Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A precious Christmas thought -- Divine Humanity!

For as long as I can remember, my mother put this reproduction antique post card on the table next to our nativity set each Christmas season. The nativity set was passed on to me 20 years ago. In the box was the post card with a sentiment written by Phillips Brooks, a man known as the greatest American preacher of the 19th century and author of the Christmas hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem.

Each year when I read the post card, a thrill of joy bubbles up from my heart. At this beautiful time of year, I wish you a similar thrill of joy. . .

     “Lift up your eyes to the great meaning of the day, and dare to think of your humanity as something so divinely precious that it is worthy of being made an offering to God.
     Count it as a privilege to make that offering as complete as possible, keeping nothing back; and then go out to the pleasures and duties of your life, having been truly born anew into His divinity, as he was born into our humanity on Christmas Day.”

Since I was a very young woman, I have given myself, heart and soul, to my Lord. I offer each of my days to Him. And in a most humble way, I think of my writing as something so divinely precious that it is worthy of being made an offering to God as well.

Have a blessed Christmas!

*This is my annual Christmas re-post. I love it so much I trot it out every holiday season.

Have a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year! I'm celebrating with family, so my next post will be January 6th.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

When the Christmas season is not a joy -- OR -- How to make the best from the worst.

This is the season of joy, of perpetual hope! You only have to step outside, flip on the TV, or listen to the radio to be slapped in the face with the giddy happiness that is this time of year.


I'm not trying to sound cynical, but the unfortunate truth is that Christmastime is NOT always a happy time for all people. 

Life happens. Loved ones die. Jobs evaporate. Relationships fail. And yet, we're all expected to put on a happy face and press on. 

I've had a few unhappy Christmas seasons. The first was in 1996. That year we buried my mother on Christmas Eve. A few years later was another sad Christmas when it became clear that I was no long welcome among some people I had loved all my life. The concept of "betrayed and rejected" became sickeningly real. 

During those two Christmases my heart ached. I would have liked to run away from the pain. I recall watching my mother die, thinking, if only I could scoop her up in my arms and run away from death. Sometimes during grief our thoughts aren't logical. 

My children were young during those years. They expected and deserved a happy time, and so I dug deep and made Christmas. While I went through the motions, I prayed silently. I needed an anchor, a hope to cling to. And that's just what I received. 

I learned during the worst of times that faith sustains. And if faith could sustain me, it can do the same for you. 

Are you heartbroken? Does the season of joy feel joyless? It is the season of perpetual hope! God never promised to make your challenges and heartaches disappear, but He did promise to be with you, always. His promise can hold your world together. I know that to be true. 

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! ~Isaiah 26:3

Trust God. You can rely on Him. 

If you know someone who is having a difficult Christmas, please look them in the eyes and tell them you're sorry for their pain. Let them know you see them amid the glitter and lights of a season that's mostly darkness for them. Squeeze their hand. Say a prayer over them. 

When your heart aches you can feel alone, even in a crowd. Reach out to the lonely and brokenhearted. Don't force them to act as if their heartache isn't real because grief is real. 

Sometimes the best gifts cannot be found beneath the sparkling Christmas tree. Let your gift be friendship, kindness, hope, and prayer. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Good-book alert! Waking Up Joy by Tina Ann Forkner

I met Tina several years ago when we both rode the same shuttle from the airport to a writers conference. We've been friends ever since. She's one of the kindest, most encouraging women you'd be blessed to know. 

I've loved Tina's first two novels, and couldn't wait to read this one. It didn't disappoint! Tina's warm, southern voice creates worlds I can only visit in a book. Her writing is beautiful.

Here's the blurb about Waking Up Joy

When adored town spinster Joy Talley ends up in a coma after a peculiar accident, she is surprised and incensed to hear what is being said in her hospital room, including plans for her funeral. When she finally wakes, her family thinks she’s off her rocker, but Joy has never felt more alive. WAKING UP JOY is both a heartwarming love story and a humorous tale of family, secrets, and what happens when one woman decides once and for all to set the past straight.

When I invited Tina to my blog, I asked her a few questions so you could get to know her. 

What's your favorite season and why?

My favorite season is summer when I can get out and dig around in the garden or go with my family for a hike, but my favorite part of the season is when my daughter and I visit family in Oklahoma. We love being able to live in flip-flops and spend our days on the side of the pool or at the river, all while sipping on iced-tea and gossiping with the aunts and the cousins. It’s probably not all that surprising to my family that I set WAKING UP JOY in Oklahoma, since I spend so much time there.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

Receiving an endorsement from Chris Fabry has definitely been one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. I have long loved Chris’s books and he is one of my favorite novelists, both in terms of story and technique. His books have always given me hope as a person, but also as a writer. The way he writes a story without censoring truth in all its beautiful glory reminds me that I shouldn’t hold back in my stories. That he would take the time to endorse WAKING UP JOY meant a ton to me as a person and as a writer.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

My biggest road block is probably self-confidence. When my first book came out, it just seemed to flow, probably because I didn’t think it would ever be published. Writing for publication causes me to freeze up at first. I’ve been reading Claire Cook’s new book, NEVER TOO LATE, and she talks about how she has to psyche herself up before writing a new novel. When I read that, I thought, “It’s not just me!” Getting started is difficult, but once I discipline myself to sit down and write, the story finally starts to flow. After that I rewrite the first 50 pages or so over and over, which takes time, but I’m finally learning to trust my process. It might not be how every other writer writes, but we can’t be like all the other writers. We need to be ourselves, and that’s the only way we will produce unique stories.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

WAKING UP JOY is my “coma book.” I wrote a little bit about that over at Novel Rocket back in October when the novel first came out, and Joy’s time in her coma continues to be one of the most intriguing aspects of the book for many readers. I think most of us find it interesting to hear stories from people who have been through a coma, and especially if they’ve had any kind of a near death experience. We want to know what it’s like to have glimpsed the other side, but for Joy, the experience ends up being more about waking up and changing her life. For me, the miracle aspect of the book is my favorite part, and I think readers want to believe miracles are possible, or they’ve witnessed a miracle themselves and are able to relate to Joy, even though her family doesn’t believe her.

How can readers find your book on the Internet?

WAKING UP JOY is available in paperback and eBook at these links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iBook.

Connect with me at www.tinaannorkner.com

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Choices, consequences, and the wonderful!

I'm feeling so very grateful for my blessings. I hope you are too!
This Christmas season we will not be celebrating out of abundance, but with a budget in mind. I'm certain that many, if not most, do that yearly. This Christmas will be more simple, and for that I'm grateful. We won't be passing out as many "things," but the things we've bought have been considered more thoughtfully. 

Actually, "things" have become secondary. Perhaps this is an extension of aging, maturing, growing wiser. Things are stuff you can do without. It's the people, the relationships that are the treasures. 

I can't think of my most treasured relationships without putting God at the top of the list--this time of year and everyday. What about you? Do you believe in God? If so, do you serve Him? Shouldn't you have some kind of response to acknowledging an all-powerful God? When I wrestled with that thought (36 years ago!) I came to a decision that changed the course of my life.

That decision changed everything. I get a lump in my throat thinking about how blessed I've been for the choice I've made. My kids have grown, and had I not raised them to honor God, I would never have known the joy of having my children pray for me when I've gone through difficulties. I would never know the joy of hearing simple prayers come from the heart of my three-year-old granddaughter. That's blessing! 

A few weeks ago, a friend shared the quote, "It's a wonderful mystery how God lets you create your favorite people in the world." That thought stirred my heart, and I've taken it a step further. It's a wonderful mystery how God has allowed me to create this beautiful life--with joys, hardship, challenges, and through it all, an amazing sense of peace knowing that He's right there with me. 

My Christmas wish for you is that you treasure the right things. Relationships, and the most important relationship of all, one with Jesus who waits eagerly for you to invite Him to share your life -- and eternity. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

What Christmas should NOT be about

Friends, remember what the coming holiday season IS about: celebrating Christmas--the birth of our Savior.

Christmas is also a season to enjoy friends and family. The end of the year is a time to be introspective as 2014 draws to a close and a new year is upon us.

Please don't allow busyness, stress, or striving for perfection ruin a beautiful season.

Enjoy the beautiful light displays, and think about the Light of the World.

Step away from a gathering of friends and family and just listen to the voices and laughter of loved ones. That's a memory you can cherish all year round.

Give to a charity or a friend in need.

Be grateful for all the gifts you receive.

Be generous in your conversation to someone who needs encouragement.

Read scripture, and let the words nestle into your heart.

Get enough rest, nap if you must.

Give a smile to a stranger.

Remind yourself, I'm too blessed to be stressed and too anointed to be disappointed.

Be blessed!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Publishing Industry News

Time to check out the December edition of Novel Rocket's industry news. Some interesting news, some fun tidbits. Find it here!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we pause at the beginning of the holiday season to give thanks, I hope your heart is full of goodness, joy, compassion, and generosity. I hope God blesses you with riches that can't be stored in a bank account and that your prayers will be answered in delightful ways!

If you're surrounded by loved ones today, bless you. If you're lonely and without those dear to you today, bless you! Know you're very important, and people who don't even know you are praying for you. I'm one of them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Prayer, faith, and hope!

Yesterday I had the honor to sit with and pray for a dear woman who is facing surgery for cancer for the third time in four years. Tough stuff. Learn about it here in Michele's words. 
The quote, "Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading," perfectly sums up my friend. Michele Cushatt is a gracious, Godly woman full of faith. That was never more evident than yesterday when she talked about the overwhelming peace that is embracing and carrying her as she faces 10 hours of surgery and months of recovery.  

I was one of several woman who met to laugh and pray and love on Michele. Isn't it funny that when you extend yourself to minister to another person you're the one who is blessed? I was blessed tremendously to offer my friendship, prayers and support to Michele, and I was also blessed to be among such mighty women of God. Powerful, loving prayers were voiced yesterday.

Please, join the many others who are praying for for Michele and her family as they face this challenge. They're facing a long, hard road.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Chase your dreams, and create the life you desire!

Do you have an unfulfilled dream? Go for it!

No one will drop your life's dream into your lap. You've got to work for it.

Since I was a little girl, I wanted be a published author.

I was too afraid to tell anyone my dream, so when the time came to go to college, I took the safe path and studied communications instead of creative writing.

It served me well, I worked in broadcasting, journalism, and marketing most of my adult life. If I hadn't made that decision, my life would not have taken me to where I met my honey, so I don't regret my choices. I'm blessed.

Yet, I still longed to see my name on the spine of a book. My dream would not fade. So one day about a decade ago I decided to take a run at my dream.

By then, I'd been writing a novel (or two!), but I never submitted it to a publisher. Actually, I didn't know how. So I joined a writers group. Then I went to a writers conference. Then I joined a critique group and began to enter contests. I continued to write, continued to learn, and started submitting my work.

One magical day I got that email dreams are made of--the one from an editor requesting to see my full manuscript. The rest is history. I had two books published. My dream was realized.

I've thought of how lucky I am, but honestly, much of it was disguised as hard work. I didn't sit around daydreaming. I did all I could to make my dream come true.

You shouldn't give up on your dreams either. Do you have a dream? Here are 12 steps to take to make your dreams come true:

  1. Set a goal. Really. Write it down, if you must. 
  2. Make a plan. What do you need to learn or what certification/degree do you need to acquire to meet your goal?
  3. Find others on the same path. The writing community helped me to stay in the game until my dream was realized. 
  4. Become persistent in striving for your goal. For me, I wrote 1,000 words a day. 
  5. Continue to learn. Go to school/seminars, read books that will help you learn. 
  6. Go out on a limb. I entered contests to see if I was progressing in my craft. 
  7. Tell others about your dream. Yeah, I know this one's hard. It was a long time before I didn't feel like a phony when I said, "I'm a writer."
  8. Accept that challenges are difficult. Don't beat yourself up when you don't "get it" right away. 
  9. Enjoy the process. One day you'll look back and be proud that you started, continued, and succeeded. 
  10. Be grateful for any assistance given to you. 
  11. Be generous in helping others along the way. 
  12. Be gracious when you reach your goal.

Most importantly, take that first step!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Celebrating Debut Author Danica Favorite

I met Danica about a decade ago at a writers meeting. She's one of the most talented and PERSISTENT writers you'll ever meet. 

She's been nose to the grindstone, writing story after story, submitting proposal after proposal for years. I'm delighted her talents were finally recognized. Not only has she released this novel, another book will be out early next year. 

Here book Rocky Mountain Dreams released this month, and I was thrilled to attend her book launch party. Isn't celebrating with friends the best??

Here's a bit about the story: The last thing Joseph Stone expects to discover upon arriving in Leadville, Colorado, is a newfound little sister. Hoping to find his late father's silver mine and hopefully keep his siblings back home out of an orphanage, Joseph needs an ally. The preacher's lovely daughter agrees to care for the little girl. She's just not as willing to trust the prospector…. 

Annabelle Lassiter has seen what men do in pursuit of riches. Yet for all the hardship he's known, Joseph still shows tenderness and warmth. Annabelle's plan has long been to leave Leadville far behind. But Joseph's quest for silver could cost them a more precious dream—one of family, love and new beginnings….
Danica, signing a book at her book launch party.
To get to know a little about Danica, I asked her some random questions. 

MD: Societal pet peeve…sound off.
DF: Lack of regard for other human beings. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of unkindness and anger in the general public and makes me really sad. I was waiting in line at the gas station to pump gas, and there was another guy waiting behind me. A few minutes later, he ends up going around me and whizzing off, but not before cussing me out and flipping me off. I just wonder what is so awful in this guy’s life that he’s got to act like that to a stranger. I’m still not sure what I did wrong, other than I guess I was in his way. 

As much as I love Facebook, I hate all the mean comments I see on there, whether it’s about another person, or group of people, or even a political party. Politics this year really did me in. I get that it’s a competition, but I was bothered by the levels people went to in dragging someone else down. It just seems like in our world today, we don’t care about other people, and it bugs me. I could go on and on about this, because I think there are so many examples of this, but I think you get the point.

MD: Tell us what kind of books you enjoy reading.
DF: I only read happy books. If they do not end with a happily ever after, I do not want to be bothered. Seriously, don’t waste my time. Life is depressing enough without having to put sad literature into my brain. If I wanted sad or depressing, I’d watch the news. Other than that, I read any range of genres. If it’s happy and uplifting, I’ll read it. My favorite is Regency.

MD:  How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I was first in line to buy her book.  :)
DF: Who said I was sane? Seriously, I think you have to be just a little bit crazy to be a writer. That said, for me, the biggest way I am able to handle my fast paced life is to slow down with art journaling. I’m a big believer in stepping out of the “normal” and doing something creative and fun. As grownups, we don’t play nearly enough, and it’s recapturing that childlike wonder in life that gives me balance.

MD: What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
DF: My book is inspired by my love of Leadville and Leadville history. My husband’s family is from Leadville, and we spend as much time as we can there. When my agent asked me to write a historical, I knew I’d write about Leadville -- the history is so fascinating. I’ve been reading about it for years, and I’m still learning new things all the time. It’s pretty amazing how much influence one small town in Colorado has had!

I hope you'll go out and buy Danica's book. It's available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Book.com, Harlequin.com, and The Tattered Cover, to list a few. Basically, every major bookseller. You can find Danica online at her website.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day Tribute to an Unsung Hero

My father was the kindest, most gentle man I've ever known. He was also the bravest--but I didn't realize how brave he was until a few years before he passed away.

I had known Dad was in the Army, but other that that, little was said of his service. In our home, we didn't discuss the war or Dad's role in it.

It wasn't until I got married that I learned my father was an Army Ranger. That information was passed to me from my father-in-law. Any time my F-I-L meets another vet he asks about his service.

My F-I-L explained that as a Ranger, my dad was a true hero. My father lived with memories of his military service tucked away into a distant compartment in his mind.

Stories were never shared, photos were never shown. He may have been a hero, but he didn't want to be. He didn't want the world to descend into the chaos of the 1940s, but when the time came, Dad enlisted to serve his country.

Dad never offered any information about his service--not until a cold, gray morning in December on 1996. I was staying with my parents, caring for my mother as she was dying. One morning as I sat at the breakfast table sipping coffee, my father trudged in and sat. His eyes held pain, but it wasn't just the imminent passing of his wife.

Dad started having nightmares about his WWII service the week my mother died. He told me he was one of the few survivors of a battle on Anzio Beach in Italy. The day after the battle had subsided and the smoke had cleared, my father walked the beach leading donkeys. He spent I-don't-know-how-many-hours putting the bodies of dead soldiers on the donkeys and bringing them to an area where they could be shipped home to the states.

We sat together and cried at the horror he lived through. "All my friends were killed." He told me.

Yet my father, that truly gently soul, persevered and did his duty. He was a hero, even though he didn't want to be.

When I think of Veteran's Day and all those who served our county, my dad is first in my thoughts. He's one of the finest men I've ever known. I'm grateful for his service to our country and for the gentle, loving way he raised me.

God bless America, and God bless the men and women of the armed services who guard our freedom.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Grace toward others . . .

As we move into November, and then continue toward the holidays, let's take a moment to ponder how we react to those we brush past during these hectic days. 

We're all busy. 

We've all got somewhere to go. 

We've all got something to do. 

Yet in hustle of our lives we need to pause. We need to look into the harried faces of those rushing past, and we should smile and extend grace. 

It may be just the blessing they need. 

Be blessed, friends! Enjoy the pleasures of the season. And give yourself a break too. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Life is hard. Be kind.

Life is hard. 

You don't know what others are experiencing.

Many years ago, I worked in a large office. A couple of ladies there always made birthday cakes for co-worker's birthdays. It was their thing, and they enjoyed sharing their creations. 

One woman, I'll call her Alice, worked alongside us. She loved the birthday celebrations. She was always first in line to snatch a piece of cake. But Alice was not always pleasant. She was often short tempered and a bit confrontational. And she was a know-it-all. 

After several months of celebrating one birthday after another, her big day was approaching.

I overheard the cake ladies saying they weren't going to make her a cake. "Wouldn't that put her in her place?"

Alice was a prickly person who rubbed others the wrong way. I'm not even sure she realized it. She reminded everyone that her birthday was the next day and left work with a big grin, probably imagining the birthday cake she expected to receive. 

The thought of her being humiliated and disappointed sat on my shoulders like a sheet of heavy, wet canvas. I was not one of the cake ladies. I didn't really have the time nor the inclination to make a cake. But I did.  

Life is hard.

I don't know what forces combined to make Alice the person she was. But she didn't deserve to be treated in such callous manner. So I made her birthday cake. That day I was the recipient of several eye rolls from co-workers. Perhaps they thought I was a chump. 

But life is hard. 

Maybe Alice had been hurt once too many times. Maybe she invented a big, tough persona to protect herself. Or maybe she was just a selfish, mean person. I don't know. 

All I know is that I didn't want to see someone be singled out and hurt. I didn't want to witness a heart being broken.  

Maybe I was a chump. But I still believe you should give someone the benefit of the doubt, err on the side of kindness. Even if you're wrong, you've done the right thing. 

Life is hard. Be kind anyway. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Eight ground rules for achieving your dreams

Do you have a dream? A goal?

Is there a desire that has burned in your heart for years? 

Or has a new vision popped into your mind?

Here's the secret to staying motived so you meet your goal: 
Don’t wait until you accomplish your goal to be proud of yourself.
 Be proud of yourself every time you endeavor to reach your dream. 

Be proud of every step you take to meet your goal.

Here are eight ground rules for achieving your dreams:

  1. Know that creativity is a process, not a product.
  2. Get started. Don’t quit.
  3. Recall the delight you experienced in claiming that big dream.
  4. Be brave. Pursue your dream despite the fear you may fail.
  5. Understand that failure doesn’t mean it’s the end. It means try again, harder!
  6. Establish discipline:
    • Be clear about your vision.
    • Be clear about what’s at stake.
  7. Be Content:
    • Contentment is being thankful for what you have.
    • Contentment must be learned, and you can learn it.
  8. The success is in the obedience.
I wish you all the success in the world, but mostly I wish you joy in your journey because at least one person will be impacted by your diligence, YOU!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I know, it's hard to forgive, but . . .

Have you forgiven? I have. 

It's not easy. 

I was badly wounded by people I loved and trusted. It nearly destroyed me.

I realized to move forward, I must forgive. Then I became a serial forgiver, having to forgive over and again the same ones who hurt me so badly. 

I'd forgive. But the feelings of hurt, rejection, and shame would return. And so would my bitterness. Those people were no longer in my life and were a thousand miles away, but every once in a while the pain would pop up as fresh as the first sting of betrayal.

So I'd forgive. Again.

It's not easy.

It took me over a decade to come to grips with the pain of betrayal and rejection. 

It's not easy.

I chose to embrace this thought, "When we forgive it doesn't mean the pain never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives."

Did you catch that? Healing doesn't mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer has control over our emotions. 

If you've been wounded, I hope you can forgive. Forgiveness gives you a sense of power that allows you to face the pain and move beyond it. 

Forgiveness gives you freedom, and that freedom opens a door. 


It's not easy. 

But forgive anyway.