Restored Joy

Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Do you ever feel like your salvation has become just another thing? Has it become so deeply embedded in you that it no longer is fresh and exciting, as it was when you first came to know Christ? Join Dawn Cahill today as she tells us how God restored the joy in her salvation through writing fiction.

But first, a giveaway! Through the end of the week, Dawn is hosting a giveaway for one lucky new subscriber to her blog. She’ll draw the name on Sunday. So sign up soon for your chance to win!

How God Restored the Joy of My Salvation Through Fiction Writing

by Dawn Cahill

You’ve probably known some “churched” kids who, despite their families’ best efforts, simply have no interest in Christianity. They hang out with scary-looking peers and grow tough veneers. They judge others, not by their character, but by their “cool factor.”

I was one of those kids.

Raised in church. Heard the gospel all my life. Went through all the right motions.

But the gospel never penetrated my heart.

woman-570883_640Then, at age 30, after years of substance abuse and a stint in alcohol treatment, God grabbed me by the collar and didn’t let go.

And it felt wonderful! Like my newly-saved protagonist Livy experienced in Sapphire Secrets:

Livy awoke with a new, overpowering sensation. An awareness of the presence of God filled her to bursting.

Throughout the day, she saw God everywhere. DeeDee helped her bathe with her cast wrapped in plastic and propped on the tub’s side. The comfort of the warm water made her think of God. As she struggled into her clothes, His presence filled her room. As she plodded along in the chilly winter sunshine, the majesty of the trees, the green of the grass, the jagged outline of the mountains all shouted of a Creator. The sky itself spilled over with God. She could almost see Him superimposed over the blue backdrop. Yet nobody marveled over it. The people she passed on the sidewalk appeared oblivious.

Feeling an intense need to commune with Him, she sat outside in the sun with her new Bible, basking in His presence and slurping up Scriptures like a thirsty woman at an oasis.

She avoided DeeDee, knowing her twin couldn’t possibly understand the things going on in her heart. She would assume, since she hadn’t experienced God for herself, He must not be real.

Livy’s favorite Friedrich Nietzsche quote kept running through her head. “Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” A simple paraphrase showed her a profound new truth: Those who were seen worshiping God were thought to be insane by those who could not see Him.

Last year, when I wrote this, the memories of my conversion kept me inspired and motivated, compelling me to put my testimony on paper. I remembered what that newborn “glow” felt like. And how the Bible came alive. Like it did for Livy:

Livy— “I thought the Bible would be dull, but it’s really compelling…I feel like I’m at a feast with a never-ending supply of food.”

Christian friend Scott– “I remember what that’s like. Before I knew Christ, reading the Bible was like reading a textbook. After I found Him, it came alive.”

But today, twenty-plus years after my first taste of true joy…reading the Bible is often like reading a textbook. I no longer notice God everywhere I look. And reliving my conversion experience through my protagonist’s eyes brought home the truth that I’d lost that lovin’ feeling.

book-506481_640Writing this novel was an intense spiritual exercise, as I put myself in the shoes of various characters: Paula, the mature Christian who disciples Livy and always has the right verse for every situation; Scott, fairly new Christian who obeys God’s prompting by praying for Livy’s salvation; and brand-new convert Livy, who gets flak from her anti-religion family for her faith. It made me realize I’ve morphed from Livy, to Scott, and now to Paula.

Sure, the glow has changed, but into something more solid. I find that, like Paula, I know how to biblically answer questions thrown at me. The Bible still vibrates with truth, even though it’s harder now for me to focus on it. And my relationship with God is like a long-term marriage—I don’t want to say I take Him for granted, but there’s a sense of security that I didn’t have as a new believer. And I’ll take that over warm fuzzies any day.

***

Saphhire Secrets

Sapphire Secrets:

Twins Livy and DeeDee McCreary open a dance studio in honor of their late mother, whom they lost when they were six. Problem is, Livy remembers nothing of the day her mother died. The more she questions her family about that awful day, the more she suspects she’s been lied to all her life. While she’s seeking answers to what really happened, she keeps crossing paths with handsome engineer Scott Lorenzo, who compels her to question the New Age philosophy she was raised on. What if there is a personal God out there who cares about her?
Before Livy can discover answers, a brutal accident interrupts her search. Her life flips upside down as she faces a future she is not prepared for. Yet the unanswered questions continue to haunt her. Can she find the strength to keep on with her quest, even if it means losing the two people most dear to her—her twin, and the man she loves? 2015 Finalist, ACFW First Impressions Contest. Find it on Amazon.

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Author Dawn V. Cahill pens “Stories of Victorious Faith for the 21st Century.” Seeing an unfilled niche in the Christian fiction market, Ms Cahill birthed Hot Topic Fiction at an intensive four-day writers conference. HTF isn’t afraid to explore the question, how does God want us to live out our faith in this not-so-brave new world? Without insulting the reader by offering pat or easy answers–because there aren’t any–HTF tells stories of ordinary Christians following hard after Christ in a world of terror and violence, of upside-down morality, of hostility to Judeo-Christian values.

Email her at dawn(at)dawnvcahill(dot)com, or find her on Facebook. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Let’s talk about this: How do you maintain the joy of your salvation? Do you read more, dive into a new Bible study, or pull away for quiet time with the Lord? Post in the comments below. We can all use some fresh ideas and encouragement.

6But before you go, I wanted to share a fun tidbit of my next novel, Breaking Free, releasing online next month and in bookstores in early April. You can read the first 30 or so pages, free, HERE.

 

 

Surrendering the Present

What do you think of when you hear the word surrender? For many, it can induce fear. But it can also be so freeing. Read on as Julie Arduini tells her story of surrender.

But first, I need to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. And our winner is … Jane Squires! Congrats!

Surrendering the Present by Julie Arduini

Although I’ve been writing for publication since 2011, creating stories has been my passion since I was four years old. During the teen years when my stories and characters were my emotional lifeline, I was told I had a great imagination and knack for making characters feel like friends. When it came to grammar and the more formal aspects of writing, teachers were less than encouraging about making writing a career. Struggling with confidence and consumed with people-pleasing, I played it safe.

Writing played a part in college and my young adult years, but not in any way that would lead to a potential reader rejecting me. notebook-1194456_640As I became a Christian and got married, I was spending my time thinking I had to do things for everyone just so they would like me. I was exhausted and in need of healing. As I surrendered my past wounds and warped mindset to Christ, He not only transformed me, He gave me the desire to write.

I started writing for the local Mothers of Preschoolers chapter, then I created a blog. Suddenly opportunities were falling into my lap to participate in anthologies and gift books. By 2010, I’d completed a contemporary romance through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and started the process to make it publication-ready.

Fears started to return. What if no one wanted the story? What if a reader hated it and left a negative review? I pictured myself leaving those fears at the feet of Jesus and allowing Him to take care of everything. And I kept that visual in the forefront as that NaNoWriMo story became an actual book.

His faithfulness reigned even when I got that negative review.  As I revised the sequel, a lot of trials hit that I never saw coming. I felt shaken and unsure. Through Bible study and prayers from a great group of prayer warriors, I not only survived the experience, but felt His stirring to surrender yet again.

My tagline this entire time has been Encouraging you to surrender the good, the bad, and—maybe one day—the chocolate. As I’ve shared with audiences as a speaker and author, I’ve been clear that the surrender process starts with me. I can’t convince any halloween-candy-1014629_640reader to trust me if I haven’t lived a life of surrender. Some of the things the Lord has asked me to give up that were good was our life in Upstate NY. We left everything and everyone for Ohio, and it was hard. I’ve had to surrender bad habits like negativity and people-pleasing. And although I don’t eat M&M’s for breakfast anymore, I confess I’m not quite ready to give up the chocolate today. I am in the midst of another big surrender. I recently left traditional publishing to become an Indie author. I had to release my goals and timeframes for His.

With that, I’m ready to share my message to anyone willing to receive it. My focus is something I’ve become pretty fond of—Surrender Issues and Chocolate. I will be re-releasing ENTRUSTED this spring, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED. Instead of an Adirondack perspective, where the books are set, they will be the Surrendering Time series. ENTRUSTED is about surrendering the present. ENTANGLED is about surrendering the past. Coming this fall will be ENGAGED: Surrendering the future. My prayer is that readers will open my books in hopes of entertainment but also find my flawed characters relatable. As they observe the characters finding freedom through surrender in Christ, I believe readers will seek the same for them.

I look forward to partnering with audiences in their surrender journey.

ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present

Jenna Anderson, sassy city-girl from Youngstown, Ohio, plows–literally–into Adirondack village, Speculator Falls, with a busted GPS and goals to make everyone in her new hometown love her as the new senior center director. Town councilman and grocer Ben Regan is as broken as the flower box Jenna demolished. He’s grieving loss and rejection and wants to shut down the center permanently before there’s too much change and further heartbreak. The two work on community projects and build a slow relationship, but the council needs to vote on the senior center’s future. Can Jenna show Ben both her and the center are worth trusting?

***

profileJulie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of the upcoming re-release, ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as the sequel, ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past, set for a Spring release. She also shared her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at http://juliearduini.com, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities at JULIE ARDUINI: SURRENDER ISSUES AND CHOCOLATE and the weekly e mail. SUNDAY’S SURRENDER AND CHOCOLATE.

Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Let’s talk about this: What kinds of things have you had to surrender? What fears did you have to face in the midst of that surrender? How did you face those fears? Do you have any wisdom to share? We can all learn from one another.

“My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways” (Proverbs 23:26, ESV).

Sidelined

We all make plans for our lives. We have ideas of what we want to do, what we want to be, and how our lives should go. But what happens if our plans aren’t the Lord’s? Bonnie Leon shares with us her experience…and how God’s plans led to her calling.

But first, a giveaway! Bonnie is graciously giving away a paperback copy of her book, To Dance With Dolphins. To enter, leave a comment below. Enjoy this piece from the back cover:

To-Dance-with-Dolphins-Front-Cover-2-197x300Twenty-two-year-old Claire Murray has suffered from a mysterious disease for years. Her social circle has shrunk to a small support group for people with chronic illness and disability. But what if life could be about more than doctors, pain, and medications?

Claire and three others—old grouch Tom, hippy-holdout Willow, and moody Taylor—hatch plans for a cross-country trip to swim with the dolphins in Florida. Only a day into the trip, they unexpectedly need help. And who happens to be hitchhiking along the highway but a young, good-looking loner named Sean Sullivan? However, the last thing he wants is to be harnessed to a bunch of ailing travelers.

Though the journey proves difficult, following God’s plan might be even harder. Will they find the courage to follow their dreams and dare to live again?

And a fun, pre-devo note: Jennifer Slattery’s next release, Breaking Free, a novel that is getting some great early reviews (read those HERE), is available for pre-order! You can get breakingfree_n1664109that HERE. You can read a free, 33-page excerpt HERE.

Sidelined? by Bonnie Leon

The day after I wrote a blog about my new and healthier perspective on being “sidelined” I had to leave church because I couldn’t stop crying about the life I’d lost.  Something small set me off—the introduction of a pastor search team.

girl-517555_640Sometimes it doesn’t take much.

I don’t want to be part of the search team, but I do want to be part of my church … the way I once was. My disabilities have benched me.

I couldn’t stop the tears so I left church. Once in my car, the tears turned to sobs. What was going on? I prayed and cried some more.  I decided it couldn’t be hormones—I don’t have any of those left. I knew the culprit something I thought I’d worked through—my feelings about being sidelined.

Evidently those feelings were not resolved.

June 11, 1991 a log truck tipped over on a corner and hit my van. I was alive but at thirty-nine my life had been permanently altered. We, my body and I, have been through a lot. We’ve been through numerous battles—won some, lost some.

After years of struggle I finally reached a place where I could be involved in my church and community. And I knew my boundaries.

My life was full—family, baseball games, volleyball games, basketball, track and football. I made it to nearly every competition for my children and grandchildren. I relished the concerts and parent nights. I taught Bible studies, led women’s ministry, worked alongside my husband in small group ministries. I also taught at writing conferences and shared my heart with women’s groups. It was a privilege and a joy.

In recent years all that has changed. I’ve had to curtail most ministries and special activities. It is a heartache, a disappointment.

I’ve been “sidelined”.

The word, sidelined, is not accurate. But there’s a voice in my head that tells me it is. Until last Sunday I thought I’d shut off the lying voice.

word-907382_640My life matters to me and others. It doesn’t look like it once did, but I have a lot to give. People love me and count on me. I have prayers to say, hugs to give away, and love to share. I am a friend, a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, one who stands shoulder to shoulder with those I love. It is a precious calling.

And I have books to write. I even wrote a novel about this topic. To Dance With Dolphins is a story about a unique group of friends who live with disability. They taught me about the possibility of finding hope and joy even in the midst of disappointment.

We never arrive, at least not this side of heaven. Insecurities and struggles have a way of returning and taunting. But they can only have as much power as we give them. God is bigger and more powerful than all of it. Everything is possible. If we stand with God, if our hope is in Him, and if we surrender our will to His we will discover lost hopes and dreams, new paths and callings.

There is a lot I do not understand in this life, but I do know this—I have not been sidelined. And neither have you. God uses all who are willing to listen and hear and see the possibilities.

I am disabled, and my life is rich.

The Lord will never sideline us, we can only do that to ourselves.

***

Bonnie Leon is the author of twenty-one novels, including the merecently released To Dance With Dolphins, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.

She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions. These days, her time is filled with writing, being a grandmother and relishing precious time with her aged mother.

Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and eight grandchildren.

You can find Bonnie at https://www.bonnieleon.com, on Facebookhttps://www.bonnieleon.blogspot.com, on Twitter, and Pinterest.

Let’s talk about this. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” We’re not promised that our plans will work, but we are promised that the Lord’s plans will be His best for us; we only need to trust Him.

Are you able to relate to Bonnie’s story? Has God ever changed your path? If so, how did you react? What helped you through those changes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

My Father’s Father

Tough choices can be painful. More so when a family covers those choices up. What happens when those secrets are found out? And how can perceptions of people change when you start to learn more, and even understand? Read Donna’s story to see what it was like for her.

My Father’s Father by Donna Schlachter

I learned that my grandfather was, in fact, my great-grandfather, and that my truth-257160_640grandmother, who had just passed away, wasn’t related to me by blood at all. And that my aunt was actually my grandmother.

My father learned when he was thirteen years old that the woman he knew as his sister was actually his birth mother.

The only reason my father found out was because his “father’s” brother had died, and his son, my father’s cousin, was going through some papers, and saw the birth certificate which my grandfather asked him to keep in a safe.

My father was a very pragmatic man. He couldn’t change the circumstances, so he decided he’d just carry on. In fact, he never told the man he called Dad that he knew the truth of his birth until about twenty years later, and he never discussed the matter with the woman he called Mom, who was actually his father’s second wife, the first having died.

The idea for a book came from my father’s idea that although the story isn’t unique—many children are born out of wedlock and adopted by family—he felt that the time and the setting were. Newfoundland, in eastern Canada, during the 1930s and 1940s.

I agreed, and I wrote a “family only” version of the story, using the real names of the people involved. I spent hours recording my father as he told his story, which included his birth mother’s story, his growing-up years, and ultimately finding his birth family.

I did a lot of research into the location and the time, including connecting with the town historian, who helped fill in the gaps. We also used the journals and cashbooks kept by my grandfather in the course of his business, a grocery and dry goods store in this same town. Wonderful notations such as “air ship landed on the ice last night” sparked visions of dirigibles crash-landing. However, when I checked into it, it was a small airplane that landed quite safely because of weather in the destination city.

Another notation, “gave to garden party committee” reminded me of those grand social occasions where everybody gathered to drink tea, play lawn games, and buy baked goods and knitted goods to raise funds for one thing or another.

There were more somber notes: “Rendell Walsh missing in woods” and then three days later, “Found Rendell. Funeral tomorrow.”

I worked my way through the source documents and the oral history, filling in the blanks women-740625_640when memory or information failed. I cried over several chapters, including the one where my father’s birth mother mourned her own mother’s passing; when she learned she was pregnant and the father nowhere to be found; and when she handed the child over to the birth father’s family and said, “Here. This belongs to Clarence.”

Through the process, I learned more about this glamorous aunt whose lifestyle I’d always admired. When I was only about eight, I realized the family treated her life a black sheep, and I wasn’t sure why. Perhaps it was her three marriages and three divorces. Perhaps because she was a career woman who moved up the corporate ladder.

Only now do I understand that perhaps the circumstances of her childhood and pregnancy caused her to make these choices.

I also came to understand more about my father and his way of thinking. The man was a genius, even as a boy of nine doing experiments in electricity, chemistry, and physics that would astound most college students today, self-taught, in the attic of the family home.

But one real eye-opener for me was seeing his birth father from a different angle. During the writing of the story, I saw him as a man who used my father’s birth mother, then dumped her for a woman with more family influence and money. The man who never acknowledged my father, even though he knew for certain who my father was, and worked in the same building with him for years, even riding in the same elevator and never making eye contact.

But once the book was published, my father’s half-siblings started talking about their father, Clarence. He was a loving man, faithful to his wife, making sure his children had the best education money could buy.

This was not the man I’d imagined.

In fact, he was just like my father.

***

IMG_6534  Juggling the books -midsizeDonna Schlachter pens historical suspense while her alter ego, Leeann Betts, writes contemporary suspense. Donna’s recent releases include Nuggets of Writing Gold and a collection of short stories, Second Chances and Second Cups. She plans to release her father’s story in the market version, with names changed to protect the guilty, in the Fall of 2016. Her books and her pen name’s books are available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. You can follow Donna at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com and Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com.

Let’s talk about this. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first to speak in court sounds right–until the cross examination begins. There’s always, always, always two sides to a story. But when we’re hurt or someone we love’s been hurt, it’s hard to see the other side. It’s hard to have the strength and courage to even look. That’s where prayer comes in. The next time you hear a scandalous story, or maybe simply a nugget of gossip, pause to pray. Ask God to show the situation or person through His eyes. You may be surprised by what He reveals.

Can you relate to Donna’s story, and if so, how? Share your thoughts in the comments below.