The Crux of the Matter

We all need an attitude adjustment  at one time or another. Today’s guest had an opportunity to write a story that changed her attitude. Read on to find out what God did in Paula’s heart.

-But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.-Romans 5-8, ESV

Behind The Crux
by Paula Mowery

The editor-in-chief at Prism Book Group put out a call to the authors through our private Facebook group for submissions to a series based on The Love Chapter. She printed out the passage and basically the different phrases were up for grabs as to be the theme for the amish-people-1036327_640story. I had my eye on one phrase but missed out on that one. I decided that I could come up with a story based on the section: “Love does not dishonor.”

God brought to mind my time living in Maryland near the Amish and their honorable ways. This is when my story started to take form. What if someone with Amish ties were to bring dishonor to the family? What if the supposed dishonor actually revealed long-concealed lies?

My next thought was about an unexpected pregnancy being the ultimate dishonor in the story. I recalled my time as a devotional leader at our local Pregnancy Crisis Center. Conjuring bitter feelings to portray through my characters wasn’t difficult. When God afforded me the opportunity to serve at the pregnancy center, I was definitely conflicted. These girls had become pregnant, many by accident. As a young woman I struggled with infertility and harbored ill feelings toward those who found themselves in unexpected love-699480_640pregnancies. But as I got to know these women and heard their stories, I realized I was wrong. What I needed to show them was God’s unconditional love, available to all.

Thus, the reader will encounter some Amish parts as well as a precious Pregnancy Crisis Center ran by loving Christian women. There are also some medical conditions that reflect research into the Amish community. Of course a romance buds within the pages of the reunion/second chance type.

My ultimate hope is that the reader will encounter an unconditional love available from God within the pages of this short romance.

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LoveIs_CruxofHonor copyChelsea Wilson’s life is a constant reminder of what living dishonorably looks like. At every turn she continues to prove her mother’s shunning must be deserved.

Dr. Kevin Alley returns to the old home place to establish his medical practice. After running into Chelsea, he knows his love for her is still strong.

Chelsea is ousted from her small rented room when her mother bursts in, proclaiming Chelsea’s pregnancy.

Kevin takes Chelsea in, giving her space to live on the upper level of his house.

When Chelsea’s baby displays life-threatening symptoms, Chelsea must face her mother. Secrets unfold about Chelsea’s parents. Can Chelsea and Kevin uncover the secrets linked to Amish heritage in time to save the baby? Can the two find love together despite their history?

Find The Crux of Honor on Amazon.

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DSC_0275 (2)Paula Mowery is a published author, acquisitions editor, and speaker. She is also pastor’s wife and mom to a college student. She homeschooled her daughter through all twelve years, and they both lived to tell about it. Before educating her daughter at home, she was an English teacher in public school. Her books have earned a Selah Award and been a finalist in the Carolyn Readers Choice Awards.

Learn more about Paula at her blog as well as find other links to connect with her at www.paulamowery.blogspot.com.

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Let’s talk about this: Paula experienced a change of heart after working with young pregnant women. Has God ever used a situation you were in to change an idea or attitude you had? How did you use that experience to grow? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Before you go, if you’re local, I would love to see you this afternoon at the WordSowers Christian Writers Conference where I’m teaching a class on characterization. It’s not to late to join us! You can pay at the door.

 

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The End of Your Comfort Zone

When was the last time you felt God nudge you out of your comfort zone? How’d you respond? Speaking as a plotter, planner, safety-lover, it can be sooooooo hard to step out into the unknown or challenging, but it’s when we do that God opens our eyes and blesses our hearts abundantly.

This is when we discover and grab hold of the abundant life Jesus promises.

Today’s incredibly beautiful post by Carrie Schmidt inspired and challenged me to a deeper level of surrender and love.

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Moving Out of the Zone
by Carrie Schmidt

They say that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. This has certainly been true for my life.

Pre-comfort-zone-obliteration, I was uncomfortable with discomfort.  I avoided activities that could cause awkwardness. I stayed as far away as possible from hospitals or poverty or homeless-1070399_640people who believed differently than me. Absolutely, under no circumstances, did I share my Jesus with those people of different belief unless forced, and then it rarely ended well.

Pre-comfort-zone-obliteration, I liked my day to proceed according to plan. Anything – or anyone – that dared to intrude on my carefully guarded schedule was looked upon with great frustration, as an inconvenience of the highest sort.

Are you getting a good picture of my “safely-ensconced-in-my-comfort-zone” life?

Yeah.

Awkward. Nervous. Kinda prickly. Selfish for sure. Picky, picky eater. Often paralyzed by fear. A loner. Miserable.

And then 2003 arrived. The beginning of the end of my comfort zone.

My brother – my baby brother – traveled to Iraq on a missions trip in December. If you recall, Iraq in 2003 was not the safest place to be. Their convoy of vehicles had to drive intoJosh Booth Photography: IRAQ &emdash; Iraq under the cloak of night at 100 mph in the best attempt to avoid being targeted by

IEDs and other deadly missiles. If you’ll also recall, December 2003 marked the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Yeah. My brother was within a few miles of his hideout. I was, in a word, terrified, and God and I began the process of breaking some long-held chains of fear during those weeks that Josh was in Iraq.  And then Josh came back with this treasure trove of images (he was the team photographer; you can see his photos at http://www.joshboothphoto.com/iraq), of faces that gazed back at me and captured my heart.

I could not get them out of my system. I didn’t want to get them out of my system.

So when a friend asked me almost a year later if I would be interested in teaching at a local church’s English as a Second Language ministry, I thought about it for maybe a half-second before jumping at the chance.

Y’all.  It’s been 10 years and I haven’t once looked back.

What. A. Ride.

That comfort zone? Completely GONE. My life? Completely BLESSED.

blackboard-209152_640I had no idea when I started teaching ESL that I would experience even a tenth of the memories I now cherish close to my heart.  My involvement isn’t limited to the hours I teach in the classroom – it extends to lunch invitations, doctor appointments, hospital visits, mail interpretation, errands, tutoring, homework help for the kids, etc. And while I’ve lost count of how many students I’ve taught over the last ten years (our program averages about 100 students spread across several different level-specfic classes), their faces and friendships are etched on my heart forever.

Like Olga, my 70-something-year-old Peruvian student, who absolutely delighted me every single second I was in her presence. She and her husband became some of my dearest friends, and I had the honor of attending each of their naturalization ceremonies when they became US citizens.

Olga is with Jesus now, and I still miss her. But I smile at her memory every single time I log on to social media because my “handle” is in her honor.  She always, always always called me “Miss Carrie,” no matter how many times I told her that I didn’t need the term of respect from her.  In her precious accent, it sounded more like “Meez Carrie,” and thus my social media identity was born.

Or like my Ukrainian bestie (also in her seventies) and my Iranian brother (another seventy-year-old) who text me on a regular basis just to say hi. My precious Lucy from Ukraine calls me “my heart” and we frequently get into trouble together with a myriad of shenanigans. My Iranian brother never forgets a birthday or a holiday, and his face lights up with the Joy that now lives inside him.

Or like my dear Muslim girlfriends, who open up their homes and their hearts and their lives to me on a regular basis.  We laugh with each other. We cry for each other. They’ve been to my family’s funerals. I’ve been to theirs. We actually have a lot in common, but our differences have led to some really meaningful discussions about Jesus. Which have, in turn, made me love Jesus – and my Muslim friends – even more.

Or like my sweet Chinese friend who had just had a baby and was trying to figure out how to work her pump. I, having had no children, was not terribly helpful but I could at least attempt the directions.  We laughed a lot that day. Laughter and love transcend language barriers, and Jesus works through both in crazy awesome ways.

Do you remember my life inside my comfort zone? Awkward. Nervous. Kinda prickly. Selfish for sure. Picky, picky eater. Often paralyzed by fear. A loner. Miserable.smile-191626_640

Life after my comfort zone? Thanks to Jesus and my internationals … laughter. So much laughter.  JOY. Grace. LOVE overflowing. Still working on the selfish thing but it’s not my go-to response anymore, at least. Completely different food experiences (that’s for another blog post, lol!). Fear no longer enslaves me. Extroverted introvert. Head over heels in love with Jesus and how He changes lives.

Including mine.

Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? (I Samuel 7:18, NLT)

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IMG_4522Carrie Schmidt (aka MeezCarrie) is an avid reader, a book reviewer, a story addict, a KissingBooks fan and a book boyfriend collector. She also loves Jesus and THE Story a whole lot. Her passion in blogging/reviewing is to connect readers with a new favorite author or book, especially in the Christian fiction genre. Carrie lives in central Kentucky with her hubby Eric and their quirky dog Zuzu and is the long distance cool aunt to nine nieces and nephews. When she’s not reading or reviewing or “cool-aunting”, Carrie teaches English as a Second/Other Language to international adults. Learn more about Carrie at http://readingismysuperpower.org.

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Let’s talk about this: Carrie spoke about being moved beyond her comfort zone and what God has taught her through that move. How has He moved you out of your comfort zone? What did you experience when you were out of your comfort zone? How did it change your life? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

As a fun aside, I learned of all the wonderful, life-changing things Carrie is doing during a phone conversation while researching my next novel. I’m still in the preliminary planning stages, but I’m excited to say Alana, my heroine, is a Carrie! She’s a missionary home on medical leave, serving as an ESL teacher, and wondering if God can still use her. I’m. So. Excited. About. This. Story! 🙂

If God used Carrie’s post to nudge you a bit this morning, I encourage you to listen to a powerful sermon my pastor gave last Sunday. Then find your have to. Your life will never be the same, promise. When Hearts Break, Everyone Wins. 

Before you go, if you’re in the Omaha-Metro area, I would love for you to stop by my book  signing today at Divine Truth Christian Bookstore in La Vista!

Divine Truth April 23

And if you’re within driving distance, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference  next weekend (April 29th and 30th) where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

Knowing the Author

Really getting to know someone is vital in any relationship. This includes our relationship with God. When we read His Word, we get to know Him and learn about His character, His love for us, and what He hates. His Word may be made up of many different accounts of different people, but it shows us just Who God is, that He’s real. Leeann Betts shares with us how this knowledge helped shape her online presence and writing. Read on…

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Knowing the Author
by Leeann Betts

I’ve recently been revamping my social media, mainly because now I have to do it myself. But this is a good thing, because I’d created a monster that got out of control.

When I sat down and looked at my social media plan, which really was “if it’s not working, do more,” I realized something very important: I’d completely left God out of my plan. (Thank you, wise husband, for pointing this out to me).

As I prayed about this, a scripture verse came to mind: “The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as gold apples in a silver bowl” (Proverbs 25:11, NCV).

bible-839093_640I thought about that for a while, and the Lord spoke to my heart: “When you think of Me as Author, what do you want to know about Me?”

The answer was easy: I wanted to know God had written the Bible for me. That if nobody else read it, it was still worth writing. I wanted to know that I could learn about God through His book. And that when I meet Him in person, He will be exactly how I pictured Him from His book.

I saw where God was going with this: readers want to know that the author of the book they’re reading is real, that the author cares about them as an individual, not just as a cash cow. They want to believe they can get to know me through my books, and that if they meet me at a party and talk to me, they’ll say, “You are exactly how I thought you’d be.”

When we write authentically, our readers know more about who we are because we are in some of our characters through their worldviews, beliefs, and actions.

When we write authentically, we are writing with one single reader in mind. Our books should point the reader to God first, and then hopefully our stories solve a problem, fill a need, or encourage and entertain. And a really great book, like the one God wrote for you, will do all of these things.

So when readers read my books, I hope they learn that I love numbers almost to theread-515531_640 exclusion of everything else; that I trust numbers more than people because numbers never change; that I don’t much like to exercise; and that I strive to be a submissive wife to my husband but I still struggle with that.

And maybe they’ll also see that I wish I were more like Carly: quicker to jump in to help; quick on the comebacks; and not take myself so seriously.

Because really, in some way, even if it’s below the surface, the stories we write should contain some of ourselves.

God’s book did.

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aaaUnbalanced Final with Custom GreenJoin Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant, who is in the midst of planning her son’s wedding when she sees a bank robbery nobody else admits seeing. When the news hits the national stations, her credibility is called into question. Then her husband’s long-lost brother shows up, but disappears soon after, leaving behind his young son. Carly is set to testify in a huge trial, but if she cannot be believed, she cannot give evidence. Can she salvage her tattered career—and her reputation—before someone tries to silence her forever?

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IMG_6534 Juggling the books - smallerLeeann Betts writes contemporary suspense, while her real-life persona, Donna Schlachter, pens historical suspense. No Accounting for Murder and There Was a Crooked Man, books 1 and 2 in her By the Numbers series, released in the fall of 2015 and Book 3, Unbalanced, released in January. Book 4, Five and Twenty Blackbirds, is due in April, with more planned for later dates. If you like accountants or are an accountant, check out Counting the Days: a 21-day devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk. Leeann and Donna have penned a book on writing, Nuggets of Writing Gold, and Donna has published a book of short stories, Second Chances and Second Cups. You can follow Leeann at www.AllBettsAreOff.wordpress.com and Donna at www.HiStoryThruTheAges.wordpress.com . All books are available at Amazon.com in digital and print, and at Smashwords.com in digital.

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Let’s talk about it: Even if you’re not a writer, Leeann has some very wise words here. When you’re writing or on social media, are you allowing others to meet and know the real you? How does the example God gave us in His Word guide you into being more authentic?Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Before you go, if you’re local, I’d love to invite you to join me at the Oakview Barnes &
Noble
 today from 1-4pm where I’ll be signing books. Pop by to say hi and grab a mocha at the store cafe!

If you live in Lincoln, I’ll be in your area next Saturday at the SouthPointe Barnes & Noble, signing books from 2-3pm. I’d love to see you there!

And if you’re within driving distance, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

An Answer to Prayers Not Spoken

Having an undiagnosed health issue can be scary. But God met Gail in a powerful–and healing–way. Read on…

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An Answer to Prayers Not Spoken
by Gail Pallotta

Puzzled, I peered at a big red spot on my leg then mentioned it to my husband.

“It will go away,” he said.

That was ten years ago. We were in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the trip we’d looked forward to for a year. I had a virus, but went anyway. In spite of the July heat we’d walked through the village. When I stayed awake that night shivering, overcome with weakness and nausea, I attributed it to the hot sun and the virus.

One month later, a flight to Los Angeles, California, proved me wrong. Too tired to stand when we got off the plane, while we waited for the car we’d rented, I sat on top of my woman-918981_1280suitcase. After we secured our vehicle and arrived at the hotel, I forced my feet to walk until I fell on the bed. But soon we left to eat.

At the restaurant I barely forced down a bite. After we finished, rather than go out and look around as we’d planned, we returned to the room so I could lie down. A few hours later, I developed severe indigestion. I prepared a cup of peppermint tea, took a sip, and started shaking uncontrollably. This went on all night.

The next morning we flew home, and I started an agonizing new journey. After having tests for a month, I had no diagnosis and was told nothing could be done. I left the doctor’s office and went home wondering whether or not I’d live. Stunned and exhausted, I couldn’t think, let alone pray, but God answered my unspoken prayers.

The last name of an alternative doctor I’d never met, but had heard of ten years earlier, popped in my head over and over, even when I tried to dismiss it. Finally, I contacted a friend for the doctor’s first name and phone number.

He turned out to be David Lee, D.C, Ph.D, C.Ad. He ran a scan, which showed my organs medical-563427_1280functioning at eight to fourteen percent and treated me immediately to start removing a toxic substance. Within a month or so, another scan revealed the bacteria for Chronic Lyme disease.

With the care of Dr. Lee and Raphael d’Angelo, M.D., a cohort recommended by Dr. Lee, I’ve overcome most of the problems created by this nasty malady. In my new book about the disease, Barely Above Water, the symptoms and therapies are real. The situation where the main character, Suzie, keeps hearing the doctor’s last name is based on my experience. However, the story and characters are fictitious.

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BarelyAboveWater_ebook copyAn illness comes out of nowhere and strikes Suzie Morris. Her boyfriend dumps her. She has no living family, and her physician can’t diagnose the malady. Suzie relies on her Christian faith as she faces the uncertainty of the disease, and turns to a renowned alternative doctor in Destin, Florida. She takes a job coaching a county-sponsored summer swim team. She’s determined to turn the fun, sometimes comical, rag-tag bunch into winners. Her handsome boss renews her belief in love, but learns of her mysterious affliction and abruptly cuts romantic ties. Later he has regrets, but can he overcome his fear of losing a loved one and regain Suzie’s trust?

Find out more about Barely above Water at http://www.gailpallotta.com.

Pre-order Barely Above Water.

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Portrait shot Gail PallottaAward-winning author Gail Pallotta is a wife, Mom, swimmer and bargain shopper who loves God, beach sunsets and getting together with friends and family. She’s published four books, including Barely Above Water, poems, short stories and several hundred articles. Some of her articles appear in anthologies while two are in museums. Visit Gail’s web site at http://www.gailpallotta.com and look for Barely above Water at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DN2UTTS.

Let’s talk about this: Many people suffer from a chronic and/or undiagnosed illness. Have you had that experience? What has helped you to live with it? How has the Lord taught you during your experience? If you haven’t personally experienced an illness like this, do you know someone who has? How do you see them respond? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We can all learn from one another.