Wildflowers from Winter: Emily Shuff’s Beauty from Pain

Emily with daughter #2, Paisley Kate!

Today, many people
are spreading hope across facebook and the blogosphere thanks to KatieGanshert. Her debut novel, Wildflowers from Winter is about to release! It’s an
amazing story of a woman whose painful past springs with hope and beauty. Katie
asked that today, we share a story of hope, where beauty grew from pain. I’m
excited to share with you, not my story–I share my stuff all the time–but the
story of a beautiful woman (inside and out). She’s not only our Creative Arts
pastor’s wife, but she’s also a dear friend to me.
She’s like sunshine
mixed with cool breezes, ice cream cones and rainbows. Everything we love and
would miss if they went away. Today, Emily Shuff, is sharing her Wildflowers
from Winter story and my prayer and hers is that it will extend to you and give
you the same hope!
Welcome Emily!
Getting married so
young at 17 and 19,  I wasn’t in a hurry
for kids but we also thought whatever happens is fine. We never really did
anything to prevent pregnancy and never really thought much when nothing
At 17 life happens
when you want it to anyway, right?! It wasn’t until years later that we
decided, “Ok we are ready for this blessed event to occur”…so now it will
happen because we want it and we are ready… Right?! We started “trying” to
get pregnant.
Months would come
and go and once again it was the same thing.
No baby.
Daughter #1 Lexie Rae
 It was difficult to say the least…a lot like
a roller coaster, high hopes at the beginning of the month followed by drastic
let downs when again that second pink line never showed up. I knew God was able
but just didn’t understand why he wouldn’t let it happen.
I thought through
every scenario possible…. was I just not cut out to be a good mom or had my
past just been to much that I wasn’t able to be trusted with such a precious
gift? We decided to talk to the doctor and start getting tested. Knowing seems
to make everything better! In Spring of 2005 we were sitting across the desk
from a very kind doctor and in the most compassionate way he told us, “There’s
always IVF. You guys look like you love each other though and I’m sure you will
be ok.”
Crushed doesn’t even
begin to describe the feelings we had at the moment
. We had no thread of hope
except to trust the Lord. IVF wasn’t even an option…still young and starting
out in life we were far from being able to afford any expensive medical procedures.
We took a couple steps back and said, “OK God it’s in your hands. We will
wait on You and whatever You choose to do. We had one couple that Doug and I
were close with that knew what we were facing and that was it.
It wasn’t exactly
good dinner conversation, you know? But, I reached the place that I didn’t care
who knew I just needed to know God knew… And He did. In APRIL of 2005 at a
Sunday evening church service during the altar time I had a VERY specific word spoken
to me by a guest evangelist about rebuking emptiness and bareness and releasing
healing.  He knew the pain and He sent hope.
I held so tightly to
that word. I listened to it over and over. I clung to Isaiah 55:8-11, that God
sent that word for a specific purpose. As I began to dig into the Word deeper I
quickly realized that there were a lot of women who also went through the same
situation. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth…. quite an extensive
list. In my pain I thought God was doing this to punish me for my past but what
had these women done, why them too?
Pastor  Doug and Emily with baby number #3, son #1, Nathan
 I realized God wasn’t punishing, but He was
evoking faith in them, in me.
He wanted me to trust
Him to get closer to Him and He decided to use one of the most special and
precious areas to a woman He could use…her womb, my womb. So, I hoped this
word meant that we got two pink lines the very next month but we didn’t or the
month after that either. In fact…three years had passed…
The roller coaster
continued each month but we clung to the hope that He still knew. In June of
2008, I got the surprise of a lifetime…. two pink lines.
We came to find out
that I was due in January of 2009…which meant that I had gotten pregnant in,
can you believe, APRIL of 2008! I nearly passed out when I realized this.
Almost 3 years exactly to the day after God spoke to my pain I conceived a
miracle, eight years into our marriage.
Proud papa, Pastor Doug with Nathan!
If the story ended
there it would be great….but it doesn’t! We decided that we would continue to
not prevent pregnancy because we loved the idea that we could have more kids if
the Lord was willing to give them to us and in, yep you guessed it, APRIL of
2010, we found out we were expecting our second child. But wait…there’s more!
 Just this APRIL on the 20th I gave birth to
our third child. God has blessed our family with more than we could ever ask or
imagine. We have 3 beautiful children. Our oldest daughter, a bright eyed
little lady, Alexia Rae. Our middle child, full of pure sweetness, Paisley
Kate, and our newest addition, Nathan Riley. With each child and the details
surrounding their arrivals God displayed His greatness, His great love and His
He was never trying to punish me or thought I was incapable of
parenting or loving a child He was teaching me to trust Him and He used one of
the most precious ways for me to learn that trust.  
Lots of  precious hope fulfilled! 
Have you ever watched the impossible happen in your life? Are you still waiting on the impossible! Dote on Em’s babies, cause they’re adorable! 🙂

In honor of Katie’s debut novel releasing soon, she’s giving away a copy of her book to a lucky winner! All you have to do is leave your email address in the comment section if you want to be entered! I will draw the winner through a random generator and announce it on Monday!

*If you are reading this through facebook and can’t comment in the blog comments, let me know in the comments of facebook if you’d like to be entered and I’ll message you if you win!

A young architect at
a prestigious Chicago firm, Bethany Quinn has built a life far removed from her
trailer park teen years. Until an interruption from her estranged mother
reveals that tragedy has struck in her hometown and a reluctant Bethany is
called back to rural Iowa. Determined to pay her respects while avoiding any
emotional entanglements, she vows not to stay long. But the unexpected
inheritance of farmland and a startling turn of events in Chicago forces
Bethany to come up with a new plan.
Handsome farmhand
Evan Price has taken care of the Quinn farm for years. So when Bethany is left
the land, he must fight her decisions to realize his dreams. But even as he
disagrees with Bethany’s vision, Evan feels drawn to her and the pain she keeps
so carefully locked away. 
For Bethany, making
peace with her past and the God of her childhood doesn’t seem like the path to
freedom. Is letting go the only way to new life, love and a peace she’s not
even sure exists? 
You can pre-order Wildflowers from Winter here. It debuts May 8th! 

Guest Blogger: Ben Adams, Hold the Basket

Ben and his beautiful family!

Today I’d like to introduce you to Ben Adams. Ben attends my church and is a dynamic leader, great speaker, and all around funny guy. He’s married to a fabulous and funny woman and they home-school their 4 girls! I’m always inspired by Ben and his beautiful wife, Lisa. I’m thrilled to have him here guest posting. I know you’ll be inspired as well.

Heeeere’s Ben!

 A few days ago my wife returned home to share her latest adventure at Kroger. As she began to tear up I was already preparing to go confront some rude checker or maybe put a GPS tracker on the person who had hurt her feelings.  As I listened further I discovered that the tears were from watching an elderly mother push her basket out of the store while her grown “special needs” daughter clung to the cart.  The mom looked tired not just from age, but probably also due to years of caregiving to her daughter.  My wife wondered just how many times over the years that the daughter had heard her mom say,”Now hold on to the basket”. It had obviously sunk in.
     These kind of scenes always tug at our hearts because we have a “special needs” daughter who is only 9 years old.  From time to time we allow ourselves to look into the future and imagine what our retirement years might be like when our Sweet Caroline is an adult. We know God will provide our needs in all situations, but some days the task seems large.  As the Kroger story finished I was quickly taken back a few years to a trip to Sam’s Club.  I have always loved shopping at that massive warehouse. I get excited not only with the size of the store, but with the fact that I can purchase office supplies and milk in the same place followed by lunch at the deli.  It was just Caroline and me on this trip.  Caroline’s delay in speech was very obvious at that time and she maybe had about 15 total words in her vocabulary.  Caroline had been to Sam’s numerous times and gotten a bit bolder in trying to wander away from the basket with each trip.
     “Hold on to the basket, Caroline.” I would tell her repeatedly. I made it to the bakery section and she wanted to look at all of the birthday cakes on display.  In the brief moments that I studied which loaf of bread would offer the most savings I turned to see that Caroline was out of view. I quickly scanned the bakery area and saw no sign of her.  I noticed an entry to a restricted worker area, but nobody had seen a small child wandering around. I began to feel my heart race a little faster as I jogged from aisle to aisle and could not find my daughter.  I worked my way from the back to the front and after 5 minutes of searching I ended up at the exit door and asked security if they had seen any small children pass by.  They said nobody matching Caroline’s description had been by.  I asked them to check every kid that moved their direction to see if they could spot her.  I don’t panic easily but I had never lost a child for this length of time.  I was already wondering how I would explain this to my wife.  How could I have been so careless with our weakest and most vulnerable little one?  God help me!!!!
As I ran back towards the refrigeration section on this 10 minute search I finally spotted a nice lady just standing in place holding Caroline’s hand. Her face said she recognized that she had a lost child and was determining her next course of action. Caroline looked quite confused as to why her dad would have disappeared from her for so long. As I drew closer Caroline used one of her few words and exclaimed, “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaddddddddd”!!!!  A baseball sized lump grew in my throat.  I was unable to even thank the “angel” lady who took the time to stand there with my girl until her Dad showed up.  I swept Caroline up in my arms and went to a private corner of the store and began to sob as I kissed those sweet cheeks a million times.  One passerby asked if everything was OK and I said, “They are now”!  Caroline seemed puzzled by my tears as she stroked my hair and asked, “OK, OK”?  I have never forgotten that experience and can’t begin to count how many times I have told Caroline to hold on to the basket every time we make a trip to a store.
As I continue to grow daily in my walk with Jesus I realize more and more of just how many times I tend to wander off from His Guidance because I see something flashy that catches my eye.  I don’t intend to wander away, but there are just so many things pulling me from where my focus should be.  Before I know it I am several aisles away in a large warehouse type world wondering where my Dad is.  I am so thankful that Jesus continues to pursue all of us the way I chased down Caroline in that store.  Jesus willingly leaves the 99 to go out in search for the ONE!!  Those reunions are just as wonderful as when I held Caroline in the corner.  The sign of maturity in our spiritual walk is when we finally learn to “hold on to the basket” because if we do , Jesus will always lead us HOME.  
That’s exactly where I want to be!!
I’m over at Living By Grace today! Come chat! 

Guest Post by Jessica Dotta: How a Little Can Change A Lot

We have much to be judged on when he comes, slums and battlefields and insane asylums, but these are the symptoms of our illness and the result of our failures in love.” — Madeleine L’Engle

When my brother traveled to the Sudan he had an encounter that changed his life—and as it ends up, mine too.
He stood in Darfur at an orphanage filled with children leftover from the genocide. There were over 800 children, and during the night wild dogs were dragging them off and killing them.
My brother already felt shell-shocked from the travesties he’d witnessed in Uganda.
The day was hot. The sun beat down upon him. His camera had nearly been ruined from all the dust. He’d barely slept. His gear was heavy. Yet his conscience was seared by the numbness he felt, so he turned and confessed to a Sudanese pastor.
“We shall pray right now that your heart will be opened,” he was told.
Not long after that prayer three young children approached Joshua and started to follow him. After a bit, his father nature kicked in and he stopped and sang Father Abraham. It didn’t take long before the four of them were dancing and going through the motions.
When they finished, he asked the children to tell him how they came to be there.
The oldest, a girl, answered. “The soldiers came and shot my mother and father, so I came here.”
The two other children nodded in agreement. “Me, too.”
He was grief struck, but it was what transpired next that tore my heart. “Do you have a Mommy?” The little girl asked my brother.
“Yes,” he answered.
“And a Daddy?”
Again, his answer was yes.
“Oh,” she said, her voice hinting at a strange intermingling of numbness and grief.
Her question stirs me still. For I believe it came from her soul and revealed the thoughts of her heart. She didn’t want to know what his country was like, what kind of food he ate, or what he did for a living. She had her own bullet holes leftover from the genocide. Her world consisted of this single question: Who still had parents and who didn’t?
In her questions I heard her worry and fear. Imagine being trapped in a war-torn country, a land of famine, drought and disease. Imagine trying to survive it as an orphan with death threatening you every hour. No matter how much she’s endured, at the end of the day, she’s still just a little girl. And all she really wants is her Mom and Dad.
I imagined my daughter living as an orphan in the Sudan. If I were shot and dying, it would be my hope that my brothers and sisters would care for her. But what if her aunts and uncles were killed too? What was it then, that her parents hoped?
As members of the body of Christ these children are not alone. They have aunts and uncles. Multitudes and multitudes and multitudes of them. Talk about staggering! These kids are our nieces and nephews! Mine. 
So who, I wondered, within the church has the responsibility to step in?
I didn’t like the answer that came. Earlier that week I was shocked to learn that globally I was one of the richest people in the world—even though as an American, I’m pretty poor.
Like it or not I was the rich aunt. I had knowledge of the situation. That made me accountable.
I wasn’t comfortable with the knowledge then, and I’m not comfortable with the knowledge now. But I am determined to do something. Anything.

That day Joshua had in his possession a picture book that someone had asked him to give to someone in the Sudan. It was a children’s book with a story about how we have a Heavenly Father who always loves and cares for us. Joshua read the book and gave it to them.
An American woman took it upon herself to raise the money to build shelter. Every person who donated, even a dollar, helped to create a place where the little girl now sleeps safe from wild dogs.
When Joshua told me he’s going to start a branch of Watermelon Ministries called Media Change, a non-profit encouraging Americans to give up a portion of the money spent on entertainment to serve those fighting world hunger and thirst, I wanted to support it.
For seven years he’s helped non-profits raise money that serves the “least of these.” He’s seen the impact a small investment can have. This is a brand new initiative. He’s not quite ready to launch, but you can sign up and be kept updated at www.mediachange.org. His first goal is garner the support of 10,000 people who are willing to give $10 a month. I’m number #3.
This is only a blog post, but who knows what one blog post can do.
What if the task of helping others isn’t 
as overwhelming as we make it?
Jessica Dotta, Sr. Editor of Inspire a Fire, has earned the right to wear the title of: Social Media Specialist, Consultant, Publicist, Brand Manager, Editor, Writer, Social Activist, and Business Manager. But the only titles that matter to her are: Called – Redeemed – Beloved – Known by the Father – Daughter – Accepted. . . and Mom. Her life has recently undergone a shaking—one that uprooted nearly every trace of her former life. You’ll have forgive her unconventional posts, as she’s still trying to work out her perspective. She knows one thing though. The most humble and worthy person she ever encountered lived in near obscurity—but sent ripples of change into the world. All because he took the time to care about each hurting person he met. He wasn’t Jesus, but he followed the Great Shepherd and left a legacy. She wants to follow that path.

Must Meet Monday: Melissa Tagg

I’m drawn to the witty, clever, and funny exterior with a warm, gooey and deeply spiritual inside.  And that’s Melissa Tagg in a nutshell. Okay, not a nutshell, but in real life. (refer to Wayne’s World.)

I have no idea how I stumbled upon “Tagg’s” blog. I call her that. I don’t know if she likes it or not. But it doesn’t really matter, now does it? No one ever asked me if I liked being called “Little Oz” “Ozzy” or “Short Oz.” I digress. My point is, Tagg’s personality and fun writing style caught me up and she’s one of the very first people I hunt down on MWF. Yep, I enjoy her blog that much! Go see for yourself. 

Native Iowan and former reporter Melissa Tagg, is a big fan of love and laughs…which is why she writes humor-laced contemporary romance. (Well, that and the amazing paycheck she’s sure will come any day now.) In addition to her homeless ministry day job, she is also the marketing/live events coordinator for My Book Therapy. She won the 2010 Frasier Award and finaled in the 2010 ACFW Genesis Contest. 

JP: See? How funny is she? Congrats on your awards, Tagg. When did you get the writer’s bug?
MT: Oh goodness, I think around the time I got teeth. (Uh, because I’ve always liked to “chew” on a good story…? Okay, should’ve let that one go.) Seriously, though, I’ve loved stories as long as I can remember. Sometime in my childhood it must’ve dawned on me that stories don’t just happen – someone writes them. And I decided I must be one of those someones. J
JP:  Badump, bump, ching! Tell us one favorite line in one of your WIP’s and tell us why?
MT: Okay, I promise I’m not being lazy here, but I’m going to give you the first line of my book! I’ve had about 12 different first lines and thanks to inspiration from Susan May Warren’s  teaching AND a blog post by awesome friend/upcoming debut author Beth Vogt, I finally have an opener I love.
             Here it is:
                 On any other day of the year, she could almost forgive herself for the lie.
JP: Ooooh! Good one. I’d tell  you if I hated it. What day of the year is that? I ask. And almost means she never has forgiven herself. Well, done, friend. Well done. I could camp on this for a bit longer but I won’t so let’s move along. Do you listen to music while you write? I totally feel a Coldplay plug-in coming on.
MT: Oh, I love Coldplay so much Cupid should probably recruit me. Their new album, Mylo Xyloto, is fab-u-lous!!
But actually, I rarely listen to music when I write because it’s too easy for me to start singing instead of staying immersed in the scene. If I do, it’s usually instrumental – and something fitting to the mood of my scene. Oddly (or really not so oddly if you know me) my best music for writing is a strings orchestra recording of Rogers & Hammerstein’s greatest hits. OR (and feel free to laugh), I have a string quartet album of Coldplay songs.
JP: Thanks for permission. I’m giggling. I’ll admit, yah know since you said I could feel free! So, what genre do you like to read? Do you write that genre?
MT: I adore romantic comedy with lots of hilarity, but also character depth (think Jenny B. Jones) – which is definitely what I aspire to write. But I read lots of genres: I enjoy both women’s fiction and contemporary romance – though I will confess to being slightly picky with romance. I also love a good thriller or suspense and even the random fantasy here and there. (I’m a massively huge fan of Ted Dekker’s earlier books, especially the Circle series.)  And, thanks to both Susan May Warren and Deeanne Gist’s fabulous historicals, I’m now a historical fiction fan, too. Someday I’d love to try writing historical for the fun of it.
JP: Well, I can’t wait to read your books. If you could pick one villain from a book to be for a day, who would you choose?
            MT: First of all, kudos on seriously fun questions.
            JP: Thanks! I do like to try and keep things fun. Is everyone having  fun? If not, please lie and say “yes.” 
MT: I’d have to say Captain Hook from Peter Pan. Because he gets to hang out in Neverland and has fabulous hair. Although, the hook would make typing and playing piano a challenge…
JP: He does have great hair! Great answer. Fall is here, what one thing do you love most about this season? What one thing do you like least about this season?
MT: I love so many things about fall – by far my favorite season – but probably my faves are all things pumpkin: Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spice creamer, pumpkin bars, pumpkin scented candles.
            Least favorite is definitely its length. Autumn is way too short.
JP: I agree. I am making gooey-pumpkin butter cake for Turkey Day. Bet you wish you were gonna be here, huh? I’ll send you a picture. Speaking of pictures, do you hunt down any of your characters from the internet? Care to share what your hero and heroine look like with us from your current WIP?
           MT: Sometimes I do that, yes! For my current book, here’s who we’ve got:

Put Levis and a tool belt on her, and Lauren Graham IS Miranda Woodruff, my heroine.
JP: I like her! But you know, I’ve never watched Gilmore Girls or Parenthood. Chics in toolbelts. Awesome. I see some comedic scenes for sure!
MT: Honestly, I didn’t mean for this to happen, but I’ve been picturing my main male character, Matthew Knox, as Jason Ritter. (Both Graham and Ritter are in the TV show Parenthood.)
JP: Are they paired together on the show? They look cute together! 

And if you give Owen Wilson a black moptop instead of blonde, he’s totally Blake “Blaze” Hunziker, my other main dude. (Apparently I’ve filled this book with dark haired folks.)

JP: I tend to gravitate toward dark haired males myself. Okay, I’m so fanning myself right now. 🙂  What would your characters say about you if they had the chance?

MT: Oh dear, they’d totally ruin the cool and confident vibe I’m sure I give off around real people. (Real people, please stop laughing.) No, my characters would probably gab about my writing mood swings. If they behave and a scene goes well, I go all giddy. When they don’t cooperate, I sink into the depths of despair. They’d also probably express concern over my need to speak dialogue out loud as I’m typing and act out scenes…
JP: OMG! I do that too! Or if I’m picturing a scene while I’m driving sometimes it comes out my mouth before I realize it. I always hope people think I’m singing or on a bluetooth! Your characters are great now give us a peek into the story!
           MT: Sure thing! Here’s a blurb for my second WIP, From the Ground Up.
Since the first season of her popular homebuilding show, celebrity Miranda Woodruff has entertained viewers with stories of the husband who taught her all she knows. Too bad said “husband” abandoned her before the season aired…and before the wedding. Now facing teetering ratings and with media curiosity at an all-time high, Miranda’s producer insists she come up with a husband – real deal or not. Mock mate in tow, she sets out to save her show. But then nosy reporter Matthew Knox lands on her doorstep, lugging his own set of personal baggage and desperate for a breakout story. The only thing worse? The reappearance of her former fiancé.
Juggling secrets and supposed spouses, Miranda’s heart is in for a major renovation as God shows her where her true identity lies.
JP: Okay, I’d buy this book today, yah hear me? It sounds awesome! Thanks so much for coming by and hanging out with us today, Tagg. It’s been a blast and I’ve been smiling and giggling the whole time. Is there anything you’d like to ask the peeps that hang around my “waterfall” cooler? They’d be happy to answer, as they are the most awesomest people around!
I loved your question about what villain I’d be for a day if I could. So can I copy you and ask that one to everyone else? And thanks so much for having me. How fun!!

Okay, everyone, if you could be a villain for one day, who would you be? Get creative, get dark, get on it! Tell us! 

And even more importantly connect with Melissa on facebook, her blog, and twitter

Lynda Lee Schab Is In The House with Debut Novel Mind Over Madi!

Think sunshine, giggling, chocolate, friendship, and holding hands. 

All things that make you want to be there. Where is there?

Mind Over Madi!

I have the honor today to interview Lynda Schab after reading her debut novel, Mind Over Madi

The book was incredible. I read it in a sitting and a half. Only because I knew I had to get up early and I couldn’t drag it all day since naps weren’t going to be in order.

I connected with Lynda through her fun blog, On the Write Track. You should join the site.  Thanks for letting me read your debut novel, Lynda, and thanks for coming by to chat with us today about the book and you! 

JP: So…tell everyone what Mind over Madi is about? 

LS: Madi McCall is a 38-year-old mom of three whose insecurities are destroying her marriage. When she suspects her husband Rich is cheating with the mother of one of his fourth grade students, she kicks him out of the house and he moves in with his bachelor brother. Madi is then forced to take a deeper look at herself and her insecurities. She does this with the help of a counselor, her best friend Sylvie, and a few cartons of Edy’s Dibs. At a 20-year get-together with former high school classmates, Madi runs into “the other woman” and things come to a head. It’s a lighthearted story about taking a true look at ourselves and accepting God’s grace when we think and do dumb things.

JP: I loved the first person present tense. I was right there with Madi through her antics, every Dib she shoveled in her mouth, and through her discoveries. I can also relate to some of Madi’s insecurities, as I think most women can. Which character is most like you, and why?

LS: There is a lot of me in Madi. Insecurity is something I’ve always struggled with. As a child, I was very shy. As a teenager, I was insecure about everything, which resulted in a lot of rebelling and contributed to hundreds of my mom’s migraines, I’m sure. As an adult, early in my marriage I experienced some of the insecurities Madi deals with, regarding her husband and his faithfulness. That isn’t something I deal with anymore today, but I still have similar insecurities about what others think of me, as well as doubts about God’s love for me. Other ways I’m like Madi is that we share bad eating habits, a love for coffee, a tendency to waste hours of time playing computer games, and an insane fear of spiders.
JP:I raise my tacquito and nod in agreement to bad eating habits. Let me wipe the grease off my fingers so I can ask the next question. Okay, I love the tiara on Madi’s head (on the cover, people, look alive). I know why it’s there, but you tell it best! 
LS: Madi’s therapist challenges her to think of herself as a princess – the daughter of the King. Madi has never thought of herself this way, and throughout the story, there are references to various Disney princesses as Madi tries to figure out which one she most relates to. I had fun with the theme, even giving “the other woman” the fairy tale-ish name of Fawn Witchburn.
JP: I loved that by the way, and my very favorite line in the whole book has to do with the crown. I will never forget it. Brought tears to my eyes. It was lighthearted, but the subject matter was poignant. Great job! What’s next for you? 

LS: I am currently working on book #2 in the Madi series, titled, Madily in Love. Now that Madi and Rich are working things out, she attends a class at church to try to put the romance back into her marriage. But with her mother-in-law living with them, Madi’s new job, and issues with her kids, things don’t exactly go as planned. It’s a fun book that will look at finding peace –and romance – in the middle of chaos. 

JP: Amen to that, sista! 
LS: There will also be a book #3. I have the title and the premise, but I’ll save the details for later, when I have the plot worked out.
JP: Can’t wait! You’re going to be busy! Do you have a “day” job?

LS: I do freelance work, but I also work in a warehouse as part of a pricing group for Meijer. It doesn’t sound all that glamorous (and it’s not!) but I actually enjoy the physical work. It’s a nice change from the mental strain that freelancing and creativity can cause. If I got a couple of additional regular writing gigs, though, I wouldn’t mind staying home full time to do what I love to do most.
JP: I bet not! With work and a family, what’s your writing process? 

LS: Honestly, I don’t have a typical process. As this is my debut novel, I’m on a learning curve. While writing MIND OVER MADI, I basically wrote when I felt like it, with no set schedule. Now that I have contracts for the next two books in the series, which my editor wants to publish 6-9 months apart, I’m doing everything I can to learn how to organize my time effectively. But I do tend to work better on a deadline, so hopefully that will work out for me. We’ll see!
Lynda, I know you’re floating in the clouds and that is such a cliched statement. But everything I can think of is a cliche to so, I’ll say this: Congratulations! 

Connect with Lynda at her website,
her blog, facebook, and twitter!

Have any questions for Lynda?
What Disney Princess or Prince if you’re a guy, are you?

Guest Blogger: David N. Walker

Morning, everyone! Welcome David N. Walker!

If you need some encouragement or want to feel like you matter, get to know David. He’s great at both!  I was honored to be his very first guest blogger a couple of months ago.

He does a series called memorable moments, all of them are touching. Today he’s talking about hope and that’s it’s never too late to give it up. I agree! Not all memorable moments are happy ones. Some are forever burned in our hearts as tragic, as this one is from David.

David, thanks for sharing such a deep and personal experience in your family!

The call came in early on an October morning. I was scheduled to drive to southeast Texas that day to visit my daughter and son-in-law and two-year old grandson, and it took me a moment to realize my sister was calling. I couldn’t imagine why she would call me at that hour of the morning, but I knew it wouldn’t be good news.
In the 51 years I’d known her, I’d never heard so much anguish in my Barb’s voice. She told me her daughter Donna, her oldest child, had disappeared and that she suspected she’d gone somewhere to commit suicide. I don’t remember much more about the conversation except that she told me she’d call back as soon as they either found Donna or her body.
I never got back to sleep that morning. I didn’t know whether to proceed with my trip—which included several business calls also—or to cancel and stay by the phone. I decided to go on. The business calls needed to be made, and if I needed to make and emergency trip to Montana for a funeral, Lynn would want to go with me, so I might as well be at her house if that call came.
We’d had a family reunion in the mountains behind Ogden, Utah, that summer, and I thought back to Donna’s behavior at that time. Normally a very sunny person—or so I thought—she was moody and kept to herself the whole time we were there. I thought she was being rude at the time, but it was so foreign to her normal behavior I didn’t fuss at her about it.
My mind wandered back to happier times with her. She was my parents’ first grandchild, born my senior year in high school. We all doted on her. When my sister and brother-in-law took Donna and left Fort Worth to move to Billings, Montana, I felt like I was losing a piece of myself.
Finances and distance kept my visits with them to a minimum while Donna was growing up. When they adopted their other three kids—all at once—they came back to introduce them to various family members. I was in OCS at Fort Sill at the time, and I got permission to visit them in the company dayroom for one hour—the first time I’d seen Donna since they moved.
We went to visit them in Three Forks, Montana, where they’d moved a year or two earlier, when Donna was nine. Then I was up there twice the summer she was 13. I think that’s when she and I began to develop a real bond. She hated having to wear glasses, and I bought her the contact lenses her parents couldn’t afford on a small-town pastor’s salary.
At the time she got married, my finances and my domestic situation prevented me from attending her wedding. I always regretted that. She and my sister Barb came to Texas to show us her first-born daughter Ashly, and I spent Christmas at Barb’s when Donna’s second daughter Kelsy was a few weeks old.
She brought her whole family to Texas for Lynn’s wedding, and Ashly served as a beautiful flower girl. The importance of their participation made me regret all over again not attending Donna’s wedding.
By the time we made our next visit to see Donna, she was raising her sister’s daughter Brittany as well as her own two. This was the family she’d be leaving behind if  indeed she’d taken her own life.
Barb and I talked several times over the next couple of days while I was on my business trip/visit. Lynn and I were visiting in her den on Wednesday afternoon when Barb called to tell us the sheriff’s office had found Donna’s body. We called Lynn’s husband Gary to come home and take care of Austen, the grandson, while Lynn went with me.
We drove back to Fort Worth, where I quickly arranged for my wife Sharon, Lynn, my sister Kay and her son David to fly to Missoula for the funeral. We left Thursday morning, arriving in Missoula sometime that afternoon.
We spent most of that day and the next sitting at Donna’s kitchen table visiting with the three girls, Donna’s husband Dana (the girls’ father), and an uncle and two aunts on her father, Charlie’s, side. Barb and her husband Jack, and Charlie and his wife Carol were with us part of the time and out making funeral arrangements part of the time.
Through all the hushed conversation I couldn’t keep my mind off the great surprise and horrible tragedy. I suppose if a person gets depressed enough suicide can seem like the only answer, but it never solves anything. It just complicates everyone else’s lives.
Donna’s best friend Coco took us up into the mountains to the site where Donna took her life. She’d parked her car, run a hose from the exhaust pipe through a cracked window and sat there waiting to die. What an abomination.
Although all three girls are now grown, responsible women—all three happily married and two with families of their own—they all went through hell getting there. Life became so unbearable for them that each one left home to live elsewhere while finishing high school.
My niece has been gone for 17 years now, but I still miss her terribly. After all these years, it still doesn’t take too much to bring tears to my sister’s eyes thinking about her. Our entire family suffered great pain from this, and her three girls suffered the most.
If you’re now contemplating—or ever have contemplated—committing suicide, DON’T. It’s not just your life. Think of all those around you who would be crushed by it. Depression may make you think you’re of no importance to anyone, but YOU ARE.
If you have a close friend or relative who’s been touched by a recent suicide—or even one long ago—hug that person and realize he or she is suffering a pain that never quite goes away. It will fade with time, but it will always be there.
 I’d like to add this scripture, David, if I could. 
“Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we 
hope in You.” Psalm 33:22
David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather and a grounded pilot. He co-founded Warrior Writers Boot Camp with Kristen Lamb. You can read more of his posts HERE or follow him on twitter.

Guest Blogger: Staci Stallings

Hey, everyone! It’s Friday! What a week! If you haven’t “liked” the new facebook devotional community, Living by Grace, scroll down in my side bar and join up! We have great discussions and we bond through faith. How cool is that? Also, if you haven’t “liked” my writer page, be a love and find me in the sidebar and Voila! I’m liked! 🙂 (I had the wrong thing on there before, oy!)

 Today, I’d like to welcome Staci Stallings to my blog. Say hey, everyone! Staci is the author of the book The Price of Silence.

Take it away, Staci, and thanks for blogging here today!

Forgiving is Hard

One of the most difficult things about being a mom is walking your children through life’s really tough lessons.  You can be floating along just fine, never even seeing the storm clouds gathering, when suddenly you’re caught in a maelstrom.
That’s what happened the other day with my son.  Now he’s eight and very soft-hearted.  He makes it a point to be nice to everyone (other than, of course, his two sisters).  He takes things in very deeply.  No surface living for him!
He’s also highly creative and he wants to be acknowledged for the good ideas he comes up with.  Sometimes that’s a challenge in second grade.  Okay, it doesn’t get any easier after second grade either, but we’ll deal with that later.
So the other day he gets in the van after school.  I asked how his day was, and he said, “Bad.”  Now he has “April Fooled” me numerous times coming back with “not really it was great!”  But not this time.  No, this time, bad went from bad to really bad to absolutely horrible in a matter of a heartbeat.
“Mom, Anna* stole my idea!” (*not her real name)
“What do you mean she stole your idea?”
“I had this idea to make a big card for one of the teachers from the whole class, and she stole my idea.  She told the teacher about it, and the teacher was all happy and excited and saying what a good kid she was.  It wasn’t her idea!  It was MINE!”
By now big crocodile tears were rolling down his little cheeks.
“Well, maybe she didn’t mean to steal it.  Maybe she just thought it was a good idea.”
“Then why didn’t she say it was mine.  She just let them think it was hers.”  He folded his arms.  “I’m not going to sign that big card.  It’s not fair!  I’m going to just make my own and see how they like that.”
“Now, sweetheart, I realize you’re upset…”
“And next time I’m going to steal one of her ideas and not tell anybody it was hers.  Then she can see how this feels.  I bet she won’t like it very much.”
You really can’t make this stuff up, you know?
“Listen, I don’t know why she did it, but think about it this way, the teacher really liked your idea even if she was the one that said it.”
“Yeah, but they think it was hers, and they’re all, ‘Oh, that’s such a great idea.  You’re so smart.’  I bet she’d be mad too if I took her idea like that and didn’t tell anybody. I’m going to do that to her and see how she likes it.”
That’s when I realized he was really going to need some help getting through this.  It wasn’t just a thing he was going to get through.  He wouldn’t forget it in five minutes.  This was real to him.  He was angry and hurt, and carrying that around wasn’t going to do anyone any good.
So, I said, “I think you’re going to have to try to forgive her.”
“Forgive her?  Mom!  She doesn’t deserve to be forgiven!  Besides I want to get even with her.  I want her to feel like I do right now.”
“I know, but that’s not good for you.  That is just going to make you mad and miserable.  It’s not going to change what happened at school.”
“But it’s not fair, Mom.  That was my idea and no one even knows that!”
“I know, and I don’t know why she took your idea without telling anyone.  Maybe she just thought it was a good idea and mentioned it.  Maybe she didn’t mean to steal it, it just happened.”
“Well, I’m still mad at her.”
“I know.  But I think maybe you should think about trying to forgive her–even if she doesn’t deserve it.  You know, we’ve talked about forgiveness at home.  When you say you’re sorry or they say they’re sorry.”
“But she didn’t even say she was sorry.  I don’t even think she is.”
“You’re probably right, maybe she isn’t even sorry, but that doesn’t mean you can stay mad.  It’s still important to forgive her… for you.”
“But, Mom.  Forgiving is hard!  I don’t want to forgive her.  I want to be mad at her.”
“I know.  Forgiving is hard.  That’s why a lot of the time we have to ask God to help us to forgive because if it was up to us, we’d just stay mad all the time.  But that doesn’t fix anything.  It just makes us sad and mad and hurt.  That’s no fun.  But God will help you to forgive her even though it’s hard.”
About this time the tears stopped, and I could see peace come over him.
“Just think about it,” I said.
You know, forgiving is hard.  And the worse whatever the other person did, the harder it is to forgive.  But when it’s right and you know it’s right but it’s hard, that’s when you know you need God.  God is there to help you and guide you through those rough patches when you really don’t want to do the right thing, when doing the wrong thing sure sounds easier and more logical.
But God’s logical will help you find real peace.  The other is just a long road of misery.
By the time we got home that night, my son was in much better spirits and the next day he not only signed the big card, he included his little card with it.  So maybe he learned a good lesson.  I know I did.
Thanks, Staci! I’ve learned many lessons from my kids. I’m thankful He’s there to guide me through things I don’t really want to do. When I obey, the peace truly is sweet!

Although Staci lives in Amarillo, Texas and her main career right now is her family, she touches the lives of people across the globe every week with her various Internet endeavors including:

Books In Print, Kindle, & FREE on Spirit Light Works:

Spirit Light Books–The Blog

And… Staci’s website  Go visit!

Connect with her on Twitter

Have a great weekend, everyone! Leave a comment for Staci if you would be so kind…and I know you are! 🙂

On Monday, come back to meet my special friend, writer Lacie Nezbeth!

Jaime Wright is…Moses?

I’m swinging with Jaime Wright today! Well, blog swinging that is. I’m over there and she’s over here! So read all her awesomeness and then skip over there by clicking HERE. Don’t forget to follow her blog if you don’t already, and be a doll or tough guy and go “like” her writer page on facebook. She asks lots of interesting questions and cool conversations take place all the time.
Tomorrow I’ll be talking about my journey in writing over at Dawn Alexander’s 

 I’m also at Jennifer Slattery’s blog, today, talking about hoarding. Are YOU a hoarder? Come by! 

So, heeeeeere’s Jaime!

Jess – wow! I’m on your blog! I feel like – important.
And important is just what friendships are meant to make you feel – at least I believe so. There’s nothing neater than when a co-worker/friend shows up at work and plops your favorite hazelnut soy latte on your desk (yes, it happens frequently). It makes me feel important. Or maybe valued is a better word.

Value in the writing world is critical. It’s a world where – frankly speaking – you spend most of your time feeling like a dead opossum that just got smucked by a semi truck and double-smucked by some rich dude driving a Hummer and then obliterated by a cowboy in a Dodge diesel. Fine. I’m graphic. Needless to say, we fledgling writers who are struggling to impress an agent, aching to sign with an editor, and trying to understand what the heck it is we just wrote … well, we need to be valued. A few too many rejections suffered alone is enough to make me bust the screen out of my laptop and short out its motherboard. Just be done with it.

Fellow friends in the writing world can relate to my hissy fits. They can understand the sadness and even the tears. They know what it feels like to give up when you’ve gone three weeks without writing one word because life is so busy you wonder if you’re living a pipe dream. They comprehend the true meaning of writer’s block.
Two months ago, I was pretty sure I was hanging up writing altogether. It wasn’t for lack of self-confidence. Lord knows I have enough of that. 😛 It was for timing, and sometimes the lack of time. I posted my resolve to quit on Twitter and emailed a few critical people – my critique partner and my mentor. While none of them told me the answer, all of them gave me encouragement in whatever direction I took. Their presence gave me value – encouragement – importance. Not arrogant importance. The type of importance that made me feel a bit like Moses when he needed Aaron and Joshua to lift up his arms because his strength was not enough.

Needless to say, it was shortly after that the Lord brought Jess into my life – via a little social network called Twitter. Gosh dang it – if I don’t love Twitter! Jess gets my sarcasm, my borderline sense of humor, and she’s short – she’s really – short. And I’m really tall. Funny how you picture a person you’ve never met physically and you find out facts that make you giggle.

We need each other. Plain and simple. We need people who UNDERSTAND our value as writers and to reinforce that in our low points. I’m still writing, by the way, and I haven’t busted my laptop. Although tonight I feel a bit like the smucked opossum, I know Jessica will make me laugh. S’all good, peeps J
Who’s your Aaron or Joshua? Who lifts your arms when you’re tired and how have your writing friends impacted your writing world?

Taming the Tongue: Guest Post by Jennifer Slattery

Today’s guest post is by Jennifer Slattery. I had the privilege to meet Jen at the WFTS conference this past February.

Before we get to it, I’d like to link to a book review I did by Rene Gutteridge, Listen. It’s a great story about taming the tongue and how our words build up and tear down. Click Here to read it.

Welcome, Jennifer!

Have you ever noticed how readily we cling to the negative, no matter how irrational it is? Things spoken to me during my elementary years have stuck with me throughout countless successes and accolades, tearing at the walls of my heart. Think of your own life and those evasive lies you’ve allowed to wiggle their way in.

Countless people can tell you again and again how smart, or pretty, or resourceful you are, and yet you’ll cling to that one statement hurled in the heat of the moment to the contrary. Which is why it’s so important to guard our words, because once spoken, they penetrate deep and can never be returned.

I’ve always struggled with my tongue. Mainly because I’m impulsive. Often, I speak the first thing that comes to mind without taking the time to sift my words through my listener’s ears. And yet, those much needed words, like, “Good job,” and “Thank you,” seem to linger in my throat like rubber cement. The other day after reading one of my articles, my husband told me how much he enjoyed it. (It was largely about him and the effect his behaviors have had on our daughter.) When I asked him why, he said, “It’s good to know that maybe I’m doing something right.” His response surprised me.

He does so many awesome things and is such a great family leader. Couldn’t he tell we adored and admired him? And yet, at the same time, I understood the insecurities and fears beneath his response. We all have inner demons, fears of failure, insecurities. We all need to hear an “atta-boy” once in a while. More often than not, actually. I’ve heard that it takes about five positive comments to counter one negative. Now, think of all the negative comments your spouse might hear in a given day, then multiply that by five. Kind of tips the scales a bit, doesn’t it?

Sometimes I forget how fragile the human heart is. Thought processes influence our self-concept and words spoken influence thought processes. According to social scientists Dr. Gangel and Dr. Canine, our self-concept is created, developed, and maintained through communication and interaction with others. (Dr. Gangel, Dr. Canine. 1992) Marriage is a life-time of close, consistent interaction—interaction that has the power to build up or tear down.

Ephesians 4:29 urges us: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only that which is helpful for building others up, that it may benefit those who listen.”

How many words would be left unspoken if I truly lived this verse out? How many wounds avoided? 

Dr. Gangel, Dr. Canine. Communication and Conflict Management. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers; 1992. p. 66

Jennifer Slattery writes for Christ to the world Ministries, the Christian Pulse, Samie Sisters, and is the marketing manager for the literary website, Clash of the Titles. She’s placed in numerous contests and has written for numerous publications, E-zines and websites. Visit her devotional blog, Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud to find out more about her and her writing.

Question: How hard do you find it to tame your tongue?

Inside Out: Maria Morgan, guest blogger!

I’m happy to have Maria Morgan with us today to share In the Word Wednesday. I’m over at Sheri  Salatin’s blog sharing about writing and crazy stuff I do! So come by and say hi.

If you haven’t visited Maria’s blog, Life Lessons, you should. She is a woman with much wisdom! She’s inspiring and encouraging. When you leave her blog, you know you’ve been near someone shining with the love of Jesus.

Welcome, Maria!
Outward appearance.
I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter to me. Every day I spend time preparing myself to face the world. I shower, put on makeup, fuss with my hair, and choose just the right perfume or body splash in order to make a good impression. Looking my best is a good thing, as long as I don’t forget what’s most important – what’s on the inside.
One day last week, I’d gone through my usual routine of getting ready. I felt put together on the outside, but something was bothering me on the inside. I didn’t realize it had begun to affect my mood and even my countenance, until my daughter, Riley, innocently asked, “Are you mad at me?”
I wasn’t exactly mad, but I was frustrated. Conflict bothers me, so I had attempted to deal with my frustration without mentioning anything to Riley. I may have looked the same on the outside, makeup on and hair in place, but what was inside was bound to come out.
Addressing the issue openly and honestly, made a world of difference. By the end of our conversation, we had worked through the situation and our mother/daughter relationship was back on track. I was reminded of the importance of speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And peace took the place of frustration.
It’s easy to get focused on the outward things, giving little attention to what’s on the inside.
A familiar passage reminds me, “…for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart,” (1 Samuel 16:7b; KJV). My tendency is to give the impression that I’ve got everything together, even when I don’t. Ultimately, what’s on the inside will come out.
God’s work is done from the inside out.
Remember when the Lord gave Moses the instructions for building the tabernacle? He carefully detailed what should occupy the inside of the structure; the ark, the table of showbread, the lampstand, etc. before he went on to describe how the tent should be constructed. Mere coincidence? Definitely not! What’s inside matters to the Master.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ day seemed to be religious giants, yet He saw through their outward appearances, and spoke harshly to them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness,” (Matthew 23:27). These were the men who made a show of tithing on everything they owned, and doing no work on the sabbath. They certainly appeared to be keeping God’s commandments, yet they were jealous of Jesus’ following and were determined to destroy Him.
As I read God’s Word and pray with a heart that’s open to His still, small, voice, the Lord will reveal areas in my life that need His attention. I have a choice. Ignore His conviction and continue on as if everything is fine, or submit that area to Him and allow Him to do a transforming work on the inside that will affect the outside. Today I’m going to let Him work from the inside out!
Do you struggle to maintain appearances? Identify one thing that needs to change and give the Lord access to what’s on the inside. You’ll find that He’s a Master builder!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, Thank You for caring about the important thing – what’s inside. Help me identify areas that need to be changed, and help me to submit to Your will as You do a transforming work on me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Amen! Thanks, Maria, for sharing your heart and wisdom with us today. I feel so blessed.
Maria Morgan