Throwback Thursday – Soul-Tidying

Throwback Thursday – Soul-Tidying

Original post published 9/19/19.

I’m not the world’s best housekeeper. This is no secret–I mean, I put it right in my official bio. 😉 Yes, “pretending my house will clean itself” is part of my charming naivete. Ahem. Or at the very least, keeping everything put in its proper place isn’t my priority. That goes to educating my kids, writing books, designing covers, feeding the family, exercising, reading…pretty much anything else, LOL. I do keep up with the dishes and laundry. Just not with putting everything away.

Over the weekend, even I had had enough of the clutter, so I spent a few hours reorganizing the utility closet, breaking down boxes that were trash, and clearing off counters. And, as usual, as I did so, I kept coming across things I’d forgotten were there. “Oh, so that’s where that was.” Or “Why in the world didn’t I throw this away yet?”

Even the neatest people probably have little corners or drawers that gather clutter, right? We’ve all experienced this. And as someone who has experienced it more than, say, my sister (LOL), allow me to explain how it happens:
When something’s been there for a while, we cease to see it. It becomes part of the background. Normal. Our eyes adjust to it being there, and it no longer strikes us as wrong, as worth fixing…until eventually, the mess gets too big to be ignored.
When it comes to the empty boxes that pile up in my kitchen, this seriously isn’t that big a deal.
But what about when it comes to our souls?

Sin, my friends, works a lot like clutter. It sneaks its way in, and maybe when we see it the first time or two, we think, “Oh, that won’t do. I’d better take care of that…” But then we don’t. Why? Because it’s easier to ignore it. We’re busy. Because, frankly, clearing out sin is no fun and usually involves a bit of humility (much like cleaning out my junked-up counters does). It’s easier to say we’ll take care of it soon. Tomorrow. Sunday. Next week. Sometime when we’re not running out the door or overwhelmed by “more pressing” matters.

But then we cease to see it. It becomes part of the background. Normal. Our spiritual eyes adjust to it being there, and it no longer strikes us as wrong, as worth fixing…until eventually, the sin gets too big to be ignored.
And then where are we? Exactly where I am when my house has gotten to that point–in for a long clean-up effort.
Because let me just tell you, it’s a whole lot easier to nip jealousy in the bud the first moment it rears its ugly green head than after we’ve let it fester into resentment and hatred. It’s easier to apologize for that nasty thing we said right away than after we’ve walked away and let it keep on battering the recipient.
It’s easier to choose to love and forgive the moment we’re hurt than to have to wrestle with it years later.
Hmm…not sure of that one? I wasn’t either when the example popped into my head. And I’m not going to say it’s humanly easier. But isn’t that exactly the example Christ gives us? While He’s still hanging on the cross, He’s forgiving those who put Him there. What would our lives look like if we forgave those who hurt us while we were still suffering the first throes of consequences?
I try to find little ways to train myself into better housekeeping habits–things like watching something fun while folding laundry, and vacuuming the floors before I sit down on them to do that. Things like certain days being Bathroom Cleaning days. 
But far more important is tidying my soul. What are we doing to make sure we stay clear of the clutter of sin? Are we vacuuming up the filth of this world from our selves, keeping our spirits white as snow?
We know we need to tidy our houses…but let’s not forget to tidy our souls with far more care and attention.
Throwback Thursday – The Inspiration

Throwback Thursday – The Inspiration

Original post published January 10, 2019

We serve a gracious God, don’t we? Not only has He given us His Son, His Word, but He continues to speak and minister to us today. As a creative, I can tell you in all honesty that there are many days when I just have to squeeze my eyes shut and say, “Give me the words, Lord. I’m not sure I have them otherwise.” And He does. Because He is oh-so-faithful.

As someone who pretty much lives and breathes the publishing industry, I know this is pretty common. And I know many, many of us have been given  stories to tell by the Lord. Now, that’s not saying these are Scripture. But they still contain Truth. They still have something in them that will minister to His children. This is a sacred calling, in my mind.

But this can come with danger, too. As an author, editor, and designer, I talk to a lot of authors. Whether they’re working on novels, non-fiction, screenplays, poems, or songs, writers are always going to be seekers of inspiration. And there’s something I’ve heard more often than I can count. Some variation of:

God gave me this story.
God downloaded this story straight to my brain.
God told me to write this.

Maybe people say that because they want everyone else to be as excited about it as they are. But…here’s the thing. All too often, people use inspiration as an excuse for laziness. They think that because God provided the idea, that they don’t have to do anything other than write it down.
Oh, my friends. Please. Please don’t treat the Lord’s whisper so cheaply!
There’s a story of a missionary who, as a young woman, realized that God was calling her to serve as a doctor to the women of a remote area of India, where the women were otherwise not permitted to seek medical care if it would involve a male doctor tending them. This came to her like a bolt. An epiphany. A sure calling.
But she did not, therefore, stroll out into the village at the age of eighteen and say, “Okay, y’all, God told me to be your doctor, so here I am! Come be doctored!” That would have been ridiculous, right? She had to first go to college, then to med school. She had to do internships and residencies. It took her years before she was ready to make good on that call. That inspiration. And she did it because that’s what it took to answer God’s call. It took WORK.
Why do authors sometimes think the stories or ideas He gives us deserve less? Or that they can never be changed or edited or tweaked?
Here’s what I’ve discovered: God gives us the inspiration we need to get started. But that just the beginning. Not the end.

My own example exists in A Soft Breath of Wind. If you want to talk about God “downloading” a story to your brain, this is the one I’d had that experience with. We’d just moved back home after living in Annapolis for years. Xoe was a few months old. A Stray Drop of Blood was just a few months older. I’d had no intention of writing a sequel to it, but as I rocked Xoe one morning, it came to me. Who Quickens the Dead, it was called. That sequel I hadn’t planned to write.

Benjamin and Samuel, all grown up. Two young women, one with the gift of discernment, one who was demon-possessed. In the course of the next two days, this very long and involved story came to me in full detail. I’m talking, sit down and write pages and pages of notes detail. I had full scenes in my head. The complete cast of characters. The themes, the plot, the beautiful Truths I wanted to draw out.
In that lovely frenzy of inspiration, I sat down and wrote a chapter. And then I screwed up my nose. Because it stank. I knew enough to know that. This, though it exactly followed the inspiration God had given me, was not good enough.
Years went by. I wrote other books. This one was always there, waiting, and a few times I drew it out and fiddled with it. I learned more, I wrote more, I did more, I got other contracts, Stray Drop began genuinely selling. But every time I considered this God-given story, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the time for it wasn’t ripe yet. I wasn’t ready. Maybe I had the inspiration, but I didn’t yet have the ability to make it what it deserved to be.

Seven years later, the moment finally came. And in such a way there was no mistaking it. I was hard at work on a historical romance, just getting started on it, when I had a Skype call with a book club who had just read A Stray Drop of Blood. Now, it had been seven years since that book released–let’s just say, my brain wasn’t really in that mode. But as I talked to these ladies, He moved me to tears at how He was still using this story. And when they asked me if I had a sequel planned and I gave my usual, “Yeah, I have one planned out, I just haven’t had a chance to write it” speech, something stirred within me.

It was time. In the next week, I came up with a more compelling title and designed a cover. I drew out those old notes, and I gave it an overhaul to make it more powerful.
And then God gave me the time to write it…in the form of a cancellation of the contract I’d been under. Not exactly how I expected that to happen, but He really couldn’t have been any clearer! I’d prayed, “Lord, I know You want me to write this, that I’m capable of it now, but I just don’t have time…” and there we go–He made time for me, LOL.
So I wrote the book, WhiteFire published the book. And I’m pleased with how it turned out. But you know what? It’s not identical to that idea I got when my daughter was a baby. Things changed as I wrote it. And they changed for the better. What God gave me was raw material. I had to cut it and polish it and turn it into something worthy of the passion He’d given me for it.
I think we often have this idea that, when God whispers to our spirit, if we change anything at all, we’re disobeying.
I can’t believe that’s true. God gives us what we need. But as we work, we grow. The visions and ideas that got us started often evolve into something even more amazing that we could have imagined–because that’s how God works. He takes our humble offerings–our time and hard work and passion–and adds His glory to them.
Our job isn’t to cling to the raw materials and claim they’re the end-all, be-all. Our job is to work them. To give them the love and care they deserve. To make them the best they can be. And to admit that maybe we don’t always know best–which might mean we don’t even know exactly what He gave us.
Sometimes it’s only through the exploration of a calling that we truly learn what it was He gave us at the beginning.

Eyes to See

Eyes to See

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

~ Matthew 6:19-24 (ESV)

Have you ever read that passage above and wondered what the bit about the eye was doing in between the two parts about material things and greed? I’m not sure I ever really understood it … until I read it last week. And I can take no credit for this insight, LOL–it was in the notes. But oh, how clear it suddenly made it!

In Jewish tradition, the eye is considered the “lamp of the body.” The eyes are how we (normally) behold the world and recognize the situations around us. For most of us, our eyes give us our first impressions of people; we train ourselves to look more closely to notice details, to see beyond that first impression, but still, it’s a key part. It’s why words like vision encompass not only physical sight but also dreams and missions.

But the tradition is even richer than that. Eyes are also how we see our neighbors’ needs–they are how we recognize where to enact compassion. In this passage of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus isn’t talking about whether we need eyeglasses or not. No, He’s talking about that kind of sight, how well or poorly we truly see those around us. A common understanding of “bad eyes” and “good eyes” at the time was whether seeing those around you stirred you to compassion and almsgiving. If seeing the needs of others stirs you to do something to help them, then your eye was good. If not, it was bad.

Now suddenly this passage makes sense sandwiched between those two others, right? If you’re so concerned about the earthly treasures you’re trying to save up for yourself that you refuse to help someone in need, your eye is bad. Your eyes, which should be shedding light on your soul and shining it from your soul, is instead filling you up with darkness. You’re only seeing your wants instead of others’ needs. You’re blinded by greed.

And then what Jesus says next really hits home. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

If the very thing that should be light is not, then it’s just a matter of a lack we can shrug off. It’s not just that we’re “not doing a good enough job.” It’s that we’re actually spreading darkness–in ourselves and then from that broken lamp into the world. It’s not just that we’re not doing good–it’s that we’re doing harm.

If we are not serving God by loving others, then we are serving someone else. Mammon was the name of a pagan god of money. So if we’re more concerned with storing up wealth and doing what we want, then we are in fact worshiping this other god. You cannot both love money and love God.

We are called to love God and love others. And we’re called to demonstrate it in our actions, so that we are known by our fruits. This particular demonstration is for many of us, especially in the Western consumer culture, so difficult! Because yes, we need money. We need it to live and support our families and do the things He calls us to do.

So how do we strike that balance?

By never holding our treasures so close that we hesitate to give when our eyes see a need. By not evaluating that need based on what it will cost us, but on whether it will glorify Him to meet it.

Let’s never let anxiety for the future, for what we’ll eat or drink or wear tomorrow, keep us from helping someone today. We’re called to radical trust in God. Trust that He will care for us tomorrow–perhaps through someone else choosing to obediently meet our need. Can we get to the point where that is a joy–to receive help as surely as to give help? Can we walk in both humility and generosity?

Can we do it together? You shine that light for me…and I’ll shine it for you. And together, with our good eyes and our lamps shedding light onto our path, we can make our Way along the road He walked before us. The road that leads straight to the Kingdom of God.

Giveaway – To Treasure an Heiress Release Day!

Giveaway – To Treasure an Heiress Release Day!

Happy New Year! To Treasure an Heiress is NOW AVAILABLE! I’m thrilled to be kicking off the new year with this book, the second in the Secrets of the Isles Series! This story picks up chronologically right where book 1 ends, but the focus is now on the “other Elizabeth,” Beth Tremayne…and the hilarious houseguest who inadvertently started the whole series of adventures, Lord Sheridan.

Working together, Beth and Sheridan start to piece together a story of tragic love and piratical adventure. But the true surprise is the treasure they discover in one another.

The Treasure Hunt Is On!!

I had so many people tell me that they enjoyed the Hunt through the Pages of The Nature of a Lady, that of course I had to create a second one for To Treasure an Heiress!

It works like this:

  1. Visit the Hunt through the Pages page
  2. Download the Hunt clues to keep on hand as you read
  3. Answer the questions as you go!
  4. Return to the page once you’ve finished and input your answers into the form
  5. Get entries to the GIVEAWAY!! Any entry (even if it’s totally blank) will get you ONE entry into the giveaway, and each CORRECT answer will get you another.
  6. Submit the form for access to the SECRET PAGE too!

What’s in the giveaway? And on the secret page?? Well, the giveaway is going to be a true treasure-hunt-style surprise…I’m not revealing WHAT will be included, but I can promise you there’s something shiny, something related to the book, something tasty, and that FIVE of you are going to win! The drawing will be on March 1, which means you have all of January and February to read, hunt up the answers, and get those entries in!

The Secret Page will remain live forever, even after the giveaway draws to a close, and you’ll gain access to it as soon as you submit your answers! (It’ll direct you to a page with both the link and the password for the page.) This time around, the Secret Page has a travel journal for both places you’d like to visit in life and in literature that I’ve dubbed “The Wanderlist,” a new recipe and tour booklet, the prologue and first two chapters of book 3, Worthy of Legend, and even a place to chat about the places you’d love to visit someday!

Are you a non-US reader? If so, you can certainly play along with the Hunt and gain access to the secret page! But instead of the secret treasure giveaway, you’re instead eligible for a book giveaway that will run from today until 1/18. The book will be shipped via the Book Depository. Entry form is at the bottom of this post.

Live Event

Join me for a LIVE chat TONIGHT, Tuesday, January 4th at 7pm EDT! I’ll be telling you all the fun behind-the-scenes tidbits, reading an excerpt, answering your questions, and telling you about the new Patrons & Peers system I’ll be launching later this week! Join the event HERE.

Missed it live? Don’t worry, you can still watch it at the link above!

Tea Party

Join me on Friday, March 4th to discuss To Treasure an Heiress!
Reserve your seat now!

International Giveaway

Please ONLY enter this giveaway if you have a non-US mailing address! US addressees are eligible for the main Hunt through the Pages giveaway, which you can enter via the link above.

What We’ve Been Reading – October 2021

What We’ve Been Reading – October 2021

I think C.S. Lewis had it right when he said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” Fall is the perfect time to cozy up with a warm blanket, a steaming cup of tea, and a good book. What have you been reading this fall?

Roseanna’s Reads

For the Edit(Cover Coming Soon)

Abbie’s Woods: Defending the Nest by Susan Thogerson Maas
This middle grade novel is about a girl whose home life seems to be falling apart…and she’s afraid her special place in the forest is in danger too when new boys to the neighborhood start threatening the robin nest she’s been watching for weeks. I absolutely loved joining this precocious girl on her quest to put her worlds to rights, especially when she realizes that sometimes our attempts to “fix” everything backfire–but God can take our mess and make it beautiful. This book will resonate with tween readers and inspire them to look for the beauty in nature around them!

For Fun

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
I finally finished the Harry Potter series! Highly enjoyed this last installment, though the whole series is so intricately woven that now I’m like “I need to go reread this one and that one!” LOL. I think what surprised me most was how hard-hitting the books became round about book 5–people die, people betray each other unto death, people surprise us at the deepest levels. Makes me wonder if that, not the (Disney-style, light vs. dark) magic is what made this series resonate with so many people, kids and adults alike. The world is fun–but the stories and characters are deep and real.

For Bookclub

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner
I’ve been wanting to read Susie’s recent books and finally made sure I would by adding them to the book club lineup, LOL. Wise decision! I know she’s an amazing writer, and I was not disappointed by this beautiful story surrounding an adoption of a Vietnamese child by an American family, viewed through the mother’s eyes at the time, the sister’s eyes as they were teenagers, and the father’s eyes in 2013, when his precious daughter is trying to reconnect with her birth family. Such a beautiful saga of what it really means to be family!

In My Devotions

Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Father Jacques Philippe
One thing I decided on vacation last month was that I needed to expand my morning devotions again to include some “extra” stuff. I started with a slender little book that a friend of mine sent last year. It was kinda weird timing, honestly; she’d popped it in the mail to me in mid-September just because she was reading it and thought of me…and it arrived when we were in the hospital with Rowyn. Even so, I hadn’t actually picked it up until a year later, LOL. Anyway, this little book (a “treatise,” it calls itself) carries some gems of wisdom, for sure!

Rachel’s Reads

Even though I haven’t been reading nearly as many books of my own as I would like, I’ve been reading loads of books with the kids, and that makes me happy! I’m looking forward to adding some extra “fun” books into our curriculum this year.

From my Backlogged TBR

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
After seeing the show advertised everywhere last Fall, I decided I needed to read the books first. I am so glad I did! I’m really enjoying this series and can’t wait to catch up on the TV show now. This is an Adult General Market book.

With the Kids

The Perilous Road by William O. Steele

Learning about the American Civil War in History right now, my 4th grader is reading a bunch of books set during the war. Mostly with families having differing views on the war. Families with sons in both armies. Families torn apart because of hate. This book in particular shows how the hate this boy has against the Union Army eats away at your soul. After his brother joins the Union Army, Chris’s heart is burning with hatred. Yet when he found himself in trouble and needed help and rest, it was the Union soldiers who took care of him. He came to see that the hate he carried against these men was only damaging himself. There is a lot to learn from children’s books.

Classic on Audio

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

I LOVE Agatha Christie stories! I binged the Miss Marple TV show over the summer and am now on a kick of listening to the Poirot audiobooks. Seeing as Death on the Nile will be coming out as a movie next year, I wanted to start here. No matter how hard I try…I’m never right in guessing who the culprit is.

With the Kids

Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore

It’s fun rereading these stories with my 2nd kiddo. He gets so invested in the stories, it’s so much fun to watch his reactions. When Little Pear falls in the river, or goes off to the next town by himself, my son always has a comment and exclamation to make.