Thursday, March 30, 2017

40-Day Card Challenge

I love Lent.

I grew up in the Catholic Church and the idea of giving up chocolate or sweets while I was growing up, made me feel like I was doing something important for GOD. That I could sacrifice a little something of myself for Him.

Of course, as I grew older, and my faith grew more mature, my 'sacrifice' became slightly different.  I learned that good behaviour and good acts do not solidify your position in heaven, and perhaps I should change my outlook on what I would do for those 40 days.

This year, it is the 40-Day Card Challenge.

Which means, that every day, during my quiet time, I try my best to allow GOD to choose whom I should pray for. Then during my Bible reading, I would write out the best verse I thought to encourage that person. I would then type it out in lovely font, tape it to a lovely card, and then write some kind words, cover the envelope in pretty stickers and then send it in the mail. These people would be friends, acquaintances, and even a few people whom I knew didn't like me (I just didn't put my name or return address on it).

I used to send cards all the time. I love sending cards. I would get such a thrill walking up and down the stationary stores and choose out the pretties cards, the coolest colours of envelopes, the sweetest stickers. I had a carousel of coloured felt-tip pens. I loved to do it, and I used to do it all the time.

Until I stopped.

Wasn't anything serious, it just slowly and gradually stopped. 
Maybe it was because I stopped hearing a 'Thank you', or a, 'You really made my day'.  
I wasn't doing it for the acknowledgement, to be sure, but at some point...you lose...the joy in doing it.  Even my closer friends, whom I know needed a card of encouragement, they wouldn't say a thing. And made me feel badly about our relationship.

Isn't that awful?

I am in full agreement that relationships are not what they used to be. It is extremely difficult to get friends to talk to you on the phone. I sometimes miss being sixteen, with my long curly phone cord winding its way around my room as I would gab for hours, my parents yelling at me to stop tying up the line.  I can't remember the last time I had a long conversation with someone on the phone. I kind of miss it, you know?

This tells me, that in our fast-moving, technologically-advanced age, that we need more cards in the mail.  I love getting cards, who doesn't?  Especially encouraging ones that say, 'Hey. I'm praying for you right now, and you didn't even ask me to.'

That is a wonderful 'sacrifice' that I am willing to make. And maybe after 40 days, the habit will stick, and I will keep doing it.  Because even though most of my relationships are through Facebook now, I can do my part by sending GOD's love through the mail. And that, to me, is a wonderful challenge.

And lets me buy more pretty greeting cards.




Jenn Kelly is a farmer who is getting back into writing. Slowly. If you would like a card in the mail, you can reach her at jennkelly@jennkelly.com. She will do her best to make sure you get an envelope with rooster stickers.


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I just wanted to move the piano

by Marion Ueckermann


You’ve had those days, I know you have. Days when the one small thing you set out to do turns into something huge, something that leaves you exhausted and sapped of all energy.

I had a day like that this weekend. All I wanted to do was move the piano. It stood against a wall where the afternoon sun shines in, and I realized that six years in that position had caused the beautiful rosewood veneer to fade. It HAD to move. I had no choice. In my husband’s family for probably four generations, this 150-year old piece could not get ruined under my hands.


But when I shoved, and grunted, and groaned to get it to budge, I realized why the piano hadn’t moved from the day it had been placed in that position. Pretty much like my novel, The Piano, I had written which was inspired by this piece and has been on my computer for almost as long. But more about that later. Back to the piano. It was H-E-A-V-Y! The fact that the wheels no longer worked, jammed or rusted in one position and likely all four wheels at different angles, did not help, either. By the time I’d moved the heavy load the seven foot from one wall in my lounge to the other, I had scrape marks on the ceramic floor the entire way. I quickly scrubbed the tiles with a wet cloth and cleaner. Finally, the marks came off…almost.


Now I had to move the three-seater couch to the opposite wall, and move the two-seater into its place as the piano plus three-seater equaled not enough wall. That in turn had me moving the single-seater chair to make way for the three-seater.

Oh, the wall was a little dusty behind where the single chair had stood, as well as where hubby had removed the family crest wall-hanging to take it for dry-cleaning. I grabbed the wet cloth and wiped the marks. Which in turn made me realize how dusty the rest of the wall was. Couldn’t have a half-clean/half-dusty wall, so I grabbed the cleaner, sprayed some on the wall and wiped. And rushed to the kitchen to rinse the dust from the cloth, and wiped again. Spray, wipe, rinse, repeat. And repeat.

Satisfied with the clean wall, and making a mental note not to let the cloth touch another wall, I moved on to mopping the floors beneath where the couches needed to stand. Then I eased the two-seater into its new home beside the piano’s new home.

Not wanting the piano to extend the six or so inches over the window where I’d run out of wall, I decided to let the large instrument extend into the dining room area beside our staircase, instead. I could fill the gap…hide the fact…build my own little fake wall. I hurried upstairs and grabbed the two slender wicker pedestals I had up there. They were the perfect size, and if I stacked them on top of each other, they’d make a “natural” extension of the too-short wall and hide the piece of the piano that jutted out. I lifted the hi-fi speaker off the first pedestal. Ugh, more dust. When had my maid last cleaned up there? I made a mental note to return with polish another day. Almost a month ago, I'd retrenched my maid. I was now the maid in the house.

Downstairs again, and proudly bearing the two pedestals, I wiped them clean. Rushed to the kitchen to rinse the cloth, and wiped some more. Wipe, rinse, repeat.

When I positioned the pedestals, I decided I didn’t like my idea after all. I’d either take those pedestals back upstairs, or use them somewhere else downstairs.

I shoved at the piano again, inching it over until it was flush with the end of the wall. It would just have to spill over the window a tad. I glanced down at the floor. Groan, scratched again. I sprayed more cleaner onto the tiles and once again applied some elbow grease. I stepped back. Over the wet tiles. With my now dirty feet. Sigh. Grabbed the mop. Cleaned the floor. Again.

By the time I finally had the piano and the couches all in place, I’d wiped yet another wall from floor to roof. And I’d sprayed, wiped, rinsed, and repeated several times, too.


So now I had a bare wall where the piano had stood. Can’t stay like that. I know, I’ll move the bookshelf around the corner and stand it in the empty space…I’ll figure out what to put into the new empty space. Maybe those two wicker pedestals.

I wrapped my fingers around the bookshelf and pulled. Nope. Not going anywhere with almost 200 paperbacks inside. I unpacked the books…on the piano, the couches, the floor. I polished the cabinet and shelves, and once I’d moved the bookshelf around the corner, I repacked the books. In alphabetical order!


By now my lounge was looking pretty incredible, but there was a gigantic space on the one wall where the single-seater had originally stood because I now had to move it over a little from its original position because the three-seater couch I’d wanted to move to that wall just didn’t look good in that spot. So I moved the three-seater to where the two-seater was because I couldn’t move it back to the original spot because there was no longer space as the piano was too long. But because the three-seater was longer than the two-seater which had originally stood in front of the large window, it encroached on the single-seater. Hence the reason that chair had to move over a little and the space that now needed to be filled.

I know, I’ll move the cabinet with all my Lilliput Lane clay houses—four shelves of them—into this blank space. It’ll fill that gap nicely. Besides, it needed a new spot because the piano now stood in its place. Once moved, I polished the cabinet, unpacked all the little houses, dusted them off, polished the shelves, and repacked my collection.

Well, I might have had a great new look to the lounge, but the dining room looked pretty sad as the mess had now migrated there. I set about washing the next open piece of floor. Once done I moved away to grab the polish and cloth. And stepped on the wet floor. Again. I grabbed the mop and cleaned my dirty footprints. Again.

Ugh, the moved bookshelf had left dust marks on the wall where it had stood. I shouldn’t, but I couldn’t resist. I cleaned the mark. And had to wipe the entire wall. Spray, clean, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat. It was a far bigger wall than the others.

I turned to my hubby. “Um, sweetheart, I think  we’ll need to move that family crest hanging because the Lilliput Lane cabinet now covers half the wall where it hangs. And besides, it’ll fill this wall where the bookshelf stood really nicely. We’d just have to move all the paraphernalia from that wall to somewhere else. Not sure where we’ll put dad’s wooden eagle though if we do that.”

“You’re kidding, right?

As my husband’s form retreats, I run the now polish-laden rag over said bird to clean off more dust. And the toenail breaks off. I send my three-year old grandchild on an errand to tell his oupa (gramps) that ouma (granny) needs him to glue the bird’s toenail back on. Oupa is back in the garage fixing the candelabra holder from the piano that I’d noticed was loose.

Well, I could go on and on about the rest of my spring-cleaning-in-autumn spree, but I’ll spare you the details of the numerous times I washed the floor, or the fact that the cleaning spilled over into the kitchen and all the way down the passage to my office. One-and-a-half tins of polish later and over ten hours on my feet, I finally flopped into bed. Cleaning, bending, stretching had exhausted me and I bore a backache of note.  My “just want to move the  piano” had turned into something far bigger than I’d anticipated. But what a day… As I’d polished and wiped and cleaned, I’d handled special things which brought to mind special memories… The antique piano on which I based my novel, The Piano. This book will finally be released in June in the Cherish box set. The crocodile tail my dad had mounted and whose story is in Bush Tails, the book of short stories of my dad’s hunting and fishing escapades that’s now available on pre-order. The wooden bird my dad made. The brass mining lamps that had belonged to my late father-in-law. The ninety-year old leather satchel that had belonged to his father. The “Coke can” my son had made as a child from a piece of wood for his father. My dad’s elephant-engraved leather shoes. The reindeer slippers my son bought for us which hang beside all our other Finnish souvenirs and paraphernalia. The Lilliput Lane ornaments, many of which are modeled on places I’d actually visited in the UK and Ireland. The books in my bookshelf written by some of my good author friends.


Yes, although a tiring day spent doing everything I hadn’t planned to do, it was so worth the while to be taken down memory lane with every little item that hangs on the walls or stands on the shelves in our home. And I came to a conclusion…I have far too many ornaments and books, and way too little wall and shelf space.


MARION UECKERMANN's passion for writing was sparked when she moved to Ireland with her family. Her love of travel has influenced her contemporary inspirational romances set in novel places. Marion and her husband again live in South Africa, but with two gorgeous grandsons hanging their hats at the house next door, their empty nest's no longer so empty.

Visit Marion at www.marionueckermann.net

If you’d like to receive information on new releases, cover reveals, and writing news, please sign up for my newsletterhttp://www.marionueckermann.net/subscribe/  
My short story, Dancing in the Rain, will be sent free to new subscribers.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Writing With the Help of the Greatest Creator of All

By Cindy Williams


Every summer I return to New Zealand, to the place where I grew up, to a place where it is easy to marvel at the wonder of the Lord’s creation. With just a few words He created the heavens and the earth ‘in all their vast array.’ (Gen 2:1) I imagine the delight the Lord had as He created the colour of the sea, the green of the grass, the petals of each flower, the uniqueness of each person’s fingerprint. As writers we also get a taste of that thrill of creativity, of creating something from nothing. It makes sense –we are created in the Lord’s likeness, including His desire and love of creating.

When my writing flows as effortlessly as trudging through mud I remind myself that I have a friend - a Father - who is the ultimate Creator. Surely, if we ask, He is pleased to help us in our creative endeavours.

‘Which of you if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!’ (Matt 7:9-10)

Over the years I have been amazed at God’s faithfulness in helping me to write. When I stop myself from rushing straight to the computer and instead first spend time in prayer, the words and ideas flow. I am by nature a slow writer but on those days when I have a deadline to meet (usually 1000 words to read out to my writing group) and I ask the Lord to help me, He always does. I cannot quite believe I have written so much, so quickly. It is truly supernatural – the ‘natural’ process of writing ‘super’ charged by the hand of God!


‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ (Matt 11:28) 
The Lord loves to take our burdens and give us rest.

In December I walked the Routeburn Track in the south of the South Island with my family. Maori used this track to access the precious pounamu (greenstone) which they traded with the northern tribes. We walked the 32 km track over three days, climbing to 1300 metres through pouring rain (day 1), minus 9 degree wind chill with snow blowing horizontally at us (day 2) and, on the final day, sun.

We did it the ‘easy’ way which meant that at the end of each day we stayed in lodges with hot showers, heated rooms, real coffee and a three course dinner. We still had to walk the track and carry a pack but with the promise of comfort at the end of each day. It reminded me of our walk, as authors, with God. We do have to sit down and do the work of writing but, with His help, we can do it the ‘easy’ way rather than all in our own strength.


The best thing about being weary or worried about our writing is that it makes us rely more on God and less on ourselves. If this is you, test the Lord out. Before you sit at your computer, fall to your knees and pray. This time of resting with the Lord is sure to reap rewards.

Have you had an experience of the Lord blessing you with a sliver of his creativity? Please share – it’s like a little faith booster for the rest of us!

Blessings, Cindy x

PS I know I am biased but I think New Zealand got an extra portion of God’s creativity!


About Cindy Williams

As a child growing up in a culturally rich part of New Zealand Cindy enjoyed writing, not copious screeds, but short intense pieces that brought tears to her eyes and made people think.

Then she became a dietitian – all science and seriously researched facts. She has a Master of Public Health and a Graduate Diploma in Communication and spent many years as a corporate nutrition consultant encouraging and inspiring people to live a healthy life.

She writes a nutrition blog – www.nutritionchic.com - and was short listed for the 2016 Caleb Prize for her debut novel The Pounamu Prophecy.

Cindy lives in Sydney with her husband and teenage son.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Writing in a Vacuum

I still remember the moment it first dawned on me that all I really wanted was to string words together for a living. Suddenly everything made sense. Why my English teacher loved me, but my history teacher didn’t… why the library was the closest thing to heaven on earth for me… why song lyrics made me cry. Words. It was all about words.

Armed with this revelation, I expected life to rearrange itself so that I could do what I’d been created to do – write. To my horror, the dishes didn’t wash themselves, laundry continued to pile up and my family kept eyeing me hopefully at mealtimes. Then there was the small matter of earning enough to do my bit to support our growing brood.

I’ll admit I threw some spectacular tantrums. Why me? was a common theme. I knew many stay-at-home moms who didn’t have a thimble-full of the vision and passion that I had, yet they had time on their hands – the one thing I didn’t seem to have enough of.

So I did life. I raised my babies, with all the wiping and washing that comes with them. I went to work and reconciled accounts, laughed and cried with colleagues. I danced and dug in the garden. I ironed through mountains of laundry that would crush small countries if piled in a heap. I wrote in stolen pockets of time, cherished moments of word-weaving made all the more precious for their rarity.

Years down the line I can see a truth that I couldn’t before – my writing is richer because my life has been full. 


Nothing thrives in a vacuum, but word-seeds germinated in the rich soil of life experience grow tall and strong, effortlessly bearing the message intending for the reader’s heart.

So if you are facing the frustration of not being able to write full-time, take heart! The real life you live will seep into your words packing them with oomph and gusto to transport your reader. As you embrace your life you will see your writing come to life!


Where are you at? Fitting in bits of writing in between, or able to spend as much time as you want? How do you manage when real life gets a bit too busy?

Dianne J. Wilson writes novels from her hometown in East London, South Africa, where she lives with her husband and three daughters. She is neck-deep in a three book contract for a YA series, Spirit Walker, with Pelican / Watershed.

Finding Mia is available from AmazonPelican / Harbourlight, Barnes & Noble and other bookstores.

Shackles is available as a free ebook from Amazon & Smashwords.


Find her on FacebookTwitter and her sporadic blog Doodles.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

SUNDAY EDITION


Coming Up This Week 

Monday 

Dianne Wilson

Tuesday 

Cindy Williams: Writing With the Help of the Greatest Creator of All

Wednesday 

Marion Ueckermann: I just wanted to move the piano

Thursday 

Jenn Kelly

Friday Devotion 

Ufuoma Daniella Ojo

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News


Kara Isaac's debut novel Close to You (Howard Books, 2016) is a double finalist in the 2017 Romance Writers of America RITA Award in the Best First Book category and Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements category. Congratulations Kara! 

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New Release

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Promise of Peppermint, prequel to her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in March 2017.


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Upcoming Releases

Lisa Harris' romantic suspense, Pursued, will be an April 2017 release from Revell.

Patricia Beal's debut contemporary women’s fiction set in Germany and in the United States, A Season to Dance, will be a May 2017 release from Bling! Romance / Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Sprouts of Love, Book 1 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series), releases independently in May 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Memories of Mist, Book 3 in her Urban Farm Fresh Romance series, releases independently in July 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Better Than a Crown, Book 3 in her Christmas in Montana Romance series, releases independently in October 2017.

Valerie Comer's contemporary romance set in the US, Rooted in Love, Book 2 in her new Garden Grown Romance series (part of Arcadia Valley Romance multi-author series) releases independently in November 2017.

To find more International Christian Fiction books, please visit our 2013 - 2016 Book Releases page and Backlist Titles.

Friday, March 24, 2017

my pen puts my tongue in print


The psalmist likened his tongue to the pen of a ready writer, and interesting comparison. I would like to take the liberty of rearranging that thought. For, when I write, and maybe you think this also, my pen become the tongue of a focused writer.

Now that can be dangerous or it can be exciting. Depending upon what is motivating the tongue the words and story written will resemble a fire. It could be words that warm and melt a frozen heart or wild, uncontrolled expressions which leaves the mind in ashes. In comparing the pen and the tongue and the results which can be produced I turn to the Biblical book of James. In chapter three he takes us through many aspects of the tongue which are negative and nasty. I wonder what roused him to write in such a manner as a warning to us all. I do wish he had also said some nice and noble things the tongue can utter.  As writers our words are coloured by what has invaded our hearts, stirred our emotions, affected our relationships or impacted our belief system. Whatever our genre and however we tell our story our pen becomes the tongue which reveals the passions and the purposes driving us to write.

James’ description of the tongue can be applied to some unpleasant and unfortunate things I’ve read. This can apply from graffiti to gory and ghastly volumes. But for us as Christian writers our tongue has been given the ‘soap and water’ treatment. Actually, that was applied to our heart and mind (1 Corinthians 6:11) and our tongue as a pen reveals the transformation. Moses had some strong words to say and record. We can read what his tongue said because his pen expressed it. However in Deuteronomy32:1-3 is an eloquent use of the pen. “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass. For I proclaim the name of the Lord:”

There are times when the tongue of the pen has to say strong words, harsh and confronting words. However, there is no poison being injected. Paul challenges us with ‘let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one’ (Colossians 4:6). Proverbs has a lot to say about the tongue in a favourable way. When our readers put down our writing or story through all its twists and turns, struggles and sorrows surely they will long to feel something similar to what Proverbs mentions. ‘It has been choice silver’ (10:20) It reveals the tongue of the wise promoting health (12:18) and it produces a ‘tree of life’ (15:4). Truly, death and life are present in the tongue of the pen (18:21) and as writers we are charged with revealing the One who is ‘The Life!’

May the pen speak to the reader that which our heart would long to share with their ears from our tongue. The psalmist put it very well for us writers in psalm 19:14:’Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart [which I’ve put to paper] be acceptable in your sight.’

©Ray Hawkins March 2017.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Put On Your Listening Ears and Use Your Five Senses

by Ruth Ann Dell

Cosmos in my garden

Want a surefire way to pull your readers into your story world? Want to make your book pop? Sizzle with life? Then appeal to your readers' senses by including telling details of sound, taste, smell, and touch, as well as the obvious ones of sight. So say the many articles, writing craft books and blogs that I've read. They're right.

But what about God's world? Do we use all our senses to appreciate and immerse ourselves in His creation? It's easy to be captivated by spectacular scenery such as awesome sunsets over the mountains, but what about going to our ordinary outside on an ordinary day, and really experiencing the wonder of our Father's handiwork?

I pondered on this after discovering a beautiful old hymn, This is My Father's World, by Maltbie D. Babcock. Here is the first verse:

"This is my Father's world, and to my listening ears,
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought."

I am very aware of God in His creation. This weekend we drove through roads edged with cosmos in full bloom against the background of grasslands. Who can see such beauty and doubt that God exists?

Earlier today I put on my "listening ears" and went outside to experience the world intentionally instead to taking it for granted. I stood barefoot on the grass, shut my eyes and concentrated on listening. I heard doves cooing nearby and the sound of a crested barbet trilling—remember the dialing tone of an old-fashioned telephone? That's this spectacular garden bird's call. A rustle of leaves indicated a lizard scurrying by as pigeon wings clapped overhead. Bees buzzed and a soft padding in the sandy soil told of Boris, my son's dog, a handsome Rhodesian Ridgeback, following me. Our pets are a treasured part of our Father's creation.

My other senses soon jostled for my attention. I felt the touch of a breeze cool on my arms and the sun warm on my face. My bare feet felt the roughness of the grass. Soft fur brushed against my ankles accompanied by a light purring—my velvet cat, Misty.

I opened my eyes and after watching a bee collecting nectar, I discovered a little bug, the like of which I had never seen before, clambering through pollen grains on a cosmos petal. Whitish dots and dashes in perfect symmetry on his wings fascinated me, and then he moved so that the sun caught them, and in that instant they flashed with iridescent greens.

The little bug with a pattern of dots and dashes

A bumble bee with wide white bands  on his abdomen landed nearby and I spotted a
fly—not just any old housefly, but one that looked as though it was a gleaming bronze sculpture.


Lastly I took the time to smell flowers and enjoy fragrances so light and delicate that normally they would pass unnoticed. I ruffled the grass with my hand and delighted in the newly cut lawn scent.

Truly our Father's world is one of beauty and delight, but we need to put on our "listening ears" and engage all our senses to appreciate it, else we will miss so many wonders. 

To use a cliche, let's take the time to stop and smell the roses every day, and then thank and praise God our Father for His wonderful creation.