Monday, November 30, 2015

Letting Christmas Make a Difference

“I want Christmas to affect me this year.” My daughter said in anticipation as she glanced through the advent book she has chosen to read this year.

I second that.

I’ve tried slowing down to enjoy Christmas. Said no to activities so we weren’t stressed about it. But to let it impact my life? Make a difference in me? I can’t say I’ve ever approached it that way.

Join me through December as I contemplate how Christmas can make a difference in my life.

Growing up, Christmas wasn’t about Jesus, although we did sing the carols about Him. It was about the gifts on Christmas morning. But it wasn’t about Santa, although we each got one gift that was from “Santa” and we never ruined it for other kids who believed the jolly elf was real. And every year, my parents would put a “Santa’s Workshop sign on their bedroom door alerting us to the no enter zone so we wouldn’t ruin their surprises for us.  

And we had other traditions we looked forward to each year. One of my favorites was our annual “sleigh ride”. The only horses being those under the hood of my parents’ car. We would drive around the city looking at the beautiful lights strung for the holidays. Putting our stockings out, festive meals and traveling to see family. We had a lovely time.

My parents taught us Christ probably wasn’t born in December so this kind of celebration suited our family.

But as an adult, I grew accustomed to celebrating Christmas as the birth of Christ. I like it that way. Yet, we still hung on to all the traditions that have nothing to do with His birth.

It seems that during any typical Christmas, many enjoy all the trappings of tradition, give a nod to Christ at whatever Christmas Eve service they choose to go to, then move on to “what did I get under the tree?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said in a letter to his parents from Tegal prison camp in 1943, “We can and should also, celebrate Christmas despite the ruins around us.”

This would have to be Christmas at its core.

As I seek to let Christmas make a difference in my life this year, my question is, if all the trappings were taken away would I still celebrate Christ in my life? If no one returned my “Merry Christmas” would I still honor Him? God give me grace to do so.

What about you? What would Christmas become in your life if all the trappings, traditions and gift giving were stripped away?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

7 Changes to Pave the Way for Joy (A CrossRiver Author Hunt Post)

Welcome to stop #14 on the CrossRiver Author Hunt. 

After you read my blog post I wrote for you, feel free to peruse my site and get to know me a bit, then enter the giveaway at the bottom of the blog post. Join my email list and you will receive a copy of 21 Days of Hope.  
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 Before you head over to the next stop, collect 
the clue athe bottom of the post. You’ll need it 
to enter the drawing for CrossRiver Media’s giveaway.

Grand prize: 
One winner will receive a Kindle loaded with 
CrossRiver books! Winner will be chosen randomly from 
among those who enter the correct phrase.

Other prizes:
Four winners will receive hard copies of 3
 different CrossRiver books, signed by the author!

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7 Changes to Pave the Way for Joy
Joy can be slow to return once its gone. In Psalm 30:11 the Bible says, " You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy..." Joy does come back! Here are a few things to help pave the way for joy. 

1. Start your day focused on the Lord.
Instead of looking at your to-do list first, spend time in prayer. Not just asking God for something, but worshiping and praising.

2. Change your input value.
What are we filling our minds with? Compare with God’s word what you watch on TV, books you read, music you listen, even video games you play. Philippians 4:8 is a great filter to put everything through before we put it in our minds and hearts. 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8

3. Change how you think.
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. This follows close behind what we fill our minds with. We tend to dwell on what we have allowed into our heads. Change the input, it will be easier to change the output. Instead of default entertainment, spend more time in God’s word. If there is time for entertainment, there is time to spend with God.

4. Change your words.
We believe what we say. Don’t agree with the negative thinking! Acknowledge whatever pain or difficult is in your life, then acknowledge and stand in belief about what God says about you and your situation.

5. Chase joy.
Look for the surprises of joy God sends your way! Margeret Feinberg calls them joy bombs in her book Fight Back With Joy. You can also create moments that give you moment of uplift to look beyond your circumstance and dare to hope.
 I call these Joy Sprinkles: blow bubbles, go on a walk, hold hands with your honey, dance with abandon when no one is watching. 

6. Rest.
At the end of the day, instead of going to your default for relaxation, carefully consider what would really truly refresh you. Instead of TV or reading go to bed early. Our bodies need sleep.

Take time to just be still. Fill the in between moments with quiet instead of more work or the noise of other people or activities. Say no more often and leave some buffer space on your calendar. Take some extended time for rest at some point in your week.

7. End your day focused on the Lord.
Fall asleep praying instead of worrying. Talk to God about the situation instead of going over various scenarios of your own making. Then, spend some time praising him. Even if it’s in a whisper, do this out loud. It will make a difference when you hear yourself speak those words that stand on the belief that HE is in control.

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To celebrate the scavenger hunt,
I'm giving away a gift pack!
Enter below to win, then scroll
to the bottom to find your clue.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
~ ~ ~

Thank you for stopping by during the 
CrossRiver Author Hunt! 

Before you go to the next stop collect your clue below. You’ll need this to enter the giveaway on the CrossRiver website. 

“honor Him.” 

You're ready for the last stop now on the CrossRiver Author Hunt:  CrossRiver Media

~ ~ ~ 

Have you stumbled onto the Author Hunt 
or forgotten what you’re supposed to do next? 

Here’s a quick review: 

~Visit every author’s site that is a part of the hunt. 
~Sign up for each author’s email list/newsletter for extra chances at fun giveaways. 
~Stop back at the CrossRiver Media's website after you visit the last blog in the hunt and enter your clues for a chance to win the grand prize.
~Click here for a complete list of the rules.

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Growing in Faith in the Little Moments

photo credit:  / Stuart Miles

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 
Galatians 6:9

There is some new technique or strategy or adventure to set out on every day you log into the internet. Every blogger has an idea for how we should spend our days. A constant barrage of new keeps us busy, distracted.

And bored with what doesn’t change on a regular basis. Like doing the dishes. The vacuuming. The laundry. The shopping.

At least I find that true in my life. There is sameness to running my home. Everything is done, then undone every day. I struggle with resentment.

Instead of doing some grand project (like writing the next best selling novel) I’m JUST doing the dishes. Again.

How can I grow in faith instead of giving in to this attitude?  

This morning, I had a thought. Change my thinking about it. Why not think of all these little things as traditions? I usually think about traditions in connection with the holidays. Those special things that keep people tied to home in their hearts. Why not daily traditions of service and love? Of pointing my family to Jesus in the little things?

Its not in the big moments our faith is established, 
its in the  little ones. Click to Tweet 

I remembered a piece I wrote when my kids were young about being a busy mom and God telling me how important all those over and over things are. (I just wish I didn’t keep forgetting this!) Here is a portion I want to share with you:

I cried out to the Lord, “What am I doing to make a difference?”  And the Lord gently answered me.  “When people see me, they see the Father and when your children watch you, they’re learning about me.”

When you seek Me first and throughout the day, 
      they learn that I do guide and direct and make paths straight.
When you cook their meals 3 times a day,
they learn about My provision.
When you clean your house,
they learn that dirt washes off (one way to understand My                  forgiveness).
When you say you’re sorry after overreacting to their antics,
they learn the importance of humbling themselves before Me.
When you carve out time for naps and quiet in your day,
they learn to be still and listen to My voice.
When you serve your neighbor,
they learn about My heart to serve.
When you work to keep peace in the home,
they learn that I bless the peacemakers.
When you respond with grace to interruptions,
they learn to trust Me with the day.
When you get up with them in the middle of the night,
whether its sickness, fear or a wet bed, they learn that I never               sleep.
When you do things over and over and over and over,
they learn about My steadfastness.
And finally He reminds me that,
“whatever you do for the least of these, my children, you do for           me.”

Does boredom make its way into the over and over aspects of your life? How do you keep the right attitude about it?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Coming Soon!

This is going to be fun! Hosted by my publisher CrossRiver Media, it's a chance to discover some new authors (I'm going to be part of the Hunt as well) and to win some great prizes! I hope you can join me. More information coming soon!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Author Spotlight: Vannetta Chapman

Do you believe in miracles? Vannetta Chapman explores this question through her story Anna's Healing. 
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About the Book

When a tornado strikes, Anna Schwartz’s life is changed forever. She suffers a spinal cord injury and finds herself learning to live as a paraplegic. But then a miracle happens, and the world’s attention is drawn to this young Amish girl who has experienced the unexplainable.

Vannetta's Thoughts:

Do you believe in miracles?  When I began writing Anna’s Healing, that was the question at the very front of my mind—for myself, for my readers, and for Christians as a whole. Do we still believe in miracles? Why do they happen to some people and not others? How do we know when a real miracle has occurred? Why are miracles even mentioned in the Bible? 

First of all, I am not a Biblical scholar! I am a Christian of 42 years, and I’ve certainly been through my share of terrible situations where I prayed for a miracle, where my heart was aching and I called out to God. So let’s look at these questions one at a time.

Do we still believe in miracles? When I first came up with the idea of Anna’s Healing, I knew that I did believe in miracles, but what about the vast majority of Christians? So I did several “polls” and the answers were overwhelmingly YES. So most of my readership does believe that the miracles we read about in the Bible can and do still happen today. That led me to question #2.

Why do they happen to some people and not others? This is a hard one. Several people who answered my survey said, “I do believe in miracles. We didn’t receive one, but I still believe.” That type of faith is inspiring to me. There have been times in my life when I prayed for a cure for a loved one or prayed for a situation to pass. Many times instead of a miracle, we had to endure the situation. Did it make us stronger? Yes. Did it in increase our faith? Sure. I certainly can’t pretend to know the mind of God, and His ways are not our ways … 

How do we know when a real miracle has occurred? Ahh, the age of skepticism. I’ll admit that I question most things I read or even that people tell me. But if we pray and commit ourselves to knowing God’s truth in a situation, then I think we can know whether a real miracle has occurred. 

Why are miracles even mentioned in the Bible? It’s always struck me as odd that whenever Christ healed some one, he would invariably tell them “tell no one about this” (see Mark 1:44, Matthew 8:4, and Luke 5:14). Why? Wouldn’t we want to shout it from the rooftops if we were healed? 

I love all of these questions that deal with such a basic question of our faith. After studying and writing about miracles, all I can say for certain is the height and breadth and width and depth of God’s love for us is something we can only begin to imagine … and sometimes, that love is revealed through a miracle. 
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Meet the Author

Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. She has published over one hundred articles in Christian family magazines, receiving more than two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace of Albion, Pennsylvania. Her novel, Falling to Pieces, was a 2012 ACFW Carol Award finalist. A Promise for Miriam earned a spot on the June 2012 Christian Retailing Top Ten Fiction list. Chapman was a teacher for 15 years and currently writes full time. She lives in the Texas hill country with her husband.

Connect with Vannetta

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Author Spotlight: Brenda S. Anderson

I recently came across this author through a writing organization I am a part of. Her books sound like my kind of books, so I wanted share with you and spotlight her newest release. Enjoy!
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About the Book

After a troubling encounter with a pregnant teen, Sheila Peterson-Brooks hurries from the crisis pregnancy center into the frigid Minnesota winter where she is mugged and left for dead. After a frantic search, Richard, her husband, finds her, and the police quickly nab the mugger …

A hungry, homeless teen.
The brother of the pregnant girl Sheila had just counseled.

The girl pleads for her brother, and Sheila and Richard choose not to press charges. Instead, they open their home to the boy, a move that could cost them their possessions, and their hearts.
And, in the process, teach them the true meaning of home.

Pre-Order Hungry for Home for Kindle  

Check out the entire Coming Home Series: 
Pieces of Granite (Prequel)
Chain of Mercy (book one)
Memory Box Secrets (book two)
Hungry for Home (book three)
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Meet the Author

Brenda S. Anderson writes gritty and authentic, life-affirming fiction. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and is currently President of the ACFW Minnesota chapter, MN-NICE. When not reading or writing, she enjoys music, theater, roller coasters, and baseball, and she loves watching movies with her family. She lives in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area with her husband of 28 years, their three children, and one sassy cat.

Connect with Brenda

Brenda's Interview:

What does your family think of your writing? I’m very blessed to have 100% support from my family. My husband is my loudest cheerleader, and my dad is close behind.

What book are you currently reading? I just finished The Mistress of Tall Acre by Laura Frantz. I’m not typically a historical fiction reader, but Laura is such an amazing wordsmith and storyteller, I eagerly anticipate reading her books every year.

When you're not writing, what do you enjoy doing? I love music, baseball, roller coasters, spending time with family, movies. My family all enjoys the Marvel superhero movies. You could say we’re Marvel geeks. J

Where do you get constructive critiques and feedback? From a few different areas. I have a couple first readers who get to read my stories in their earliest forms. Their opinions help me shape the book for my next readers who are my critique partners. And I’m blessed to have The Best critique partners. They’ve helped me grow so much as a writer and their hands-on help has been far more valuable than conferences or writing books. 

What advice, if any, do you have for others aspiring to publish a book of their own/follow their dream? Write your passion, and it will come through in your stories. If God has called you to be a writer, then be obedient. He’ll open the doors He needs to be opened, but keep in mind, His definition of success likely won’t match the world’s definition.

What is your book about? Hungry for Home is about a woman who his mugged by a homeless teen. Instead of pressing charges, she and her husband take the teen into their home.  A couple of themes are prevalent in this story: defining what “home” really is (Proverbs 24:3-4) and showing Jesus to the hungry, thirsty, and homeless around us (Matthew 25:35).

What motivated you to write on this topic? Why do you feel you had to tell this story? About four years ago, news reports focused on the huge number of homeless teens in our county. As a writer, my first thought was, “How did they become homeless?” and then, “How can we help them?” Hungry for Home is just one teen’s fictional story out of thousands. My hope is to raise awareness for this crisis which unfortunately continues on today.

Do you plan on writing a sequel to this story? Are there other books in the works? Hungry for Home is the fourth book in my Coming Home series. The hero, Richard Brooks, is in all four books, three of which he is the lead. The first book is a prequel which follows Richard’s sister.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Called by Name

A couple weeks ago at Bible study, my name tag kept coming off! I would pick it up and press it onto my shirt, then not 5 minutes later, find it on the floor or on the table. After several attempts, I finally gave up making it stick. The fabric of my shirt just wasn’t stickable!

Belonging to Christ is kind of like wearing a fabric that isn’t stickable. Before, we wore names like abandoned, defeated, pressed down, sinner, liar, and loser. Sometimes, we pick up those names and try to stick them back on, but Christ died so we don’t have to!

He has a quite a few names He gives us: beloved, forgiven, overcomer, victor, blessed, chosen, His own…

Is there a name you are trying to stick back onto your life?
Take a moment and turn it over to God.
Recommit to only wearing Christ’s names for you.

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; 
I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” Isaiah 43:1