What Would Success Look like for You?

I had a chance to chat with my brother, John Pollard, this past weekend and he asked me an insightful question in regards to my book, Pesto and Potholes, coming out next spring:

What would success look like for you? 

Wow. Of course I would love it if my book sold well and I even made something to compensate me for my efforts to write it. Let’s face it, New York Times Bestselling Author is a nice moniker to claim but for inspirational romance and a debut novel, probably not likely. I can market and do book signings but ultimately, there is a lot of that which is out of my control. I can make people aware of my work, but I can’t force them to fork over their hard-earned cash to purchase a copy.

But I hope you will anyway. 

I told John (my younger and much wiser brother by the way) that ultimately my version of success would be hard to measure. This is totally opposed to any leadership training I’ve had or taught. Objectives are to be measurable!

How do you measure success without it?

The fact is, you can’t.

So what would success look like? Success to me would be people putting down my book and not just been entertained by a story, but encouraged in their walk with God. That they would be affirmed in their pursuit of obedience to Him. That maybe they would draw closer to our Lord because of the example of the characters in the story.

Renate - God loves you

Emotional impact.

Spiritual affirmation and encouragement.

Heart change. 

I can’t measure these things.

But God can. So while I have to rely on book sales and the reviews of readers to clue me into whether my efforts have paid off, God can track the truth with those who don’t write a review, or borrow the book from a friend. Because the reality is, in this life, we rarely are aware of the ripple effect of our words and actions.

And maybe that’s a good thing. It will make heaven all the sweeter when we learn how God used our pain, suffering and art to touch the hearts of others.

It’s months away . . . there’s Thanksgiving to get through. Christmas and a new year . . . so stay tuned here and at my fan page as I navigate this journey. And thanks. Thank you for reading, for praying, and encouraging this fellow traveler in this rocky road we call life.

 

 

 

A Secret Life (Book Review)

ASecretLife_ecoverWorld War II novels are popular but A Secret Life, by Lee Carver, stands apart in the world of fiction. 

As war breaks out around them, Karl Von Steuben, fears for his family’s safety. With dual American/German citizenship and a secret Jewish heritage on his mother’s side, the Christian family finds their faith and lives in danger. Kidnapped and forced into the German army rips Karl away from his privileged life and any hope of escape. He could never shoot an American and looks for an opportunity to cross the lines of war, risking being caught as an enemy. When the opportunity arises, he assumes a dead American soldier’s identity and crawls to the Siegfried Line carrying with him the secret hiding place of gold ingots melted from the jewelry of death camp prisoners. A battle injury robs him for a time of his memory, real name and history.
Eventually he gains awareness of the horrible truth but more secrets have to stay buried lest he be branded a war criminal in spite of the valuable aid he provides to the American side of the war effort. Eventually he is discharged and shipped to America under his assumed name. Alone in a foreign land, he rediscovers the faith of his past and the truth of God’s unmerited favor in a beautiful Atlanta nurse, Grace. The only problem is, Karl’s real name, identity and family fortune lies oversees in post-war Germany. Claiming them and owning the truth of who he is could give him the life he longs for with his new wife, but at the same time jeopardizes their marriage. Would Grace, and his adopted country, ever forgive him?
The twists and turns of this complex tale also covers the story of Karl’s family and their struggle during the war. Historically grounded and well researched the characters and their struggles come to life on the page. The heart-rending truth of the horrors of war and the choices that have to be made are well told without being gory. It’s a beautifully told tale of love, faith and difficult choices.

 

 

Whatever Happened to Compassion?

I’m fed up. I pray that I never know enough to be a jerk about it. I want to be fully cognizant that the more I learn the less I know about myself, the people around me and the world I live in.

Why would this be my beef right now?

Because some people blamed Robin William’s death on his wife. Some tortured his grieving daughter on twitter. A church wants to boycott his funeral but a comedian has offered to pay for them to go protest ISIS instead.

As I do have a snarky side I’ll refrain from commenting further on that one. 

Because some people rejoice at the challenges facing pastor Mark Driscoll.

Because some people are more concerned with dumping ice than reaching out to someone with ALS personally.

Because some people are more concerned with the size of someone’s waist than with the state of their heart.

Because when I was on vacation and met a homeless man, some preferred to ignore him rather than expressing compassion for his plight.

What’s the point in learning if we lose our heart? What’s the point in memorizing Scripture and being able to defend our faith in Jesus Christ if we never live out our faith? Yes, Scripture is clear. Learn sound doctrine. Defend the faith. But even more than that we are to let our actions speak louder than our words. We are to bear fruit.

fruit checker

To listen to another’s hurts and encourage them.

To treat people with respect–from your wife to the homeless man on the street to the pastor you only know through social media. Or has that our standard of truth nowadays?

I have strong opinions on many things – but if expressing them as an expert would throw up a roadblock to Christ, I try to refrain.

After all, God can be glorified in the life of someone who is:

  • Democrat or Republican.
  • A Packer or Bears fan or yes, even a Vikings fan
  • Sends their kids to public school, private school or home-schools
  • Vaccinate or choose not to
  • Seeks traditional medicine for cancer or seeks alternative options.
  • Whether you worship singing hymns or contemporary music

I’ve often said I am a champion navel-gazer. (for those who are confused, I’m talking about my belly button). Part of that though is my personality which enables me to write and serve in ministry like I do. It’s part of God’s unique design that I am introspective. But I hope I am never so self-absorbed to ignore the pain of another.

I probably swing too far the other way.

But the reality is, none of us can save anyone from the pain and challenges of life. We might speak words of love and encouragement. We might give money or food or meet other needs. But ultimately the deepest struggles we all face are at our core, spiritual. And knowledge can only go so far to heal those hurts.

We all need compassion. Understanding. Love.

We do not need condemnation, harsh words, hatred spewing out.

And part of me fears that I’ll come off as judgemental in even writing this post. After all, don’t the narcissists and self-righteous “know-it-alls” among us deserve compassion too? Sure, but not for those behaviors. Pity maybe.

Lord help us. There are people suffering in this world who desperately need us and not our deep-seated opinions. Give us humble broken hearts for those who hurt. Make us quick to listen and slow to speak. And help us recognize the divine opportunities you put in our path to be “Jesus with skin on” to those we meet. 

Stranded (Book Review)

StrandedDani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series has me hooked and apparently others too since I had to wait for others to finish her novels before I could get my hands on them at the library. Stranded is book number three and filled with adventure while looking at . . . well, not giving away spoilers!

Darcy St. James had been the pesky reporter in book #2 (Shattered). She had helped prove Reef’s innocence while falling in love with the McKenna family . . . and particularly Gage. She had given up investigative reporting until an urgent call from her old partner compels her to join the staff of a cruises ship as a travel reporter to uncover some mystery.  But when Darcy arrives, her friend suddenly disappears and the intrigue deepens.

Gage McKenna has been contracted to lead expeditions for the cruise line and is shocked to find himself coming face to face with Darcy. The fact that she’s a reporter doesn’t make it easier. The fact that she’s investigating a hidden crime for trouble she’s unaware of, deeply concerns him.

Eventually Gage and most of McKenna clan are involved in solving this mystery . . . and keeping Darcy safe. The deeper the trouble goes, the more Gage is forced to admit two things–he desperately needs God and he’s in love with the pesky reporter. But can he find her, alive in time to tell her so?

Beautiful scenery and adventure are hallmarks of Dani Pettrey’s writing in this series and her characters become much-loved as you follow their stories, love and faith. I don’t think this book would disappoint anyone seeking a romantic suspense that will keep you guessing.

Check In (Short Story Romance)

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Hey, Peaches. How are you this evening?”

“Fine, Mr. Cavendish. I have your favorite room ready. I even went to set the thermostat just the way you prefer.” After a quick swish of his pen on the bottom of the print out I handed over the key to room 211. It faced away from the parking lot and with a storage room on the other side of one wall, it provided Mr. James Cavendish with the kind of quiet he preferred while on the road.

“You did get the information that I am here for two days this time?”

“Yes, Sir, I did.”

James leaned across the counter. No small feat as it was four and half feet tall. “Are you working tomorrow, Peaches?” He told me he called me Peaches every time he checked in because he said I was a refreshing treat after a hard day of business meetings. I think it’s because of my strawberry-blonde hair. The name on my tag is Karen though.

“I work the usual, three to eleven.”

“Any chance I can get you to go to lunch with me tomorrow?”

I gulped. Not that I didn’t find James attractive. I did. Way too fine a man to be paying the likes of me any attention. He’s tall and with a deep tan and dark hair. Clean-shaven, he always wore sharp, but simple business suits with a fun tie. His smile could light up the town if the power ever went out. Empty dreams awaited down that road. Plus, last night the guy I had been dating, decided to check into the hotel. On my shift. With a top heavy gal wearing fewer clothes than most Sports Illustrated swimsuit models do. Well. I’m exaggerating a little. About as little as her dress was anyway. Obviously I wasn’t putting out since the only way he was getting that kind of treatment from me would cost him a ring and a wedding. Obviously I was out of his price range. Dirtbag. So I go from him to this fine specimen? The contrast startled me.

“I’m flattered, Mr. Cavendish, but I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“James.”

“Excuse me?”

“My name is James, Peaches, and please use it.”

“Okay, James. If you insist.”

His smile was broad enough to reveal a dimple. Won’t that be something to dream about tonight?

“I do, insist. Now, why would it be a bad idea for me to buy you lunch?”

“I don’t know you that well?” Why would I say this as a question? Of course I am dying to spend time with this man, I just figure . . . “Listen, James, if we date it will make working here when you check in, more difficult for me. Especially if things didn’t work out. I’m not a ‘girl-in-every-town’ kind of woman.”

He frowned but nodded. “Beautiful and wise. How is business tonight?”

“Good. We’re fairly full and you are the last of my reservations to check in. It will probably be a quiet evening.”

“What do you do when it’s quiet?”

“When I was in college, I would study or work on papers. Now that’s I’ve graduated I sit back and read.

“Do you mind a visitor tonight?”

“No. Occasionally I’ve had men, like you, come to visit. One used to play the banjo to keep himself from wanting to go out to drink. He used to come down to sing for me. It was sweet. Other times traveling men, even truckers, have stopped by to shoot the breeze. It has to be hard to travel and the only contact you have with a human is for business. I don’t mind.”

“Other men have been before me?” Wrinkles appeared on his forehead and he sighed. “So am I just going to be another notch on your desk?”

“No. For you, James, I’ll carve your initials. Will that make you feel better?” I grinned and his shoulders relaxed. He nodded.

“I’ll be back after I settle in.”

Week after week it was the same. James would come down to visit across the counter. If it got later and things were slow, I would sit out in the lobby with him. As long as I could get to the phone quickly, it was okay with my boss. I looked forward to his visits.

A few months passed. James had been on vacation for two weeks, and I didn’t get to see him until after that. When he strode in the door, he wore blue jeans and a t-shirt that fit oh-so-well across his chest. I almost didn’t recognize him.

“Good evening, Peaches! I’ve got some great news!” His pen made a quick flourish on the paper as I slid the key to him.

“What’s up, James?”

“This will be my last night staying here.”

My heart sunk to my toes. I think somewhere deep inside of me I even tripped over it as I filed his paper.

“Last night?”

“Yup. And you know what that means?”

“That I’ll miss seeing you.”

“Nah. Good guess but wrong. It means I can finally take you to lunch.”

I’m sure my confusion was written all over my face.

“I bought a condo in town. I’ve decided that my main base of operations is going to be here and I would hire others to run around for me.”

“Wait. You own the company?”

He dropped his eyes as he nodded.

“And you never told me? No. I’m sorry. I won’t be going to lunch with you. I thank you for the offer.”

Another customer walked in and I was busy for the next several hours. James never came down to visit.

I went home that night and licked my wounds in private. More like licked my spoon of very drop of Ben and Jerry’s I had in my freezer and suffered from brain freeze that did nothing to relieve the ache in my heart.

I had already turned in my resignation at the hotel and had planned to share the news with James, that I had finally nailed a job in my field. I would be doing marketing for a local company. This last night had been my final evening at the hotel.

It’s sad but James and I had shared all kinds of things. Dreams, favorite colors, foods and pets. We had talked about our families and childhoods. The highs and lows in our lives. The bad dates and the almost-the-right-one dates. We even shared a similar faith. I had never once asked him about his work. I figured he was trying to relax from it. I didn’t even know the name of the company he owned. Still, I thought he should have told me. I would never have even entertained foolish thoughts of a future between us. And I did. I was glad I had a week off between starting a new job to devour some more ice cream and then torture myself at the gym. All in an effort to forget this enigmatic man. My only consolation was that while it was possible for us to bump into each other in this town. It wasn’t likely.

The Monday after a week of orientation, I was surprised to receive a delivery of a dozen long-stemmed red roses. At work. The note attached said, “Congratulations, James”

I got a lot of ribbing from my co-workers and I kept the flowers there until that Friday night. After that week, I took the wilting flowers home. As I placed the vase on my kitchen table, I couldn’t help but think of James’ startling grey eyes and the way one little curl appeared if his hair grew too long. The rest was straight. Black as midnight. I wondered if I had missed my one chance of love with one of the really good guys out there.

My roommate, Stacy, whipped past and plopped a stack of messages in front of me. “Call the guy. He’s driving me nuts. I’m out of here for a date. See ya in the morning.” The door slammed shut.

I leafed through the pieces of paper. James. James. James’ secretary, Carol. James, James. The same number left on every page. By the time I finished the stack, I had the number memorized.

I dialed.

“You have reached the phone number of James Cavendish, President and CEO of Smash Industries. Please leave a number at the beep and he will return your call as soon as he is able.”

Beep.

“Hi, James. It’s me, Peaches. Thanks for the flowers. That was really sweet of you.”

I hung up and it rang.

“Hello?”

“Karen?”

“Yes.”

“It’s James.”

“I kind of figured. I saw the number on the caller ID.”

He laughed. “Why don’t you have a cell phone like everyone else?”

“No one has ever needed to reach me that badly to make it worth the expense.”

“I hope to be the one to make you change your mind on that.”

“Excuse me?”

“Listen. I’m sorry I never told you about my business. You never asked and specifically said you wanted my time with you to be relaxing and I was happy to forget about it when we visited. You became my lifeline every week to the real world outside of business. You don’t know how desperately I needed that.”

“I’m glad I could help, James.”

“I miss you.”

I smiled as a tear rolled down, tickling my cheek. “I miss you too.”

“Would you reconsider my offer of a date?”

Would I? Yes! In a much more subdued manner that nowhere near indicated the way my heart was waltzing in my chest, I responded. “I would.”

“Tonight?”

“If you give me time to change?”

“Is an hour sufficient?”

“More than.”

“I’ll pick you up.”

“Wait. Don’t you need my address?”

“Already have it. I’ll see you in one hour.”

I rushed to change and threw about five outfits on the bed. I finally decided on a nice pair of slacks, comfortable shoes and a simple sweater. I wasn’t going to be any more than I ever was. If James didn’t like that, then too bad. I would rather know that now.

An hour later, to the minute, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find him there in casual slacks and a button down shirt open at the collar and blazer. I swallowed. It had only been a few weeks since we had last seen each other. So why did he look better than I ever remembered?

“You are gorgeous out of your uniform, Peaches.”

I shook my head, grabbed a wrap and my purse and let him lead me to his car.

He drove me to a park and then helped me out. “Is it okay if we take a short walk first? We have time before our reservation.”

I nodded and let him lead me through a path edged with flowers. The birds sang and swooped around us as we strolled under the trees. The sun hadn’t set yet and the sky had a strange light. Soft and beautiful. We came to a bench and he motioned for me to sit. I did and he sat next to me.

“Karen. We’ve known each other for a few years now, but even more so in the past few months, I think we’ve become friends.”

I nodded. Friends. Wasn’t that the death knell to any relationship?

“I didn’t just choose to move here because it was convenient. I moved my main office here for one reason alone.”

I turned to him and tilted my head. “One reason?”

He nodded as he leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees and clasped his hands in front of him. “Do you want to know what it was?” He didn’t look at me, but stared across the path at a bunny rabbit chewing on a flower.

“Sure. If you care to tell me. I always thought you didn’t want to talk about business.”

“I don’t. But I do want to talk about you. You and me.”

“What does that have to do . . .?”

He twisted to the side and took my face in his hands. “You. Everything has to do with you, Peaches. I love you. I can’t stop thinking about you. I can’t hardly work not knowing if you could possibly want me too.”

His thumb caressed my bottom lip and I let it fall open. I swallowed hard and put my own hand up to his stubbled chin. I had only ever known him as close shaven. I liked this version of the man. “Why would someone as wonderful as you, settle for someone like me?”

“You really don’t know how beautiful and delightful you are?”

I shook my head.

“Then let me show you.” His lips met mine and every bone in my body turned to melted wax. I was as light as air, carried away on a dream and a prayer. When he pulled back, all I could do was stare.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. Well, not so soon anyway.” That dimple appeared. I remained silent. I had no words. My brain was mush.

“Karen. I love you and want to spend the rest of my life with you. If it is too soon for that kind of sentiment, I understand, but I had to put it on the table. I want to stake a claim on your heart. Would you at least think about the possibility of marrying me?”

Puppy dog eyes couldn’t have begged sweeter than he did. I would have given him he moon if it had been in my power.

I nodded.

“Yes to considering or. . . “

“Yes, James. I would be delighted to be your wife. You already own my heart. I’ve been miserable without you.”

A smile spread over his face. “Really?”

“I love you, James. Now kiss me and take me to dinner.”

“First . . .” He dug in his pocket and pulled out a stunning ring and placed it on my finger.

“It’s beaut—”

My words were cut off by his kiss. I think he got the point.

Beautiful Bandit (Book Review)

BeautifulBanditCoverCompLoree Lough has written over 100 books . . . so I went to the library to see which ones they had on the shelves. She must be popular because of the many they carried I could only find one, Beautiful Bandit (Lone Star Legends V1), and was instantly hooked. I loved her ebook Jake Walker’s Wife which was also had a western feel. Loree didn’t disappoint me with this story either.

Joshua Neville is a pretty calm rancher, part of a big family but carrying deep loss inside him. When he travels to San Antonio to broker a deal for sale of some land, he witnesses the aftermath of a bank robbery that left three men dead. The strangest thing about it though was that from where he stood, the leader of the criminals was a . . . woman?

Kate Wellington had been gullible and duped by Frank who kidnapped her and holding her at gunpoint threatened to kill friends and neighbors as he robbed the bank. She was horrified at the events and held captive and abused by the brutal and narcissistic criminal. She managed to escape and stumbled into Josh’s camp as he is heading home. She changed her name to ‘Dinah’ and feared the Texas Rangers would be after her if Frank doesn’t get to her first. She talks Josh into escorting her across the Mexico border but when she hurts her ankle, he takes her to his ranch to heal instead.

Dinah struggles with her attraction to Josh but knows she has to leave or Frank will kill this family of faith she has come to love. She believes that if Josh finds out the truth about Frank, the robbery and the torture she endured, he would never want her anyway. But when the truth comes out, will Josh put his life at risk to keep her by his side?

This was a sweet romance and well written. Josh was a complex man filled with grief and conflicting emotions as he tried to respect Dinah/Kate’s wishes to leave him even as his heart dreamed of making her his wife. I’m not sure what number in her list of books this one falls, but I was glad to have stumbled up on it and enjoyed my time in its pages.

Not Good Enough

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not good enough. Is that a common fear or something only I struggle with? I had a negative interaction and at first was thinking, “why can’t this person just get along with me?” I felt disrespected.

Then it hit me. Maybe the issue isn’t him. Maybe it’s me. In spite of thinking I’m respectful, competent and have a right to be heard on an issue, what if instead I’m coming across as arrogant and I’ve frustrated and hurt this person instead?

Ouch.

How does one not take failure personally?

Respect is a huge issue for me. 

Once I confronted someone for the lack of respect they were showing me. They had been saying negative things about me behind my back and I caught wind of it. It had happened before so I addressed the issue. Her response? She laughed at me.

Ouch.

Another time I told a person how I had felt I had been disrespected by her. Specific instances that were clear. She looked at me and nodded and said, “Yes, I did all those things. But it’s your fault.”

Ouch.

Let’s get this clear. Both of these instances were verbally/emotionally abusive. The responses these women gave were intended to demean me and strip me of any belief that I deserved respect.

And to be honest, I’ve had way too much of that in my life. And it hurts. And even though I forgive, the pain lingers.

unsafe

In my mind people like this have a stamp on their forehead that says: “Unsafe.” Yeah, really. I can almost see it.

I have had many more conversations though that didn’t end so badly. I disagreed with a leader and I told him why and how I felt about his decision and he listened and apologized for not taking into consideration my feelings. I let it go. He had my full support through however his decision ended up. I have great respect for him years later and in relationship to him, I’m good enough.

Another person I sat down face to face with and said, “You apologized and I forgive you but I want you to understand how your actions affected me.” When I’m working with him I know, that even though I make mistakes, I’m good enough.

So why am I on this today? I think the enemy likes to dredge up those hurts, some that continue daily in my life, and tell me that they are the truth.

I’m fighting to believe it’s a lie. Scripture says I’m good enough to do the work God has called me to do. Will I do it perfectly? No. I’m okay with being human (most of the time). I’m okay with apologizing when I screw up.

I struggle with depression. I’m also an author and sometimes the pain of my characters is my own and writing about that scrapes wounds raw as I explore them more deeply. To not be good enough to be wanted or loved. Isn’t that a deep fear for everyone?

Thankfully God doesn’t look at me like that. I’m good enough because of Jesus. And I’m becoming better as I lean on Him and let Him continue to lead and guide me, even when the outcomes hurt. The pain of art. The pain of life.

I’m good enough and I am blessed that for every “unsafe” person there are many more who are-especially Jesus.