Monday, July 28, 2014

Strength When We Are Weary

Youths may faint and grow weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
 but those who trust in the Lord
will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31
I don't know about you, but I feel like I've been running weary all summer long. It started in May when I started writing a new novel. By the end of June I had finished the first draft of my 94,000 word book.
Then we went right into helping my in-laws prepare to move to a senior community. Each weekend we've been traveling two hours one way to help downsize and get things ready for the move. It's been exhausting.
In the midst of all the weariness, I'm so thankful that I can always turn to God to renew my strength. I also love the promises from Psalm 54:4. 
"God is my helper;
the Lord is the sustainer of my life."
When's the last time you went to the Lord to renew your strength?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Author Interview – Linda Evans Shepherd

I have the privilege of welcoming multi-published Christian author Linda Evans Shepherd to discuss her writing career and latest book release in May 2014, "Praying Through Hard Times: Finding Strength in God's Presence." She’s written on tough topics like suicide and fun fiction books including a series, “The Potluck Club,” with acclaimed Christian author Eva Marie Everson.

Welcome, Linda. Would you share a brief overview of your latest book including your inspiration for it?

Life storms happen; jobs disappear, children go through crisis, loved ones die, illnesses visit, tornadoes destroy, and marriages sometimes tremble or even evaporate under the strain of difficulties.

As a storm-survivor myself, I have learned how to reach out to God in ways that not only connects me to Him in times of trouble but helps me remember that God is bigger than my storms.

I was inspired to write this book because of the people I’ve met as I’ve spoken at conferences across North America.  It’s shocking to see the levels of pain and heartache in the body of Christ. It’s heartbreaking to see that so many count their difficulties as God’s rejection or abandonment. I try to help my audiences move beyond these lies. I love to come along side of them and teach them how to give their troubles to the Lord. It’s such a joy to see my audiences come back to life; to joy, hope and trust in God.

I wanted to share these same secrets with my readers. 

You’ve been published in both fiction and non-fiction genres. What’s your favorite of the two? Is one more challenging than the other to write?

I love to write in both genres. Fiction is fun because it’s the only time you actually have control of your own little world. And what I’ve learned from writing fiction is that sometimes I, as a loving writer, have to give my characters difficulties so that they grow and develop. I have to say no to the temptation to write my characters’ lives without their black moments or otherwise I won’t have a story to tell.

I see God our creator in this same role. He allows pain and trials into our personal lives so that we can grow, develop and turn to him.

I love to take these deeper truths to my non-fiction readers as well, weaving my personal stories throughout the books to hopefully not only entertain, but to relate.

So, the way I see it, I get to share the joys of all worlds.  However, in fiction I’m only sharing the ‘make-believe’ trials of my characters while in nonfiction, I am sharing from my very real and personal trials.  Therefore, I find that fiction is definitely easier to write. 

You talk a lot about giving God your burdens.  For some, this might create a mental image of God as a majestic bellhop. How do you see him?

I wouldn’t call God a bellhop, but he does ask us to give him our troubles. 

To illustrate this point, I tell about the time I was traveling through the New York subway with heavy bags.  A teenager saw me struggling to carry my bags up a steep staircase and asked if he could ‘have’ one of my bags.

I was sure he meant he wanted me to ‘give’ him my suitcase. Because I was about to lose my balance and fall down a flight of stairs, I gave him my bag expecting to never see it again. But I had it wrong; this teen ran up the stairs and waited for me. 

In other words, he only took the weight of my bag. That’s exactly what God wants to do for us; he wants to carry the weight of our troubles so we can experience more of his peace and joy.

What are you currently working on?

My next book, “The Stress Cure; Praying Your Way to Personal Peace” comes out this September. I wrote about the true remedy to stress; learning how to reach out to God’s power through prayer. I want my readers to recognize God’s continual presence and yield their troubles to the Prince of Peace.

I also have a September deadline, to turn in a book about intercessory prayer. It’s been exciting to research amazing stories of answered prayer. I can’t wait to share these stories with my readers.

Many struggling writers wonder how long it takes to get a book published. Obviously, the process is probably more streamlined as you publish books. How long did it take from the time you started writing your first book until it was published?

The Lord totally tricked me into writing books. I’d wanted to be a youth director, but God had other ideas that led me into writing technical documentation in the high tech world. So when I felt His call to write Christian books for publication, I knew I didn’t know a thing about that process. That’s why I attended a Christian writers conference and bought all the recordings of all the classes. By the time the following conference rolled around a year later, I came armed with a book idea for teens. I met with an editor who had five teens at home. This gentleman had no difficulty catching my vision. A year later my first two teen novels, “Ryan’s Trials” and “Kara’s Quest,” were published. So I started the process thinking publishing was a snap. But in the years since, I’ve learned different. I think God gave me an easy in to help keep me motivated in my leaner more difficult days of publishing; days which certainly came my way.  

What encouragement do you have for other Christian writers struggling to get published, especially when rejection letters keep coming? 

I think we’ve all been there, and honestly, I think God uses those rejection letters in a couple of ways; to help us hone our craft, and to teach us how to survive rejection. I know that when I was a bright-eyed author off my first book projects, I assumed rejection wouldn’t come my way. But when it did I realized, Well, why not me? Didn’t our Lord Jesus suffer rejection? Do I think I am better than Jesus?

The Lord taught me a lot through the rejection process. As for encouragement; count your rejection as an honor and continue to follow your call if you want to press into victory.

Linda Evans Shepherd, the author of over 30 books, is a repeat Selah Award winner and the author of the bestselling When You Don’t Know What to Pray, (Revell) and the co-author of the bestselling novel series The Potluck Club and The Potluck Catering Club (Revell).

Linda is the founder and leader of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, President of the non-profit ministry Right to the Heart, and the publisher of the women’s magazine Leading Hearts, found on ISSUU as well as the Apple News Stand. She’s married to Paul and has two children. 

Other notables: A Selah Christian Living Book of the Year.

Laura Hodges Poole blogs weekly at  "A Word of Encouragement." She may be contacted at Follow her on Twitter @ Laura_Poole.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friendship and the Ritual of Tea

Do you long for a simpler time? Do you ever dream of a slower lifestyle, one where you have more hours in your day?

I do.

I love the opening lines in the header of this blog

 "Whether it's a conversation with a friend, a word that is penned, or a craft that is made, everything we do leaves a stitch in the fabric of time…"

These words evoke in me feelings of an era gone by, a simpler time.

There are pleasant ways in this busy world of ours to carve out quality time and return to days of yesteryear.

Many years ago I was introduced to the ritual of tea, served in a teapot on a tray with dainty cups and saucers. I was mesmerized with the grace and elegance of my hosts, Denley and Ann Caughman, my pastor and his wife. They had no idea of their impact on my life at the time. They do now, but this small town girl had never been exposed to such finery.

I.  Was. Hooked.

It was more than the tea itself, it was the hospitality displayed and shared. I soaked it in and decided then and there, I wanted to pattern my life after them. Their spiritual influence continues to this day.

Hospitality doesn't have to be complicated. A cup of tea, a piece of bread, warm conversation with friends, and relationships are deepened and flourish.
Kim, Stacy, and Dawn

Recently, I shared tea in my home with three friends preparing for a Bridal Tea. We pored over recipes and sipped different tea blends as we decided which ones we liked best.

One thing I love about the ritual of tea is you can't hurry when having tea. Typically, it's hot and you must sip. This causes you to slow down, or stop altogether in your mad dash and ponder life. Also, a cup and saucer are dainty china, so this too, forces one to be easy, gentle.

Anytime you sit around the table facing people, the natural flow of lively conversation begins. Hearts open to whatever is happening in our lives. It's the way we were created…for community.

Time…we all have the same amount. We choose how we spend it. We make our lives complicated by our choices and the choices we make for our children. I don't want to get to the end of my life and wish I'd used my time better.

Investing your life in others is never a waste of time. You will reap the benefits through lifelong friendships. When all is said and done, people are the only thing we can take to heaven, metaphorically speaking that is.

My dear friends Denley and Ann are still serving people. If you want to experience true southern hospitality and be served the finest food and tea in the south, they own a bed and breakfast in Marion, South Carolina.

How do you unwind and carve out the simple life? I'd love to hear in the comments.

You can find Cindy O'Brien at her blog  My Little Corner