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!