bubble.  And when we step out of that bubble, how are we perceived? 

I think it's a matter of finding the balance.  We need our "Christian bubble" for encouragement, support, to learn and grow as Christians, and to go deep in our friendships. We need that fellowship.

But with our jobs, our hobbies, heck, even at the grocery store, we're going to run into people of different faiths, different lifestyles and some who very decidedly are not Christians.

So, how do these other people perceive us?  If you think about the perception of Christians in general, do you think that perception is positive?  I think we all know the answer to that.

Growing up, I remember a song from church: "They will know we are Christians by our love..."

What's one of the most well-known verses in the Bible: "Love one another."

Are we missing that message these days?  If you run across someone living a lifestyle you know is contrary to God's word, how do you treat them? 

You may immediately counter with how we are being treated.  That's not the point.  In all our dealings with people in our lives, we should be courteous, kind and most of all respectful.  Whether you agree or disagree with their views, actions, lifestyle, religion -- don't you think we'll get farther in our relationships and in our ability to plant some seeds, if they are planted with kindness and respect?

I know Christians are supposed to share the good news of the Bible.  Yet, our calling may not be to change people right there on the spot. For me personally, I believe that I plant more seeds, show Christ's love more abundantly by how I live my life and how I treat others.

If I am kind, considerate and respectful -- won't that give a better image of "Christian" than showving my views down someone's throat?  I don't like when someone shoves their views at me.  How do you want to be treated?

Again, it's a balance.  And it's a thin tightrope to walk.  But I believe in the old saying "Kill 'em with kindness."

Personally, I want someone to know "we are Christians by our love."