Dark Glass Ponderings

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. -1 Corinthians 13:12

"Cats are dangerous companions for writers because cat-watching is a near perfect method of writing avoidance." -Dan Greenberg

We lost our beloved tabby, Zelda, this afternoon.  In the midst of this I also sent out my first edits to a "published" author. 

So I'm thinking of writing and cats (or I guess writers and pets of all sorts).  For me, its always been a cat.  During most of my writing time (i.e. naptime) she would sit on my lap.  I feel her paws kneading in and out as she has always done because she was taken from her mother too young. 

Very often I make mistakes because she bumps my typing hands with her head in an attempt to get the attention off of my manuscript and on her. 

I have many other memories as well, but I think I associate my cat so often with my writing is because its one of the few times of day where there's not a little one in my arms.  Zelda has learned that naptime is the time of day when she rules the roost. 

Do you have pets?  If so, how have they enriched your life?  Anyone else have cats that involve themselves in your writing life?

"In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" is a short story I well remember from college.  Delmore Schwartz's work does not come from a Christian worldview at all.  His story themes often involve the failure of relationships and his personal life was a wreck. 
However, when I hear the phrase "In Dreams Begin Responsibilities" I am reminded of the beauty of our dreams.  If God shows us a vision for our lives we should know that reaching that vision will oftentimes be hard work.  It will often happen at times that seem to us to be inconvenient.  It may cause us to question our carefully held misconceptions about God, life, ourselves and others.  I am reminded that there is beauty in the work to reach the vision God has set before us. 

Homeschooling our children was a vision God had given us.  We had a beautiful dream about having our children around all the time, developing life-long friendships with them, reading them the word of God, creating, and exploring.  As I have started this homeschool year I am reminded that good things never come easy.  Every bit of this has been a journey that I have needed to take day by day. 

God has given us a vision to adopt a child.  As we are beginning to fill out forms, read paperwork, and pray...we have no idea what we are in for.  And I think that's just where God wants us.  I don't know what will come into our lives through this journey.  I don't know how long it will take, exactly how much it will cost financially and emotionally. 

I know many of us are on the journey of writing.  For me this is a journey that does not currently lead on the road to publication, but I have to keep my vision alive.  Keeping my vision alive means spending the rare spare moments learning about craft.  It changes what and how I read as I attempt to improve my own writing.  I see art every where I look.  Small responsibilities over time building a dream. 

What vision has God given you for your future?  How can you work while you wait?

Have you ever tried storyboarding. Today at The Writer's Alley, I'm blogging about Storyboarding for "Plodders" and "Mist-Flyers". Its the first in a series on storyboarding.

I apologize for my lack of presence on this blog lately.  As a new homeschooler, homeschooling is consuming much of my time.  I do have some ideas for devotional posts as well as some new reviews I plan to post quite soon.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

WaterBrook Press; Original edition (September 7, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cindy Brovsky of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc., for sending me a review copy.***


Susan Meissner has spent her lifetime as a writer, starting with her first poem at the age of four. She is the award-winning author of The Shape of Mercy, White Picket Fences, and many other novels. When she’s not writing, she directs the small groups and connection ministries at her San Diego church. She and her pastor husband are the parents of four young adults.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; Original edition (September 7, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307458830
ISBN-13: 978-0307458834



Upper West Side, Manhattan


The mantle clock was exquisite even though its hands rested in silence at twenty minutes past two.

Carved—near as I could tell—from a single piece of mahogany, its glimmering patina looked warm to the touch. Rosebuds etched into the swirls of wood grain flanked the sides like two bronzed bridal bouquets. The clock’s top was rounded and smooth like the draped head of a Madonna. I ran my palm across the polished surface and it was like touching warm water.

Legend was this clock originally belonged to the young wife of a Southampton doctor and that it stopped keeping time in 1912, the very moment the Titanic sank and its owner became a widow. The grieving woman’s only consolation was the clock’s apparent prescience of her husband’s horrible fate and its kinship with the pain that left her inert in sorrow. She never remarried and she never had the clock fixed.

I bought it sight unseen for my great aunt’s antique store, like so many of the items I’d found for the display cases. In the year and half I’d been in charge of the inventory, the best pieces had come from the obscure estate sales that my British friend Emma Downing came upon while tooling around the southeast of England looking for oddities for her costume shop. She found the clock at an estate sale in Felixstowe and the auctioneer, so she told me, had been unimpressed with the clock’s sad history. Emma said he’d read the accompanying note about the clock as if reading the rules for rugby.

My mother watched now as I positioned the clock on the lacquered black mantle that rose above a marble fireplace. She held a lead crystal vase of silk daffodils in her hands.

“It should be ticking.” She frowned. “People will wonder why it’s not ticking.” She set the vase down on the hearth and stepped back. Her heels made a clicking sound on the parquet floor beneath our feet. “You know, you probably would’ve sold it by now if it was working. Did Wilson even look at it? You told me he could fix anything.”

I flicked a wisp of fuzz off the clock’s face. I hadn’t asked the shop’s resident and unofficial repairman to fix it. “It wouldn’t be the same clock if it was fixed.”

“It would be a clock that did what it was supposed to do.” My mother leaned in and straightened one of the daffodil blooms.

“This isn’t just any clock, Mom.” I took a step back too.

My mother folded her arms across the front of her Ann Taylor suit. Pale blue, the color of baby blankets and robins’ eggs. Her signature color. “Look, I get all that about the Titanic and the young widow, but you can’t prove any of it, Jane,” she said. “You could never sell it on that story.”

A flicker of sadness wobbled inside me at the thought of parting with the clock. This happens when you work in retail. Sometimes you have a hard time selling what you bought to sell.

“I’m thinking maybe I’ll keep it.”

“You don’t make a profit by hanging onto the inventory.” My mother whispered this, but I heard her. She intended for me to hear her. This was her way of saying what she wanted to about her aunt’s shop—which she’d inherit when Great Aunt Thea passed—without coming across as interfering.

My mother thinks she tries very hard not to interfere. But it is one of her talents. Interfering when she thinks she’s not. It drives my younger sister Leslie nuts.

“Do you want me to take it back to the store?” I asked.

“No! It’s perfect for this place. I just wish it were ticking.” She nearly pouted.

I reached for the box at my feet that I brought the clock in along with a set of Shakespeare’s works, a pair of pewter candlesticks, and a Wedgwood vase. “You could always get a CD of sound effects and run a loop of a ticking clock,” I joked.

She turned to me, childlike determination in her eyes. “I wonder how hard it would be to find a CD like that!”

“I was kidding, Mom! Look what you have to work with.” I pointed to the simulated stereo system she’d placed into a polished entertainment center behind us. My mother never used real electronics in the houses she staged, although with the clientele she usually worked with—affluent real estate brokers and equally well-off buyers and sellers—she certainly could.

“So I’ll bring in a portable player and hide it in the hearth pillows.” She shrugged and then turned to the adjoining dining room. A gleaming black dining table had been set with white bone china, pale yellow linen napkins, and mounds of fake chicken salad, mauvey rubber grapes, and plastic croissants and petit fours. An arrangement of pussy willows graced the center of the table. “Do you think the pussy willows are too rustic?” she asked.

She wanted me to say yes so I did.

“I think so, too,” she said. “I think we should swap these out for that vase of Gerbera daisies you have on that escritoire in the shop’s front window. I don’t know what I was thinking when I brought these.” She reached for the unlucky pussy willows. “We can put these on the entry table with our business cards.”

She turned to me. “You did bring yours this time, didn’t you? It’s silly for you to go to all this work and then not get any customers out of it.” My mother made her way to the entryway with the pussy willows in her hands and intention in her step. I followed her.

This was only the second house I’d helped her stage, and I didn’t bring business cards the first time because she hadn’t invited me to until we were about to leave. She’d promptly told me then to never go anywhere without business cards. Not even to the ladies room. She’d said it and then waited, like she expected me to take out my BlackBerry and make a note of it.

“I have them right here.” I reached into the front pocket of my capris and pulled out a handful of glossy business cards emblazoned with Amsterdam Avenue Antiques and its logo—three As entwined like a Celtic eternity knot. I handed them to her and she placed them in a silver dish next to her own. Sophia Keller Interior Design and Home Staging. The pussy willows actually looked wonderful against the tall jute-colored wall.

“There. That looks better!” she exclaimed as if reading my thoughts. She turned to survey the main floor of the townhouse. The owners had relocated to the Hamptons and were selling off their Manhattan properties to fund a cushy retirement. Half the décor—the books, the vases, the prints—were on loan from Aunt Thea’s shop. My mother, who’d been staging real estate for two years, brought me in a few months earlier when she discovered a stately home filled with charming and authentic antiques sold faster than the same home filled with reproductions.

“You and Brad should get out of that teensy apartment on the West Side and buy this place. The owners are practically giving it away.”

Her tone suggested she didn’t expect me to respond. I easily let the comment evaporate into the sunbeams caressing us. It was a comment for which I had had no response.

My mother’s gaze swept across the two large rooms she’d furnished and she frowned when her eyes reached the mantle and the silent clock.

“Well, I’ll just have to come back later today,” she spoke into the silence. “It’s being shown first thing in the morning.” She swung back around. “Come on. I’ll take you back.”

We stepped out into the April sunshine and to her Lexus parked across the street along a line of townhouses just like the one we’d left. As we began to drive away, the stillness in the car thickened, and I fished my cell phone out of my purse to see if I’d missed any calls while we were finishing the house. On the drive over I had a purposeful conversation with Emma about a box of old books she found at a jumble sale in Oxfordshire. That lengthy conversation filled the entire commute from the store on the seven-hundred block of Amsterdam to the townhouse on East Ninth, and I found myself wishing I could somehow repeat that providential circumstance. My mother would ask about Brad if the silence continued. There was no missed call, and I started to probe my brain for something to talk about. I suddenly remembered I hadn’t told my mother I’d found a new assistant. I opened my mouth to tell her about Stacy but I was too late.

“So what do you hear from Brad?” she asked cheerfully.

“He’s doing fine.” The answer flew out of my mouth as if I’d rehearsed it. She looked away from the traffic ahead, blinked at me, and then turned her attention back to the road. A taxi pulled in front of her, and she laid on the horn, pronouncing a curse on all taxi drivers.

“Idiot.” She turned to me. “How much longer do you think he will stay in New Hampshire?” Her brow was creased. “You aren’t going to try to keep two households going forever, are you?”

I exhaled heavily. “It’s a really good job, Mom. And he likes the change of pace and the new responsibilities. It’s only been two months.”

“Yes, but the inconvenience has to be wearing on you both. It must be quite a hassle maintaining two residences, not to mention the expense, and then all that time away from each other.” She paused but only for a moment. “I just don’t see why he couldn’t have found something similar right here in New York. I mean, don’t all big hospitals have the same jobs in radiology? That’s what your father told me. And he should know.”

“Just because there are similar jobs doesn’t mean there are similar vacancies, Mom.”

She tapped the steering wheel. “Yes, but your father said . . .”

“I know Dad thinks he might’ve been able to help Brad find something on Long Island but Brad wanted this job. And no offense, Mom, but the head of environmental services doesn’t hire radiologists.”

She bristled. I shouldn’t have said it. She would repeat that comment to my dad, not to hurt him but to vent her frustration at not having been able to convince me she was right and I was wrong. But it would hurt him anyway.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” I added. “Don’t tell him I said that, okay? I just really don’t want to rehash this again.”

But she wasn’t done. “Your father has been at that hospital for twenty-seven years. He knows a lot of people.” She emphasized the last four words with a pointed stare in my direction.

“I know he does. That’s really not what I meant. It’s just Brad has always wanted this kind of job. He’s working with cancer patients. This really matters to him.”

“But the job’s in New Hampshire!”

“Well, Connor is in New Hampshire!” It sounded irrelevant even to me to mention the current location of Brad’s and my college-age son. Connor had nothing to do with any of this. And he was an hour away from where Brad was anyway.

“And you are here,” my mother said evenly. “If Brad wanted out of the city, there are plenty of quieter hospitals right around here. And plenty of sick people for that matter.”

There was an undercurrent in her tone, subtle and yet obvious, that assured me we really weren’t talking about sick people and hospitals and the miles between Manhattan and Manchester. It was as if she’d guessed what I’d tried to keep from my parents the last eight weeks.

My husband didn’t want out of the city.

He just wanted out.

My Rating: 4/5

My Review:

“Love is a choice you make every day,” is the back cover blurb and spells out the theme of this novel. Historical and women’s fiction are both favorite genres for me, so I was excited to find the two dovetailed in this novel. Jane has always thought of herself as passive, but comes to realize even as she allows others to make decisions for her, she has always been in charge of her reality. This is a theme I haven’t seen dealt with often in the CBA market.

The scenes between Brad and Jane as they undergo a trial separation are poignant and felt very realistic. Meissner shows very clearly that we always have a choice in our marriage. And not acting is making a choice in and of itself.

As an antique buff, I enjoyed the interspersion of Jane’s love for antiques, which leads to an interplay between her own story and that of Lady Jane Grey. I found the interplay somewhat unbelievable, but even that was dealt with in the end of the story. In truth, having researched some about Lady Jane Grey on my own I would have liked to see more historical fact and less speculation. In truth, I believe this is labeled as women’s fiction and Meissner’s grasp of the facts seems to be accurate. Since I was particularly interested in the Lady Jane Grey end of the story though, I found myself somewhat disappointed.

Well-drawn characters, depth in theme, and realistic dialogue make for a worthwhile read in spite of a few disappointments. I will be sure to read more of Meissner in the future.

This week I'm blessed to have my review of Enemies Among Us by Bob Hamer posted:

The Suspense Zone

Hope everyone is having a blessed week!  This week has been filled with surprise learning experiences that have showed me that God's plans aren't always mine.  Thank you to everyone for the welcome at The Writers Alleys. I needed an extra dose of encouragement as I've felt a bit overwhelmed lately and God used you to bless my socks off.  Please stop by this week and encourage all of the other new writers!  It is a wonderful crew!

I'm excited to be a part of The Writer's Alley team and humbled.  This is one talented group of ladies.  I have so much to learn about writing craft and they are a great group of "teachers."  I'm blessed to be interviewed here:

The Writers Alley



And for the BLOG HEADER.....JOY!!!

I'll be sending you ladies emails with more information.

Title: A Memory Between Us

Author: Sarah Sundin

Series: Wings of Glory #2

My Rating: 4.5/5

Having recently enjoyed Sarah Sundin’s A Distant Melody (reviewed here) I was eager to join the Revell tour for her second book. I was not disappointed.

Sundin has researched every detail. I truly felt as though I were in the plane with Jack Novak, experiencing victories, crashes, and near-misses. When Jack is shot in the backside, he experiences the tender loving care of Nurse Ruth Doherty.

Jack and Ruth mature spiritually throughout the novel. Ruth learns that in Christ we are new creations and once repented of, our past is truly behind us. It was beautiful to watch her growth and journey. Jack must learn to rely on God, not his own abilities…both when it comes to his career and his relationships. I love the fact that the main characters in Sarah’s novels each have a “besetting” sin that they struggle with. She portrays them in their imperfections and allows us to watch them mature in their faith.

True love comes at great cost. Our sins have consequences, yet God doesn’t intend us to live in a place of shame for forgiven wrongs. If we rely on Christ, He will give us the wisdom and knowledge we need to act on in any given situation. God created friendships to meet needs within ourselves and to promote spiritual growth. These are the truths Sarah emphasized in this outstanding historical romance.

I am anxiously awaiting the saga of Ray Novak.

Laura Frantz is a Christ-following wife, mother of boys, and an author of The Frontiersman's Daughter and Courting Morrow Little.  She maintains a blog with ponderings and devotional thoughts at Laura Frantz's blog.

Laura Frantz's Interview

1. Thank you so much for being here. Could you tell us a little about how you got started blogging?

Actually, I began blogging because I’d heard it was one of the things an author should do. Not a very sound motivation, huh? And I knew it was another venue to improve my writing. For two years or so it seemed the only one who visited my blog was my mother, only she couldn’t figure out how to leave comments, so I felt I was writing for myself. Imagine my delight when someone finally showed up!

2. What is your purpose in blogging?

Currently I blog to connect with readers and other writers. I miss my blog buddies when I’m offline. Truly! And I learn so much from other blogs. It’s kind of an ongoing education into the hearts and minds of fellow bloggers. I also think blogging can be a ministry. I try to edify and encourage others through posting 3-4 times a week about personal, spiritual, and writing issues.

3. What are your favorite parts of blogging?

Receiving reader comments. Having readers tell you that something you’ve posted was just right for them that particular day. Also, I love when readers on my blog become friends and chat back and forth in encouraging ways. It’s so neat watching people interact and tell how fellow bloggers comments bless them.

4. Do you have a story about how you have gained encouragement while blogging?

I am always surprised when someone bookmarks my blog as a favorite or makes it their homepage. Occasionally I’ll stumble across a blogger who mentions my blog. Recently another blogger mentioned that my blog readers are a wonderful bunch and that they seem to have a knack for connecting. Of course I agreed!

5. Can you share with us any special features you have on your blog and why you decided to offer them?

Since I’m an author, I try to make Christian fiction a vital part of my blog and host frequent giveaways. Also, I try to be transparent and write about my daily life, not just my writing life. People long to connect with each other as people, not just writers. They need to see that you’re a real person first, a seeker/believer, and not just someone who writes books.

6. Is there anything you’ve learned along the way about your relationship with God while blogging?

That any gifts we’re given we’re not given for ourselves. We need to share what God is doing in our lives because His grace and the amazing ways he works should be foremost in our lives and used to encourage others. We can’t live in isolation, though I sometimes want to maintain that “author mystique.” Blogging takes me out of my comfort zone but I feel I’m being obedient to keep doing it so long as readers keep reading and the Spirit leads.

7. Can you share any Scriptures that have encouraged you in your writing?

Oh, there are so many wonderful ones! I keep a small spiral of index cards by my desk. Here are just a few favorites~

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God. ~2 Corinthians 3:5

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me. ~Psalm 13:6

Therefore…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. ~1 Corinthians 15:58

The fear of the Lord is instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility. Proverbs 15:33

I thank Jesus Christ our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to His service. ~1 Timothy 1:12

8. Can you recommend ways that we as bloggers can minister to our readers?

I think the most important thing is that we dedicate our blogs to the Lord’s use and pray for wisdom and guidance before we post anything. Some bloggers take prayer requests from readers and commit to praying for them. Some have an “open mic” day where they let their readers ask them questions about what is foremost on their minds and hearts. Really, the sky is the limit where the Lord is concerned.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Just that it’s a privilege to have you ask me to be a part of your wonderful blog, Julia. May we continue to have the heart-attitude that sees blogging as a ministry and to love others through the written word. Thanks so much!

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people. Taking the words and stories God has placed on her heart and putting them on paper is one of her highest passions in life. Casey is a member of ACFW. You can connect with her through her personal blog, Writing for Christ and her writing related group blog, The Writer's Alley.

Interview with Casey Herringshaw

1. Thank you so much for being here. Could you tell us a little about how you got started blogging?

I got started because I wanted to blog! Simple as that. I had been following several different blogs and just loved the idea.

2. What is your purpose in blogging?

To minister. To encourage. To have fun. In that order. I am involved in so many blogs, it changes from one to the other. On Writing for Christ, I want to have fun and minister, but just generally be me. On Operation Encourage an Author I want to minister and encourage. To be part of the support system for the authors who work so hard to provide us with quality fiction and don’t often get the appreciation I think they should be receiving.

3. What are your favorite parts of blogging?

Connecting with people. I have been so incredibly blessed to be put into connection with sincere and kind people. I have been supported and lifted up when I was upset about a writing contest result or they have shared in my joys when I reached the mountaintop. God is good.

4. Do you have a story about how you have gained encouragement while blogging?

Yes. I had just gotten two results about my writing from a contest. One was particularly hard to swallow, comments that just seemed to put my writing down instead of constructive criticism. But I had also gotten results from anther contest that was just the opposite. I still didn’t win, but the words of the judges were much kinder. I posted about it, talking through the frustration I had experienced and what I had learned. So many people were so supportive. Telling how much they loved reading what I write and not to give up. I just about cried, like I said, I have been blessed and I praise God He put me here. I try to give back as often as I can.

5. Can you share with us any special features you have on your blog and why you decided to offer them?

I do giveaways on Writing for Christ, because I love them. Plus it draws readers to my blog. But mainly just because I love quality Christian fiction and I love promoting it. I do book reviews for the same reason and usually once a week I try to post a spiritual thought I have been mulling over, I do this mainly for me, so I don’t forget the reason why I blog. To honor my Lord and Savior.

On Operation Encourage an Author I promote authors and talk about their fiction, drawing readers in to encourage and support that author. I do that because I feel God has led me to bring support and encouragement to an author that could be sorely needing it. It is a mission and a time investment that I love giving back to so many hard working people.

6. Is there anything you’ve learned along the way about your relationship with God while blogging?

That He ALWAYS knows exactly what I need right when I need it. Support on the days I need support. The right comment on the right post on the right day. He has moved so much in my life through blogging, I will never be the same. Putting me into contact with supportive and wonderful people in the blogosphere that have (whether they know it or not) pushed me to walk closer to my Creator and worship Him with more reverence.

7. Can you share any Scriptures that have encouraged you in your writing?

There are so many! But the one that always boosts me is: But those that hope 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 be faint. Isaiah 40:31

8. Can you recommend ways that we as bloggers can minister to our readers?

Let God move through you. Blog about what you love, what you are passionate about and make sure God is in the middle of it. That in and of itself, I believe, will minister to the people that need to hear it. You might not always be put in contact with them, but they are out there. Never doubt it.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Thank you Julia, for letting me visit today. I am honored to be here today and I hope something that I wrote encouraged one of the visitors today. May God bless you and I urge you to continue to live your life for Him.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Barbour Books (August 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to MaryLu Tyndall and Camy Tang for sending me a review copy.***


M.L. Tyndall, a Christy Award Finalist, and best-selling author of the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series is known for her adventurous historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. She holds a degree in Math and worked as a software engineer for fifteen years before testing the waters as a writer. MaryLu currently writes full time and makes her home on the California coast with her husband, six kids, and four cats. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but expose Christians to their full potential in Christ. For more information on MaryLu and her upcoming releases, please visit her website or her blog.

Visit the author's website.
Visit the author's blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601658
ISBN-13: 978-1602601659


June 18, 1812, Baltimore, Maryland

“I would rather boil in oil than marry Noah Brenin.” Marianne tossed the silver brooch onto her vanity.

“Hold your breath and stay still.” Rose said from behind her. “Besides, it is only an engagement party, not a wedding.”

“But it is one more step to that horrid destination.” Marianne sucked in her breath as Rose threaded the laces through the eyelets on her stays. “Why must women wear these contraptions?”

“To look our best for the gentlemen in our lives.” Cassandra appeared on Marianne’s left, a lacy petticoat flung over one arm. With shimmering auburn hair and eyes the color of emeralds, Cassandra had no trouble looking her best for anyone.

Marianne huffed. “I have no care what any gentleman thinks of my appearance.”

“Which is why you are still unmarried at five and twenty.”

“Then what is your excuse at three and twenty?” Marianne arched a brow, to which Cassandra responded with a shrug. “I have not yet met a man worthy of me.” She grinned.

“Where on earth is your chambermaid?” Rose grunted as she squeezed Marianne’s rounded figure into the stays and tied the final lace tight. “Shouldn’t she be doing this?”

“I dismissed her.” Marianne waved a hand through the air. “I prefer to dress myself.” She hoped they didn’t hear the slight quaver in her voice. If only they knew that her mother had been forced to let the entire staff go and the ones here today were hired just for her betrothal party.

“There.” Rose finished her work and stepped back as Marianne took the petticoat from Cassandra and slipped it over her head.

“Truth is, I do not wish to marry—ever.” Marianne squared her shoulders as Cassandra slid behind her and latched the petticoat hooks.

Rose put her hands on her waist. “Noah Brenin is a fine man and a good catch.”

Marianne gazed at her friend and couldn’t help but smile at the motherly reprimand burning in her crystal blue eyes. Tall and slender, with honey blond hair, Rose turned many a head in Baltimore. Just like Cassandra.

But not like Marianne.

“He is a boor.”

“Why so low an opinion of him? Haven’t you and he been friends since childhood?” Rose cocked her head and gave Marianne a look of censure.

“I wouldn’t call it friendship, more like forced acquaintance. And my knowledge of him is precisely why I know him for the churlish clod he is.”

Gathering a cream-colored silk-embroidered gown from Marianne’s bed, Rose and Cassandra tossed it over her head and assisted her as she wiggled into it. She adjusted the ruffled lace bordering her neckline and circling her puffy sleeves. Cassandra handed her a jeweled belt which Marianne strapped around her high waist and buckled in front. She pressed down the folds of her gown, admiring the pink lace trailing down the front and trimming the hemline. After slipping on her white satin slippers, Marianne moved to the full length looking glass and paused to eye her reflection.

Plain. Despite the shimmering, glamorous dress, plain was the first word that came to her mind. Perhaps because that was how she had always been described. Brown hair, brown eyes, average height, a bit plump. Nothing remarkable, nothing to catch an eye.

Simply plain.

Which was precisely why, when the other girls her age were being courted, Marianne had preferred to spend her time caring for her ailing mother and younger sister, particularly after their father died. No whirlwind romances, no soirees, no grand adventures lit up the horizon for her. She had resigned herself to lead an ordinary life. An ordinary life for an ordinary girl.

“Come now, it won’t be so bad.” Rose brushed a lock of hair from Marianne’s forehead and then straightened one of the curls dangling about her neck. “You look as though you were attending your own funeral.”

“I dare say I feel as though I am.” Tired of staring into the mirror with the hope her reflection would transform into that of a beautiful woman, Marianne turned aside, picked up her silk gloves from the vanity and sauntered toward the window.

“I, for one, cannot wait to get married,” Rose said. “To the right man of course. He must be a good, honest, god-fearing man. A man who stays home, not a seaman. And he must be agreeable in all respects.”

“What about handsome?” Cassandra asked, and Marianne turned to see a blush creep up Rose’s neck.

“Well, yes, I suppose I would not be opposed to that.” Her blue eyes twinkled.

Facing the window, Marianne slid the white gloves onto her hands and tugged them up her arms. Shouts echoed from the street below, accompanied by the clip clop of horse hooves and the grating of carriage wheels. She brushed aside the curtain to see people running to and fro darting between carriages. A warm breeze, heavy with moisture and the smells of the sea, stirred the curtains. A bell rang in the distance, drawing Marianne’s attention to the maze of ship’s masts thrusting into the blue sky like iron bars of a prison. A prison that could not constrain the ravenous blue waters from feeding upon the innocent—an innocent like her father.

Rose and Cassandra joined her at the window as more shouts blasted in with the wind. “What is all the commotion about?” Cassandra pushed back the other side of the curtains.

“There have been rumors that President Madison will soon declare war on Britain,” Marianne said.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that.” Rose peered over Marianne’s shoulder. “War is such horrid business.”

“But necessary if the British insist on stealing our men from land and sea and impressing them into their Navy.” Marianne felt her ire rising. “Not to mention how they rouse the Indians to attack us on the frontier.”

“They want their colonies back, I suppose.” Afternoon sunlight set Cassandra’s red hair aflame in ribbons of liquid fire. “England never was good at losing.”

“Well they can’t have them.” Marianne’s voice rose with a determination she felt building within. Though she’d been born after the Revolution, she had heard the stories of oppression and tyranny enforced upon them by a nation across the seas whose king thought he had the right to dictate laws and taxes without giving the people a voice. But no more. “We won our freedom from them. We are a nation now. A new nation that represents liberty to the entire world.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” Cassandra nodded with a smile. “Perhaps you should run for mayor?”

“A woman in public office?” Marianne chuckled. “That will never happen.”

The door creaked open, and Marianne turned to see her mother and younger sister slip inside.

Lizzie’s eyes widened and she rushed toward Marianne. “You look so beautiful, Marianne!”

Kneeling, Marianne embraced her sister. She held her tight and took a big whiff of the lavender soap with which their mother always scrubbed the little girl. “Thank you, Lizzie. I can always count on you for a compliment.”

“Now, Lizzie, don’t wrinkle your sister’s dress.” Marianne’s mother sank into one of the chairs by the fireplace and winced. The slight reminder of her mother’s pain caused Marianne’s heart to shrink. She squeezed her little sister again—the one beacon of joy in their house these past three years since Father died—and kissed her on the cheek. “You look very beautiful too.”

The little girl clutched her skirt and twirled around. “Do you really think so?” She drew her lips into a pout. “But when can I wear a dress like yours?”

“Come now, Lizzie,” Mother said. “You are only six. When you are a grown woman like Marianne, you may wear more elaborate gowns.” She gestured toward Rose and Cassandra. “Ladies, would you take Lizzie downstairs for a moment? I need a word with Marianne.”

“Of course, Mrs. Denton.” Rose took Lizzie’s hand. “Come along little one.”

Cassandra followed after them and closed the door.

Marianne sat in the chair beside her mother and gently grasped her hands. She flinched at how cold and moist they were. “How are you feeling, Mama?”

“Very well today, dear.” She looked down as if hiding something..

But Marianne didn’t need to look in her mother’s eyes to know she was lying. The sprinkles of perspiration on her forehead, the paleness of her skin, and the tightening of her lips when the pains hit spoke more clearly than any words.

Marianne squeezed her mother’s hands. “The medicaments are not working?”

“They will work. It takes time.” Her mother attempted a smile. “But let us not talk of that now. I have something more important to discuss with you.” She released a heavy sigh then lifted her gaze to Marianne’s. Though illness had stolen the glimmer from her eyes, it could not hide the sweet kindness of her soul. “You don’t have to do this, you know.”

The truth of her words sliced through Marianne. She stared at the floral pattern woven into the carpet. “You know I do.”

“It isn’t fair of me to ask this of you.” Her mother’s voice rang with conviction and deep sorrow.

“You didn’t ask, Mama. I want to do this.” A truth followed by a lie. Marianne hoped the good canceled out the bad.

“Come now. You cannot fool me.” Mama said. “I know this is not the match you would choose.”

Releasing her mother’s hands, Marianne rose from the chair and sauntered toward the window. The rustle of her gown crackled through the air with conviction. “In truth, I would choose no match.” She turned and forced a smile. “So if I must marry, why not this man?”

Her mother gazed at her with such love and sorrow that Marianne felt her heart would burst. Once considered the most beautiful woman in Baltimore, Jane Denton, now withered away with the sickness that robbed her of her glow and luster and stole the fat from her bones, leaving her but a frail skeleton of what she once had been. The physicians had no idea what ailed her save that without the medicaments they administered, she would die a quicker and more painful death.

Tearing her gaze from the tragic vision, Marianne glanced out the window where it seemed as though the approaching evening only heightened the citizens’ agitation. “Marrying Noah Brenin will save us. It will save you.”

“But what of saving you?” Her mother’s sweet plea caressed Marianne’s ears, but she forced down the spark of hope that dared to rise at her mother’s question. There was no room for hope now, only necessity.

“You know if we continue as is, all that is left of our fortune will be spent in one year on your medicaments. Then what will we do? Without my dowry, no man will look my way, since that and our good name is all that has caught this particular fish upon the hook.” And without a husband to unlock her inheritance, her father had ensured that the seven thousand dollars would remain as far from her reach as if she did not own it at all.

“Perhaps you will meet another man—someone you love?” Her mother said.

“Mama, I am five and twenty.” Marianne turned and waved her hands over herself. “And plain to look at.” She gave a bitter laugh. “Do you see suitors lining up at our door?”

“You are too beautiful for words, dearest.” Her mother’s eyes beamed in adoration. “You just don’t know it yet.”

Shrugging off her mother’s compliment as the obligation of a parent, Marianne stiffened her back before she attempted to rekindle an argument long since put to death. “We could take what’s left of our money and fund a privateer, Mama.” Marianne glanced out the window at a mob that had formed down the street. “War is certain and our fledgling navy will need all the help it can get.”

Her mother’s nervous huff drew Marianne’s gaze. “It is far too much of a gamble. And gambling destroys lives”—a glaze covered her mother’s eyes as she stared into the room—“and families.”

Marianne grimaced. “I am not like Papa. I have heard these privateers can make a fortune while helping to defend our country.”

A breeze stirred a curled wisp of her mother’s hair as she gazed at Marianne with concern.

Marianne twisted the ring on her finger. “Down at the docks, merchantmen are already outfitted their ships as privateers. The call for investors goes out daily.” If only she could convince her mother, not only would Marianne not have to marry that clod, Noah, but she could do something to help this great nation of hers.

Her mother’s boney hands perched in her lap began to tremble. “We could lose everything. And what of Lizzie? I could not bare it.”

Shame drummed upon Marianne’s hopes. She had upset her mother when the doctor strictly instructed her to keep her calm.

“Perhaps a trade of some sort?” Mama offered. “I hear that Mrs. Pickersgill makes a decent living sewing ensigns.”

A blast of warm wind stirred the gauzy curtains and cooled the perspiration forming on Marianne’s neck. “Mama you know I have no skills. I’m not like other ladies. The last gown I attempted to sew fell apart. My cooking would drive the hardiest frontiersman back to the woods, and the pianoforte runs when it sees me coming.”

Mother chuckled. “You exaggerate, dearest.”

But Marianne could tell by the look in her mother’s eyes that despite the humorous delivery, her words rang true. Though a governess in her younger years and her mother in her later years had strived to teach Marianne the skills every proper lady should acquire, she had found them nothing but tedious. She possessed no useful skills, no talents. As her father had so often declared before his death. In essence, Marianne had nothing to offer. If her mother would not agree to fund a privateer, Marianne would have to accept her fate in marriage.

“I’m an old woman and will die soon anyway,” Mama said with a sigh. “But I must ensure you and Lizzie are cared for.”

Gathering her skirts, Marianne dashed toward her mother and knelt at her feet. “You must never say such a thing.”

“Do not soil your beautiful gown.” Her mother smiled and wiped a tear from Marianne’s cheek. “Perhaps we should simply trust God with my health and let His will prevail.”

Marianne laid her head on her mother’s lap like she used to do as a child. She had trusted her father, she had trusted God.

And they had both let her down—her and her mother.

Trust no longer came so easily. “I will not let you die, Mother. I cannot.” Her eyes burned with tears. “As long as I have my inheritance and a man who is willing to marry me, I promise you will be well cared for. And Lizzie too. That is all that matters, now.” Marianne lifted her gaze to her mother’s, feeling strength surge through her.

“And mark my words, Mama. Nothing will stand in my way. Especially not Noah Brenin.”

My Rating: 5/5

My Review:

Full of daring high-seas adventure, rich period detail, and spiritual depth, Surrender the Heart is definitely among my favorite reads of 2010.

Tyndall is a new-to-me author, but I plan to rectify that very soon. Nor had I known much about life at sea or the War of 1812. In fact, I wasn’t sure I was interested in reading about seaside adventure, sounded very male-oriented to me. Tyndall has written a book that masters the art of suspense, it captures your attention from page 1 and maintains continual nonstop action.

Tyndall shows the reader what a godly romance should be like as her hero and heroine both wholeheartedly surrender themselves to God’s plan for their lives. I was blown away by Tyndall’s powerful message of overcoming fear in order to reach God’s full destiny for our lives.

Tyndall has provided a well-researched historical that will leave the reader hungry for the next volume.

Lisa Buffaloe is a wife, mother, writer, and Lyme disease advocate who shares what the Lord is showing her at Lisa Buffaloe's Blog.

  1. Thank you so much for being here.  Could you tell us a little about how you got started blogging?
Hi Julia, thank you for having me!

My Website and blog were established soon after I returned from my first writer conference. To be honest I wasn’t sure what would happen, but I did know I wanted to tell others about God’s love.

  1. What is your purpose in blogging?
 My blogs center on God and His goodness. I love sharing how He truly is a God of grace, healing, and restoration.

  1. What are your favorite parts of blogging?
I love to talk about our amazing God. The bonus that comes with blogging is all the wonderful friends I have made from around the globe.  It’s so cool how God connects people.

  1. Do you have a story about how you have gained encouragement while blogging?
The neat thing about blogging is how God helps you grow as a writer and a Christian. The more I seek to learn from God, the more I have to share. And the more I share, the more others respond to what God reveals in their lives.  “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

  1. Can you share with us any special features you have on your blog and why you decided to offer them?
I started a series called, Ordinary People Awesome God. I think sometimes as Christians we get overwhelmed thinking we have to be like Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, or Beth Moore, not realizing who we are is who God wants to use. And when we are obedient, God has a way of taking ordinary people and using them in awesome ways.

  1. Is there anything you’ve learned along the way about your relationship with God while blogging?
Without Him, I have nothing to say or write that is worthwhile. God is continually working on me to trust Him in all areas, and that includes my blogging and writing. The more transparent I am about what God has done in my life, and is doing, the more my blogs seem to touch my readers. Plus, by sharing how God has healed and restored the painful things that happened in my past, I can continue to shine the light on His love and goodness.

  1. Can you share any Scriptures that have encouraged you in your writing?
I try to keep most of my blogs and other writings, simple and easy to understand based on Habakkuk 2:2, “Then the LORD replied: ‘Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.’”

 8. Can you recommend ways that we as bloggers can minister to our readers?

Each one of us is uniquely created and has something to share with the world. Don’t try to blog like someone else, blog like you. I love that my friends are so different—some see humor in most situations, others are pensive. Each facet of their personality reveals God’s creativity. And when we tell others what God has done and is doing in our lives, we point to God’s healing, restoration, power, might, wonder, and grace.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share?

When someone visits your blog and leaves a message, thank them. Obviously, someone like Beth Moore and Max Lucado wouldn’t have the time to thank each person. But make an attempt to know your readers and pray for them. The blessings are abundant when you give freely.

Amber Stokes is a college English major who enjoys writing and shares spiritual insights, devotionals, book reviews, and themed posts at http://www.seasonsofhumility.blogspot.com/.
1. Thank you so much for being here. Could you tell us a little about how you got started blogging?

Amber: Thank you for hosting me! It’s such an honor to be asked—and I’m quite excited to be interviewed for the first time on a blog!

It’s quite an interesting story about how I got started blogging. Before I started my own blog, I had been reading others’ blogs and entering lots of giveaways (which proved quite fruitful every now and then!). It wasn’t until last semester (Spring 2010) when I actually created my own blog. My bowling teacher and I were talking about my interest in writing, and he asked me if I had a blog. He said that it was important for a person serious about writing to have a blog. That’s when it kind of hit me—the idea that I could actually have my own blog.

So I promptly sent an e-mail to Renee from the blog “Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot.” I had won Love Finds You in Hershey, Pennsylvania during her blogoversary, and I thought that maybe she would be willing to help a newbie out. As it turns out, she was not only willing to help, but she was willing to truly invest in my blog. I can’t tell you how many times she’s answered my random questions and left encouraging comments on my blog. In fact, she was one of my first followers! What an amazing blessing her friendship has been!

2. What is your purpose in blogging?

Amber: I hope it’s alright if I just include most of the words from my “welcome” message on my blog. I think they sum up my answer well:

“The title of this blog refers to a poem I wrote entitled ‘Seasons of Humility.’ In the poem I express the struggle I have had with wanting my own way. I want to hold on to my own dreams, my own plans for my life. But I know that God has a plan for my life, one that will bring Him glory and will be even better than my dreams. So while the autumn and winter ‘seasons’ of learning to let go can sometimes be painful and long, when the spring comes it is wondrous indeed. And through it all God never leaves me. The intent of this blog, then, is to share my thoughts as I continue on this journey of striving to be humble before my Lord. My hope is that my thoughts will encourage you on your journey, as well, whether my thoughts are on my day or on the books I have been reading!”

3. What are your favorite parts of blogging?

Amber: What isn’t my favorite part about blogging? ;) I love blogging so much, from brainstorming themed-week ideas, to the process of writing the posts, to reading the comments from all of my wonderful readers. I sometimes have a hard time when there aren’t many comments on my posts, but really, I just want God to use me to encourage others, even if they don’t leave comments after they’ve read the posts. I have to remember that we simply don’t have time to leave comments on every single post that others’ write.

Anyway, I guess you could say that my favorite part about blogging is the people. I’ve been able to make so many friends—real, true friends—through blogging, and I only hope I might be able to inspire and uplift them as much as they have done for me!

I do have to say, though (as another favorite part about blogging), I love just writing the posts. I think God blesses me so much through simply allowing me the chance to contemplate how great He is, and to be reminded of where my hope and my treasure truly are.

4. Do you have a story about how you have gained encouragement while blogging?

Amber: I have so many stories that I don’t think I have enough room to share them all on here! I’m constantly being encouraged through the comments left on my posts, the interviews I do with various authors, and the e-mails and messages I get from my blogging buddies.

I remember the first time I “met” Amanda, one of my dear blogging friends. Her first comment was on one of my posts entitled “Please Hear Me Out,” where I discussed my struggle with my own selfishness and my tendency toward being unsocial. Amanda’s comment was so meaningful, and her understanding and support ever since has meant more than she will ever know.

All of the kind words that have been said to me, all of the encouraging comments, and all of the friendships I have made because of blogging . . . I could never truly express my gratitude for these gifts!

5. Can you share with us any special features you have on your blog and why you decided to offer them?

Amber: Good question! Because my blog is titled “Seasons of Humility,” I decided to have a seasonal rating system for the books I review (as shown in the sidebar of my blog). Also, I have a “Normal Weekly Schedule,” which is relatively new. Here’s what it looks like as of now:

*Sundays by the Sea: Encouraging thoughts inspired by the sea

*Mondays for the Military: A day set aside to pray for and honor the United States military

*True Love Tuesdays: Where the romantics at heart find a home

*Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and/or Saturdays: Book and movie reviews, college news, etc.

*Starting September 24 . . . Fall Fridays: Celebrating autumn and seeking humility

I haven’t always been following this schedule very strictly, so we’ll see how it goes in the future!

And for those who aren’t familiar with me or my blog, I am quite fond of themed weeks! ;) I don’t know if I could claim a favorite, as they all have been fun in their own ways, but I really did enjoy doing “Camp Humility,” where a group of us went to summer camp through my blog. It was fantastic, and I hope if I do something like that again that I can get even more people involved! The more the merrier, as they say!

6. Is there anything you’ve learned along the way about your relationship with God while blogging?

Amber: I think that because of the theme of humility on my blog I’ve been reminded of how much that truly entails and how much I have yet to learn about being humble before God. I’ve also been reminded how absolutely, inexpressibly wonderful having a relationship with the Lord really is! God knows our hearts, and He has given us certain passions that He can use through our lives to reach out to others and bring Him glory. I have loved learning more about God’s provisions and mercies through writing about them and seeing how God has worked in my readers’ lives!

7. Can you share any Scriptures that have encouraged you in your writing?

Amber: I have a verse in my sidebar that I came across a while ago, and I thought it fit well with the humility theme on my blog:

"For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
~Isaiah 57:15

Another humility verse that I used in the post I mentioned earlier called “Please Hear Me Out” is Proverbs 15:32-33:

"He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility."

I don’t know if that really answers your question, but I hope my answer is alright. Different verses from God’s Word encourage me and inspire me when I’m writing specific posts, so there are always those, too!

8. Can you recommend ways that we as bloggers can minister to our readers?

Amber: There are so many ways to minister to our readers—I love just thinking about all of the possibilities! First and foremost I encourage us all (something I need to remember as well) to seek God’s will first and foremost. Often He uses us in ways we never expect or even understand.

I encourage bloggers to be creative! Sometimes readers just need something fun to make them smile as they go through their day. There are so many different ways—like having themed weeks, etc.—to give readers (and ourselves as bloggers!) something to anticipate.

Besides just having fun posts, I encourage bloggers to be honest. It can be hard to share what you’re struggling with, but a lot of times we all just need to hear that we’re not the only ones having a hard time, and this opens up opportunities to encourage each other and pray for one another.

Also, I encourage bloggers to write about some of the ways they have seen God at work in their own lives. This can include simply writing about what Scripture has really touched your heart or what movie or book reminded you of certain truths you needed to ponder.

9. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Amber: My first semester at college, I started a Facebook account. Because of all the time I felt I wasted on it (plus all of the drama it caused in my life with that “chatting” feature), I deactivated my account over Christmas break after that first semester.

Now, what does that have to do with blogging? Well, I started my own blog last spring, and I’ve been asked what the point was in deactivating my Facebook account if I spend just as much (if not more) time blogging.

It was a valid question. My answer: blogging is so much more meaningful than Facebook ever was or ever could be for me. It is my hope that God can use me to encourage others and bring Him glory through my blog. I know it has been a tremendous blessing in my life, and I have such a passion for it! For those who have a love for writing, I really recommend blogging. I know it isn’t possible for everyone to devote all of the time blogging requires in order to have a faithful and interested readership. But I know that, at least for me, the time invested in my blog has reaped benefits I can’t even begin to express my thankfulness for! Blogging is such a joy!

MG0377jpg.jpgJen Stephen’s first book, The Heart’s Journey Home was published in February 2010 from Sheaf House. The sequel, The Heart’s Lullaby will be released in May 2011. To find out more about Jen and her books visit: http://www.jenstephens.net/.   Jen is also a wife, mother, and teacher living in Nashville, TN.

Writing as A Ministry Interview with Jen Stephens

Hi, Julia! Thank you so much for having me on your blog today! What an honor it is to talk about how writing has become a ministry in my life!

1. When and how did you feel God’s calling to write?

I’ve never NOT written. For as long as I could string words together it was my way of expressing myself, dealing with certain situations, and just being creative. It wasn’t until I completed the first draft of The Heart’s Journey Home for the secular market that I felt the Holy Spirit urge me to rewrite it for the Christian market.

2. Is there anything you have learned about your relationship with God through writing?

I’ve learned that everything I have and do belongs to Him. He’ll gladly share it with me, but I can be selfish. When I try to take control of it, I slam into a writer’s block every time. When I let Him tell me when and what to write it takes on a life of its own. Really. Sometimes I write something and I’m like, “Wow. I didn’t know that would happen.” I’ll add to this question in when I discuss ministry.

3. Do you have any word to encourage writers new to the craft?

The very best thing a new writer can do is join a writer’s group – either online or “live”. I’m a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). Even though there are chapters of this group that hold “live” meetings, I don’t have any near me so I’m active online only. I’m also a member of MTCW (Middle Tennessee Christian Writers) which meets “live” twice a month. No, I don’t make every meeting. Sometimes, depending on the season and what my girls are involved in I can go a few months and not make it to a meeting, but the support from the other writers is constant and has been a huge help in developing my craft.

4. Has writing ministered to you?

I grew up a product of divorced parents. I had a tough time with it and I often felt like I didn't have a place where I really belonged. My self esteem was basically nonexistent. It was sad and lonely to feel like a nobody. I began writing as an escape. In my fiction worlds, I could be anywhere and anyone I wanted to be. It definitely helped me cope. As I matured in my faith, I came to the understanding that I always have a place to belong in the arms of my Savior and I am someone very special to Him.

Ten years ago my faith was really put to the test as my daddy died and 6 months later I had our firstborn, a beautiful baby girl with a special need. She was born with a cleft palate. She underwent several surgeries and years of speech therapy. Thankfully, I had several godly women mentoring me and my dwindling faith became more than it was before. During this time, I was writing The Heart’s Journey Home for the secular market. When I finished it and didn’t feel very satisfied, the Holy Spirit prompted me to rewrite it for the Christian market. I did not realizing that the Lord wanted me to write it for myself as much as other hurting people. It was very healing for me also as it deals with living after loss and finding one's faith again.

5. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can encourage authors?

Two things: First, very simply tell an author how their book(s) touched your heart. It’s why we do what we do. To hear that a reader identified with a character, that reading how the character dealt with the given situation really helped her figure out how to get through her trial, is confirmation that we ARE doing what the Lord would have us to do. Second, TELL OTHERS! That is with any product, in any area of life. It’s so encouraging to hear someone tell you how much you mean to them, but to hear someone tell you, “My best friend, Julia, told me how much your book (or CD or photography or meal that you cooked for them or just simple conversation) meant to her so I decided to try it for myself.”, now that’s extra special!

6. How can we allow our writing to be used as a ministry?

First, you have to really BELIEVE that the Lord can use you through the ability and talent He instilled in you as He knit you together in the womb. Mind blowing, isn’t it? The truth I’ve come to realize is that the Lord wants to be able to count on all of His children to plant seeds for Him. Doesn’t seem too hard, does it? Just plant the seed. He will nurture the seed – feed it and water it, tend to it as it sprouts. And He will gather up the harvest. But if we don’t go out and do His foot work – soften up the soil and plant the seed, there would be no harvest. Understand that when you write for God, your story belongs to Him. Man will reject it. EVERY writer has rejection letters, and every rejection hurts. I can’t sugar coat that. Think of it this way: Jesus Himself was rejected. Now, don’t take that out of context. I’m not by any means saying that my writing or your writing comes anywhere close to paralleling what Jesus Christ did for us. What I’m saying is simply that every good thing that comes from God WILL face adversaries. Above anything else, spend time in the Word. Develop a personal relationship with the Lord. (I’m working on this right now.) Have you ever written something and said, “That sounds just like (insert name of spouse, best friend, or child)!” When you know Him like you know your spouse, your best friend, or your child you’ll find yourself writing something that “sounds like Him”. Then others will get to know Him better through your writing/ministry.

Did that make sense, Julia? I’m really focusing on doing this myself. I’m a relationship person. That’s how I minister best, by creating a relationship with people. The Lord helped me do that with The Heart’s Journey Home. The Heart’s Lullaby is turning out to be a more emotionally intense book so He’s showing me that I have to focus more on my relationship with Him now in order to reach out to others later.

7. Do you have any Scripture verses that have encouraged you in your writing life?

My favorite verse in the whole Bible is Isaiah 40:31, “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” I meditate on this verse taking turns stressing different words. For example: “But those who WAIT on the Lord . . .”, “But those who wait on the LORD . . .” This verse has ministered to me in not just my writing life but in all aspects of my life.

8. Do you have any special stories to share about readers, encouragement, and A Heart’s Journey Home?

I love hearing from my readers because they truly become my friends. I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that each one of my readers was led to or received The Heart’s Journey Home for a specific reason that they may not even know yet. And I believe they were brought into my life for a special reason. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true.

One of the most rewarding parts of writing The Heart’s Journey Home was including Dan Olien and Cassie Ground. I held a contest – The “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life” Contest. They were nominated by their family members and I just happened to draw their names out of a hat. During the process of creating their characters I became friends with Cassie’s mom and aunt and Dan’s wife. How wonderful it was when I actually got to meet hem and hug their necks at a book signing I had in Ohio in March! They’ve shared with me that Cassie’s sister, recently married is now expecting! And Brenda has just recently begun to see a very special gentleman!

Here’s another story: I’d reached a point that I had to write a scene I didn’t want to write involving one of my favorite characters. (I was vague for the sake of those who have not read the book.) It was a medical scene so I did what I do for all medical scenes and I called my sister who’s a nurse. She was telling me what would happen in this case and I just started crying. She said, “Are you crying?” I said, “I just don’t want this to happen!” in between boo hooing. She paused for a minute and then said, “Well it is your book.” Ha! Isn’t that funny? I could’ve changed that scene, but it wasn’t what the Lord wanted. It wouldn’t have been nearly as effective without it. But it was hard because I just love my characters so much. They become like my family - a special part of me. I hope all of your readers come to love them, too, Julia!

9. I know you also love teaching. I know several of our readers are teachers and at least a few of us (including myself) homeschool, and many others are called to teach through Bible study or in another way. Can you share some encouragement for teachers?

Know that teaching is also a gift. Ephesians 4:7, 11-12 says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. Believe me I know that you don’t get the credit you deserve – the preparation and planning, racking your brain to figure out how to best get a concept through to your students. Then there’s the classroom management and some of you may have issues with parents. Know that the most important One is well aware of your hard work and you will see eternal rewards. Really, what could possibly be better than that???

10. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Well . . . Okay, I’m going to admit something that scares the pants off of me. I’m feeling the Lord leading me toward public speaking – in schools, women’s conferences, that sort of thing. This is an another area, in addition to being a wife, mama, teacher, and writer, where I’m just trying to seek the Lord first. My first speaking engagement is at the Southern Festival of Books, Friday, October 8th from 3:30-5pm in Nashville, Tennessee and I’m speaking on the topic of The Passion, Strength, and Wisdom of Women. If you’d be interested in having me come to your school, women’s conference, or other event to speak on any topic but especially following the Lord on YOUR heart’s journey home, please contact me: jen@jenstephens.net. Regardless, please pray for me in this endeavor and I will pray for all of you, Julia’s readers, in your ministries and as you follow where ever the Lord leads you. Romans 5:3-4 tells us that we should “. . . glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, HOPE.” Through that hope the Lord will use you in marvelous ways! Best wishes and blessings on your journey! 

Thank you so much for joining us today, Jen, and for your words of encouragement.

Pictures of Jen with Cassie's family (above) and Dan's widow (below).

The Prize.......
A custom blog header created for you by Diana Rambles.  Check out her beautiful designs at: http://customblogdesigns.blogspot.com/

Title: The Church History ABC’s: Augustine and Twenty-Five Other Heroes of the Faith

Author: Stephen J. Nichols & Ned Bustard

Publication Date: 2010

**Special thanks to Amy Kruis and Crossway Books for sending me a copy as part of the Crossway Homeschool Book Review Program.**

My Rating: 5/5

My Review:

This is exactly the type of book my husband and I have been looking for, but geared towards children. The brightly colored pictures will keep a child’s attention. I was amazed that my five year old daughter has been begging me to read this book to her while she is in the bath.

From Augustine to Zwingli this colorful book explains heroes of church history in a way school age children can understand. My daughter loved leaning that Jonathan Edwards (mistakenly viewed as a “hellfire and brimstone preacher”) was a lover of both chocolate and spiders. I was thrilled to learn Anne Bradstreet was a mother of 8 children who wrote poetry at night when the children were in bed. I can definitely relate.

The only issue I had with this book (and it’s a minor one) is that the pictures didn’t always match up with the heroes and heroines of the faith. For instance, next to Ursinius is a unicycle so my daughter wanted to know if he rode a unicycle. Since that’s not mentioned in the text, I assume they included a unicycle because it starts with “U.”

As a homeschool mom to a Kindergartner, I could definitely use this for a springing off point to teach my daughter early church history. As I look at the web, I see a void in resources for early church history, especially at the youth level. I would without a doubt, recommend this book for both children and adults. What a fun way to learn church history!


Why do you blog?  Although I always intended for my blog to be a witness, shortly into my blogging experience I begin to read other writers talk about writing and blogging.  I began to ponder what did it mean to view blogging as a ministry, not just a hobby.  As a result, I found the Lord using my blog as a teacher in humility.  I felt led to be more transparent, to share things I didn't always want to share.  And I still have so much to learn in the school of humility.  I also find I need to realize constantly that my blogging is not about me.  Our words of encouragement have the ability to bless someone.  I've found when I was honest about my struggles, others felt led to be honest about their own. 

I began to think about blogs that blessed me.  This series leaves me somewhat limited in scope, although there are SO many more blogs that are a blessing.  I learned things from following these and other blogs.  Such as the importance of responding to every comment.  I saw the love and prayers offered to each commenter.  I heard an honest and humble heart in devotions.

Yet each of us is an instrument in HIS hands.  He ministers through us. My intent is not to spotlight particular bloggers, although I have been blessed by each of them. It is my hope that this series will spur us on to ask:

1) What is God's purpose for MY blog?

2) Are there any specific ways God is calling me to reach out and encourage my readers?

3) Did my post today glorify God?  Was it truly in His Name and in His Nature?

I would also like to encourage fellow writers and bloggers.  Not all of us are published, nor are all of us called to be published.  But we can encourage someone with our writing today!  The wonderful thing about blogging is we can share what the Spirit is speaking to us immediately.  That means if we're open to it, the Holy Spirit can use us to provide a word that will convict, sharpen, and encourage the exact person who needs it.  He will bring them to your blog. 

We have no need to be concerned about numbers.  God will bring the person who needs Your word right when they need it.  Let's allow Him to use our blogs for a Higher Purpose.

I will also be offering a giveaway of a custom made blog header from http://customblogdesigns.blogspot.com/.

Proverbs 25:11: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pitchers of silver.

Julia M. Reffner

About Me

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Christ-loving bookworm & homeschool mom of 2 stealing the rare quiet moments to pursue that all elusive writing dream. I also write book reviews for Title Trakk and The Historical Novel Society.


Contributor at The Writer's Alley:


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