Nobody Knows Me Like Him–My Re-birthday

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I celebrate.

I’ve walked with God now for thirty-four years of my life. More than twice the amount of years I had lived seeking a relationship with a distant deity.

My early childhood journals include many musings about God and a desire to be close to Him. I believed He was distant. Unreachable. Unknowable. Bigger. Powerful. Beyond me.

I was small. Insignificant.

I’m a different person now than I was then.

I’ve experienced many highs and lows of life. Yet sometimes I still feel alone. The first Scripture I ever memorized was

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” 

James 4:8 (NASB)

I’m hitting a milestone birthday this summer and have no idea how to celebrate that. I never really know how to celebrate this “re-birth” day either. except to remember. To reflect. To be grateful that God saw me as important enough to draw to Himself and love.

This is an old song. But it still rings true. All the years. All the relationships. My journal contains words expressing my continual seeking to draw near to the only One who I could trust to hold my heart.

Nobody Knows Me Like You (Benny Hester)

In the beginning I never knew
Just how much I really needed You
More than a friend, someone I could talk to
You’ve changed me in so many ways.

Nobody knows me like You
You put Your arms around me
You bring me through
And there’s many times I don’t know what to do
Though some know me well
Still nobody knows me like You

All of my secrets to You I tell
You saw each time that I slipped and fell
And all of my faults yes, You know them well
But You’ve never turned me away, no, no, no

Walkin’ in your presence is where I wanna be
You said in Your Word, You said that You would lead me
Yes I love You, oh, I really love You
I’II go anywhere
As long as I know you’ll be there

All of those nights that I was afraid
I stood on the promises You have made
The way that I act sometimes l am ashamed
But You’ve never turned me away, no, no, no

Year of Jubilee (Book Review)

Peggy Trotter’s debut novel, Year of Jubilee is an 1850’s historical romance to tug the heartstrings. year of jubilee

 

Jubilee Stallings is isolated and alone, barely surviving. Orphaned and now widowed, she struggles to accept the new property owner, Rafe Tanner, a cousin to the abusive man who had been her sorry excuse of a husband. With his arrival, her dreams of living peacefully in her home are dashed.

Rafe had run away from the betrayal of his fiancée, now married to his best friend. He longs for peace and quiet and had sworn off marriage or any hopes of a wife and family. But meeting the terrorized and skittish Jubilee, he offers her a marriage in name only as they both strive to work together to make the property self-sustaining.

A trip home to visit his family and introduce them to his new bride, he begins to realize that their masquerade of being a young couple in love is in fact truth. But Jubilee lives in fear of her new husband and navigating that along with the families romantic notions and a jealous ex-fiance make the trip a joy and pain.

Rafe determines to win the heart of his wife. Surrounded by new friends communication get snaggled and confused as emotions cloud their relationship. As Jubilee faces her fears, can she love Rafe enough to let him go, much less keep him as her own? Could she overcome her fears and scars from her past to find a new future with a man worthy of her trust and love?

This is a powerful story, filled with gripping realism and heartache and reveals some of the reality of how difficult life was during this period of time, especially for young women tortured, abused and left with no resources. Peggy Trotter handles the story with tender care and deep emotion and gives us a hard-won happy ending that reflects the joy of jubilee, freedom, and Christ’s redemptive power to change our hearts and lives.

Writer Wednesday with Julie Cosgrove

2nd_prof_portrait_crop_267x405I’d like to welcome author and speaker, Julie Cosgrove to Writer Wednesday.
When did you decided that you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to… ? 
I fell into it, I guess. It brewed in the back of my brain ever since I excelled in creative writing in high school,  but God’s timing played a big part. I began writing devotionals and Bible studies, as well as freelance writing for websites. But slowly, the desire to be a novelist bubbled up and became an itch that needed scratching… a lot.
What’s your pet peeve? 
Rude, self-orientated people. But then, they would never know that because they are too self absorbed.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer? 
The time I didn’t have enough books for a vendor booth at a conference because I’d almost sold out the week before at another one, and didn’t have enough time to order any more. Now I always maintain 5 of each in inventory.
What has been your most difficult challenge as an author? 
The initial editing process, but in a good way. It stretches my brain and teaches me to be a better writer.
How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews? 
I am getting thicker skinned about it. SO far, none of my works have rated below a 3 star. I know someday the 1 star will happen, it is almost a right of passage. But ever since I let God be my P.R. manager, since I write for Him, it has been easier. I write to the best of my ability, and He decides whose lives it should touch.
What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career? 
Being contracted multiple times with a traditional, ACFW recognized publisher. I am excited to see where God leads beyond that because He’s already given me my heart’s desire.
What would be your top three pieces of advice to newer, up and coming authors? 
1. Write! Get it out of your head. You can always go back and edit later.
2. Seek out a supportive critique group which has published authors in it. It can be on line or one that meets in person.
3. Take their advice seriously and pray about it. It may hurt at first to see your writing critiqued, but we only grow through our mistakes, not our successes and every writer has room for improvement.
As a Christian author, what would you like your legacy to be?
That I brought people closer to seeing God work in their everyday lives.
What is your current work in process?
Well…I have several.  A novel which will launch in October called Free to Forgive, which is the story of a preteen’s rescue and redemption from trafficking, two novellas which are based on 1 Corinthians 13 called Navy Blues and Greener Grasses which will be out late 2015- early 2016, and a cozy mystery series.
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Interview with Renata and Tony

Renate Blake and Antonio (Tony) DeLuca are the main characters in Pesto and Potholes, an inspirational contemporary romance releasing April 24, 2015. We sat down the couple together to ask a few questions about the book and their journey.

PestoandPotholes2What did you think when you first met each other? 

Tony: I thought she was cute but she was definitely a mystery. So quiet and shy. I think if she could have hidden behind Stephanie she would have.

Renata: I really didn’t want to meet anyone. I don’t like meeting strangers–

Tony: And none come stranger than me. (he laughs).

Renata: (playfully slapping his knee). In spite of all that, I thought he was cute. He had nice shoes.

Tony: Shoes? Really? That’s what you remember from our first meeting?

Renata: (shrugs) She asked . . .

What was your first date like? 

Tony: (closes eyes and groans)

Renata: Did we have a first date?

Tony: I think that bonfire thing . . .

Renata: Oh. That. I’d rather not talk about it.

Tony: Me either. I felt so horrible about that night.

Renata: I wasn’t your fault. You really were my hero that night.

Tony: Next question?

When did you first kiss? 

Tony: (blushes) I don’t kiss and tell.

Renata: (giggles)

I heard something about ninjas. What’s that about?

Tony: She has hidden talents.

Renata: You’ll have to read the book to find out.

What are potholes? 

Renata: They are the difficulties in life we fall into. Sometimes it is deep pain we carry with us. Physically or emotionally and it can take time to get out of them and healing is not a straight upward trajectory, but can be kind of rocky.

Tony: Mary Beth told you about that?

Renate: Right. She was a huge blessing in helping me on my way. After all I had been through . . .

Tony: (grabs her hand). You’ve come a long way.

Tell me about Orchard Hill Church.

Renata: A community of imperfect people who are seeking God and filled with grace and forgiveness. Home. My new family.

Tony: I think I had taken for granted all that Orchard Hill is since I’ve been attending a long time. Seeing it from Renata’s perspective though, I’m beyond blessed to be part of such a great church that’s willing to help people grow spiritually and emotionally to be all God has called them to be. It goes beyond Sunday morning into deeper relationships that take place at other times. I wouldn’t have been able to grow up like I have without my accountability group.

Renata: I had been let down by “church” in the past and I’m grateful my roomie encouraged me to try again at Orchard Hill. It wasn’t easy but I’m so glad I stuck around. God is doing great things in the lives of people at this church.

Tony: Amen.

What’s next for you both?

Renata: I don’t want to give spoilers away. Guess you’ll have to read Susan’s book.

Tony: (grabs Renata’s hand). We’re in a good place now. I’m grateful for the journey God took us on.

Renata: (leans over to kiss Tony’s cheek).

Tony: (big grin)

Thanks for taking the time to be with us! Check out Pesto and Potholes for their full story. 

New Pesto facebook with updated pics

Beast of Stratton (Book Review)

BeastofStratton_eBookRenee Blare has written a novella of Beauty and the Beast with a modern twist in her debut offering, Best of Stratton. Miles is struggling with intense physical and emotional pain as a result of injuries suffered in the war. He’s let his hair grow, making him look like the “beast of Stratton” everyone thinks he is. He was seeking treatment when an emergency called him back to his very successful business. Once there he encounters the daughter of his best friend. But is Aimee a spy like many suspect her father is, or can she be trusted to help ferret out the truth? Who has sold out his company? And can Miles overcome enough of the pain of his past to ditch his monster façade and the kind of man Aimee needs?

This  novella is a wild ride. Author Renee Blare writes in a cryptic manner, not giving all the clues away to the mystery and fills the story with compassion and suspense. A delightful read.

Interview with Antonio DeLuca

Tony DeLuca from Pesto and Potholes

Tony DeLuca from Pesto and Potholes

I’d like you to meet Antonio “Tony” DeLuca, whose story is featured in the novel Pesto and Potholes, releasing soon!

Tony, how do you feel about your story being told?

I think the book is really more Ren’s story than mine. I’m a little embarrassed to have my failures broadcast to the world like this, but Susan and Renata convinced me that God could use that struggle to help others. In the end it’s all good so I guess I can’t complain.

What do you hope will be the outcome of your story being shared in this way?

I hope men will be inspired to do several things. 1) Treat women with respect. It’s really worth it. 2) Seek accountability. Not a popular concept in our world right now but I don’t know where I would be without the godly men I’ve been meeting with regularly, and 3) Be involved in a good church.

Tell us about Renata.

Whoa. Where do I begin. She’s hot, she’s modest, she’s got a heart that is even more beautiful than her outward appearance because she loves Jesus. I’m so grateful God brought her into my life even though the beginning of our relationship is shadowed in pain.

Do you still battle ninjas?

I never battled them. It was all Renata. She’s amazing. Her compassion and her strength astound me.

What’s up next for you?

Stephanie gets her story told and I’m glad I made a new friend in Roberto. I admire their courage in sharing their journey. I was honored to be there for them both in the process.

Thank you, Tony, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule. One last question though. What’s your favorite song right now?

Anything Ren sings. *laughs* Okay, this is old school. But when I think of my relationship with Renata I think of “Everything I do (I do it for you)” by Bryan Adams. There are some spiritual themes in there although the metaphor is not complete. Love, sacrifice . . . it’s just like Jesus and us, but also the way our love for someone else should be. You can click below but you’ll have to go to YouTube to watch it there.

Thank you, Tony, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule.

No problem. Glad to help. I hope people enjoy the story. I’m kind of partial to the ending myself. *winks*  Susan just told me that the release day might be pushed off for a little bit, but trust me, it will be worth the wait.

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Who’s Your Sam?

A few weeks back, I did a talk at our local ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) chapter and challenged my fellow writers with this final question: Who is your Sam?

Let me give you some background.

Life is tough. Duh. You already knew that, didn’t you?

Being a Christian can be a challenging road to walk. Oh, you knew that too? Sorry. Just wanting to establish the facts first.

We need to be immersed in God’s truth, studying His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides us. This communication however, can be disconnected because of sin. The remedy is simple. We repent, accept Christ’s forgiveness purchased for us at the cross and walk forward His power to accomplish the tasks He has given.

You with me so far?

Life is hard. We need God.

But that’s not all. We need others around us. Let me show you an example:

Now, if you are not familiar with J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, let me give you an overview. Frodo has a ring of power that needs to be destroyed in Mordor. He leaves home, the shire, with three other Hobbits. One is Sam. They end up in Rivendale and become a fellowship of nine all bent on completing this task of destroying the ring. Four hobbits, a wizard, two men, an elf and a dwarf. By the end of that first movie, the wizard is presumed killed and another man is dead and the fellowship is broken up. In spite of that, as the trilogy moves on, Sam is Frodo’s constant companion, protector and in many ways, his salvation. While there are many heroes in the story, it is Sam, a secondary character, who truly gives his all to his friend.

In the hard journey of life and the calling that God can place on our lives, we all need a few Sam’s around us. Some might be a little more distant and still helping us fight on toward our goal, with words of encouragement, a listening ear and prayer. And others will walk more closely, willing to tackle us when we are going to venture into sin and challenge us when we are lost in lies.

We also need to endeavor to be this for other people as well.

So . . . in the story God is writing in your life . . . who is your Sam? You really should have more than one. Frodo had eight who supported him on the journey and one died to protect him. The rest risked death time and again to see the goal accomplished and save Middle Earth.

On the flip side. Who are you a Sam for? Whose life are you speaking truth into, praying for, encouraging. For instance, how about our pastors? They are on the forefront of spiritual battle and need a fellowship of warriors behind them as much as we do if not more.

Let us not forget that God is writing a great story in your life and it is the gospel many people may read before they ever pick up the Bible. And we have some input into the journey by our choices, good or bad. Our mistakes, our failures as well as our successes and how we respond say a lot to others about our relationship wtih God. And much of that can depend on the strength and support of the Sam’s around us.

Tell me about a Sam in your life.